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Anderson Silva Steals the Show With KO of Forrest Griffin at UFC 101

PHILADELPHIA -- Anderson Silva walked into UFC 101 surrounded by boos, a goat, and left bathed in adulation, the G.O.A.T., or at least something close.

Needing a highlight-reel worthy performance to quiet the sudden doubts emanating from two straight lackluster performances, Silva -- fighting for only the second time at 205 pounds -- toyed with former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin before putting him away with a stunning short right in just 3:23 of the first round.

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Wild Night in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: Anderson Silva (R) throws a right punch to Forrest Griffin during their light heavyweight bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Anderson Silva;Forrest Griffin
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UFC 101 Photos

    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: (L-R) UFC Fighter Georges St-Pierre and actor Gerard Butler attend the UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Georges St-Pierre;Gerard Butler

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    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: (L-R) Kenny Florian battles lightweight champion BJ Penn during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

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    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: (Top) Lightweight champion BJ Penn battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

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    B.j Penn, right, and Kenny Florian in the first round of their mixed martial art match, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

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    UFC lightweight champion B.j Penn, left, and Kenny Florian fight in the second round of their mixed martial art match, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in Philadelphia. Penn won. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: (L-R) Lightweight champion BJ Penn battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

    Getty Images

    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: (Top) Lightweight champion BJ Penn battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

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    UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, right connects with Forrest Griffin in the first round of their mixed martial art match, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in Philadelphia. Silva won. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

    AP

    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: Lightweight champion BJ Penn (R) battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

    Getty Images

    PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08: Lightweight champion BJ Penn (R) battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** BJ Penn;Kenny Florian

    Getty Images




"After seeing that, I want to see someone say he isn't the pound-for-pound best in the world now," UFC president Dana White said shortly afterward.

Silva's image makeover was faster than some sports cars do zero-to-60. Upon entering the cage, he was booed lustily by the Wachovia Center crowd of 17,411, who clearly remembered his back-to-back efforts against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. As expected, the fight with Griffin led to fireworks.

Griffin immediately ran out to take the center of the cage as is his custom, but he landed virtually nothing through the duration of the short fight. Silva toyed with him, dropping his hands, slipping punches, and at one point, imploring Griffin to come at him with more. Though Griffin tried, he couldn't bridge the chasm between very good and great. On this night, he would have needed a mode of transportation to navigate that distance. Silva floored him once, twice, and then finally, for good with a punch that Chuck Liddell would be proud of.

After slipping a few Griffin strikes, the reigning middleweight champion stepped backwards and planted a hard right on the point of Griffin's jaw. The ex-champ's head snapped sideways and he fell back in a heap with his hands outstretched wide. Silva didn't follow him to the mat, aware of what happened, but the fans took a moment to fully digest that just like that, it was over, and over with an exclamation point.

Silva exploded in celebration while Griffin quickly got up, collected himself and sprinted straight out of the cage and back to the locker room. Silva, meanwhile, was suddenly back in the MMA world's good graces, and he jumped to the top of the cage, straddling it and imploring louder cheers.

"Anderson wants to fight the biggest fights possible at 185 or 205," his manager Ed Soares said afterward.

Silva's standup clinic came under the watchful eye of boxer Roy Jones, Jr., who was in the Wachovia Center crowd to watch a man with whom he has been trying to set up a boxing match. In the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White again voiced his disinterest in the bout. Instead, he spoke about the possibility of Silva fighting light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida somewhere down the line.

Machida and Silva, however, are very close friends and have said they would never fight each other. But White says if it's a fight fans want to see, he'll make it happen.

"This sport is about who's best," he said. "It's like a football game. If Anderson gets to the point where he's taking out 205ers, I'll make that fight. I promise you." Silva shook his head no, but that fight would be well in the future anyway. The most likely next opponent for Silva remains Dan Henderson, who is fresh off his UFC 100 knockout over Michael Bisping.

Regardless of what the future holds, Silva stole the show from the main-eventers, Kenny Florian and BJ Penn. The crowd was still buzzing from the Silva knockout by the time the lightweight championship match started.

In the only title match of the night, Penn dominated the challenger from start to finish before submitting Florian with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round. Penn, fighting for the first time since his decimation at the hands of Georges St. Pierre, was overjoyed, dropping to his knees in celebration.

"After a loss, it was very important to come back like this," Penn said. "I'm not used to fans booing me. I wanted to show them that fighting is still my life."

Florian could never get his offense started, trying a series of takedowns that were routinely stuffed by Penn.

The end came in the fourth, when Penn tried his own takedown for the first time at the behest of his brother and cornerman JD, who told him to give Florian a new look. Penn completed the takedown easily and put Florian on his back. From there, he landed a series of elbows and punches before getting Florian's back, softening him up with a few heels to the ribs and choking him out.

For his efforts, Penn won the submission of the night bonus, the first one of his storied career.

Penn said he woke up Saturday morning and wondered what he was doing with himself after nine years in MMA. He thought back to his teenage years when he dreamed of being the UFC champion, and the motivation carried through to the fight.

"I wanted to live that dream again," he said. "It's good to take the belt back to Hawaii. They have a real champion, and I'm happy."

Penn added that he was surprised that Florian stuck with the takedown mindset so long, saying, "He's not a Matt Hughes or a Georges St. Pierre." Penn is likely to face Diego Sanchez in his next title defense.

In the most controversial bout of the evening, former Ultimate Fighter champion Amir Sadollah suffered a knockout loss to UFC newcomer Johny Hendricks.

Hendricks landed a hard left that hurt Sadollah. Another flurry put Sadollah down, and he landed on all fours as Hendricks rained punches from the top. Referee Dan Miragliotta quickly stopped the fight, but Sadollah and the crowd protested to no avail.

"When I hit him, I saw his eyes roll back in his head," Hendricks told FanHouse. "I tried to hurt him. I tried to hit him with everything I got. That's all I can do. Everything else is the referee's job to protect the fighter first."

Meanwhile, Ricardo Almeida might have made his last match as a middleweight a successful one. After fighting off a deep arm bar attempt in the second round, Almeida regained control and won a unanimous decision over Kendall Grove.

"It was very tight," he told FanHouse. "I was waiting for my arm to pop so I could get out. I just felt that I was caught and there was no way out. But Kendall started adjusting my wrist around and it was just enough to get the elbow out."

Afterward, Almeida told FanHouse that he was not able to completely straighten out his arm, but said it was likely not a serious injury. He is likely to drop down to welterweight in his next bout.

For full UFC 101 results, click here.

News and Notes
• For his efforts, Silva also won the Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses, both worth $60,000.

• Among the celebrities in the crowd were actors Gerard Butler and Terry Crews, boxing legend Roy Jones Jr., baseball players Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Josh Beckett and Brad Penny, and former UFC champ Chuck Liddell,

• The UFC expects to run a show in Massachusetts as soon as MMA is officially regulated in the state (most observers think that will happen in 2010). White said the organization is thinking about putting on a show at Fenway Park. Such a show would likely shatter the UFC's all-time attendance and gate records.

• UFC 101 pulled in $3.55 million at the box office, making it the biggest sports gate in Pennsylvania state history.

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