Final numbers aren’t in yet, but apparently UFC 101 did right around a million buys on PPV. A MILLION BUYS. That’s a colossal number for what was expected to be a solid if not amazing second-tier show which got minimal hype in the wake of UFC 100. This was not a huge show that had been built up to for months, not one that drew hype from Ultimate Fighter and months of TV exposure, not one with one of the top 3 stars in the company on it, or so it was thought. Just a show, albeit one with slightly-better-than-average matches on top. A MILLION BUYS. Something is happening here. Meltzer in the Observer ascribes it to four things: Forrest Griffin is a bigger star than we thought, Brock Lesnar appears to draw in new fans every time he fights, the video game is reaching new audiences and drawing them towards the core product, and mainstream media coverage with a positive slant is growing. Certainly a reasonable analysis, and not one I can add to without giving it some thought. I’m mostly stunned by the fact that this is happening so quickly. This is a sport which had two brief and quickly burned out burst of popularity in this country prior to 2006, and which in the subsequent three years has exploded past every reasonable and most unreasonable estimates of its potential popularity. It’s just fucking amazing, frankly.I figured this show for 600,000 buys, tops. Swing and a miss on that one.
I’m house sitting until Sunday, so likely back Monday.
Turns out that Forrest Griffin broken jaw story was erroneous, and he just had a bit of a meltdown as with the Jardine fight. On the one hand, I feel sorry for him; it sucks to see a guy who obviously felt so publicly humiliated in that way. On the other hand, well, karma’s a bitch and he’s got a reputation for treating other people very badly.
Because he saved that fucking show. This was enough of an experience that it’ll probably get a few posts, so here’s some initial reflections just on the show itself (bear in mind, I have no idea what made TV):
First off, it must be said, this was one of the worst UFCs in God knows how long until the main events, and I’m sure not all of that came across on PPV. The undercard was just an ocean of endless low-action decisions, some of them botched by the judges (more on that below), with a few fuck-finishes thrown in for good measure. This show was no good; this show sucked. It was dildos, it was very poor. It was….
And that is why I love Andy Silva, because when he dropped the hammer of Thor on Forrest- never my favorite guy- and finally looked like the doom-of-the-living fighter he used to be, the place came unglued and it was magic. One of those great, great memorable moments that makes a 20+ hour sleepless round trip to Philly worth while. When they showed the replay footage of that last jab which finished poor Forrest off, I’m sorry, but I cackled like a madman. 3 hours of pent up tension from a grotesque and disappointing undercard all let out in one go, when one of my least favorite fighters collapsed to the canvas like a toy robot with its batteries suddenly removed. Epic, glorious, superior. Silva saved the whole fucking show with that performance, and given that he turned around my first live UFC from “I hate life” to “YEAH AWESOME”, I can’t even be mad about his previous performances anymore. Come back Andy, all is forgiven!
– The Baba O’Riley video is absolutely everything it’s cracked up to be. They’ll never show it on TV because it’s become this legendary live-events-only thing and the rights fee would be pretendous, but my God would that thing make some fans for life if you opened a network show with it.
– In the first bout, Villefort vs. Lennox, the finish was all fucked up. It was a good competitive fight (which Philly began booing literally 8 seconds in…) which could have gone either way, but Villefort caught an unintentional headbutt while going for an armbar and the fight was stopped due to a cut. Trouble was, the cut was ruled to have come from a punch so it was called as a shady TKO victory for Lennox. If they’d made it to the cards either guy could fairly have won; I thought it was even, with Villefort edging the 3rd. I’d actually like to see a rematch as it was one of the better undercard fights.
– Roop vs. Sotiropoulos was just one-sided, as George S. was the far superior grappler and largely ran over Roop.
– Riddle vs. Cramer was…ugh. Not the worst fight ever, but Riddle just took him down, and laid on him, and punched him a little…and laid on him…and changed position slightly…and punched him once….and laid on him….and my eyes glazed over…and he laid on him…..
Cramer had a guillotine early on, but it was arm-in and a hard finish, and after that he didn’t have another good position until Riddle slipped on a kick attempt early in the third. Not much happened, but Riddle did use an armbar attempt from the bottom to set up a sweep, so he’s starting to learn some skill to go along with his hugeness.
– Leites vs. Sakara was an abortion. It actually wasn’t quite the sort of fight I was afraid it would be, but it was in fact equally bad in a different way. Both guys did very little but if anything Sakara stunk the joint out even worse- he was on his bike for huge chunks of the fight, fleeing into the night like he’d stolen something from Leites. Leites sorta kinda woulda coulda tried to chase him, but he’d throw these idiot high kicks that never had a prayer of connecting, or else he’d do these weird hopeless shots from far, far outside that really only worked once or twice, and other than a few brief moments on the ground he didn’t do anything either. The crowd booed this to death and the ref actually called time in the third to tell both guys to stop fucking dancing and fight. And then to top this off, the judges completely fucked up the decision because as bad as Leites was, Sakara was twice again. So he had our second godawful fight of the night concluding with our second fuck finish of the night.
– Howard vs. McCrory was a perfectly fine and fun wrestling match, but a bit hard to take by this point as it was obvious that neither guy was going to finish. Howard deserved the win, but in fairness McCrory looked totally blown up in the 3rd and may have just hit the wall at 170. His future’s clearly at middleweight, as he’s a very young guy and looked more filled out and mature that ever before tonight.
– I hated Pellegrino vs. Neer far more than I hated Leites vs. Sakara. I just have no words for how much I hated this fight. Mostly it was just the wrong kind of fight in the wrong position on the wrong card I think, because it wasn’t THAT bad; I’d just had enough lay-and-pray, obvious-2-minutes-in-it’s-going-to-the-cards type of fights on the evening. Neer did not look like the guy who tooled Mac Danzig, and I wonder if his legal/substance issues are catching up with him or distracting him. Hope he can get those sorted out.
– Big Dog and the other guy was a better fight, and I’m glad to say that my total lack of faith in Kendall Grove has once again been rewarded with a performance commensurate with my estimate of his potential. How a 6’6 middleweight can have absolutely zero control of distance as a striker I have not a clue. Ultimately this one just seemed to boil down to: he couldn’t keep Almeida off of him, and he couldn’t keep it standing once Almeida got close. From there he was outworked, and there you are. Grove LOOKS like a guy who should be a tough package for anyone, but he just doesn’t have the skills or the mental approach to take advantage of his physical gifts.
– Hendricks and Sadollah, well…look. Was it stopped early? A lot of people will tell you yes because Hendricks wasn’t landing solidly in his final flurry, but all my instincts say Sadollah was OUT. He visibly tried to stand up twice after he went down and couldn’t get his legs under him, and if you’re the referee you’re looking at a guy taking unanswered shots in a vulnerable position which he doesn’t seem able to get out of. It wasn’t the best stoppage of all time, but to my mind it’s not an outrage. I thought the screwed up cut determination in the opener was a far worse offense, since there it gave a TKO win to the wrong guy as a result of a foul instead of going to the cards where the fight was in the balance, whereas here Sadollah was getting his ass kicked and the only question was whether that had happened long enough yet or not.
– Riley vs. Nelson got booted up from the unteleviseds for timing reasons and ended up screwed by the decision as it was another fight where it was obvious 2 minutes in that only one guy could win and he almost certainly wasn’t going to be able to finish, so the crowd tuned out almost immediately. About halfway through a pretty decent fight broke out on the lower level which honestly had more action than 70% of the undercard, so of course that got the crowd’s attention as well. Bit of a clusterfuck.
– Andy and Forrest was touched on above, but I’ll add that word going around after the show was that Forrest had a broken jaw which accounted for his sprinting from the ring like that. No confirmation, just rumor. Ed Soares apparently almost got into a fight with the crowd as well, which I missed and just read about now at home. The more details I read, the weirder this show seems. It was very Philadelphia.
About Anderson’s performance, what else can you say really? He just destroyed Forrest, either breaking his will or his jaw and eradicating him in the first round of a fight where Forrest may not have landed a single meaningful offense maneuver. If he wasn’t taking Forrest seriously, you know what? Maybe he didn’t need to. That was one of those performances which establishes both that stylistically it’s an awful matchup for one guy and great for the other, but also that those two guys as fighters are in completely different classes. I cannot imagine Forrest winning a rematch in any way now; outclassed barely does it justice. Silva has this weird thing going in which he was first a babyface who no one was that into and wasn’t a draw, then he was a heel that no one was into because of his awful fights, but he almost became this weird anti-hero tonight; he treated Forrest with outright disrespect in the cage, motioning him up and shaking his hands after he’d knocked him down and just acting like a giant prick…and then he got huge, huge cheers after the fight. Some of it may have been timing, some of it may have been some nice touches he threw in acknowledging the initial boos, but whatever it was I think this may just have finally made him at least something of a real star as opposed to just a truly great fighter.
– And the main event…was actually really, really good and the best overall fight of the show I thought. I honestly think the story of the fight was that at least one of two things occurred:
1. Kenny saw how GSP used clinchwork to tire Penn out, and decided to replicate that strategy without being able to make it anywhere near as effective.
2. Kenny got clocked hard in the first round and just went blank, retreating to a safety first mode either from instinct or because he felt overwhelmed.
For what it’s worth, and I may be alone here, I had it 3-0 BJ entering the 4th. Florian got a lot of clinches but did so little with them, most of his kicks were blocked, and Penn was obviously landing the much, much (MUCH) harder blows. They were close rounds, but in none of them would I rather have been Kenny Florian than BJ Penn. Florian seemed very afraid to pull the trigger on his strikes and not even all that eager to roll despite a few nominal takedown attempts, and seemed to my mind (obviously I couldn’t hear corner advice) to be essentially using the clinch because nothing else seemed to be working to him, and doing so at least partially nullified what BJ could do. And yet, even in those clinches, Penn landed very hard uppercuts and sharp elbows as the clinch broke and I got the sense that Kenflo was actually wearing down faster than Penn was. Obviously once Penn got top position it was over; the only surprise to me was how vicious his GNP looked- those short elbows just destroyed Florian.
Anyway, more on this later. The crowd dynamics of this one were at least as memorable as the fights themselves.
Sadollah weighed in at 166.5 for a 171 pound fight? Really? For a guy who fought at 185 on TUF? I’m going to go ahead and reverse my previous prediction- give me Hendricks. Sadollah’s either even more of a hobbit than previous believed, or he’s insanely overtrained.
Also I have not seen the footage because my internet connection sucks, but apparently Andy Silva looked soft…hmm….
No in-depth preview this time; I’ll be attending my first live UFC for this one, and will probably be back Monday with comments on the live experience. Format stolen from Wikipedia because I’m lazy.
* Lightweight Championship bout: B.J. Penn (c) vs. Kenny Florian
Ah yes, the Prodigy and the Winner, the Beej and Kenflow, guy-who-hates-the-media vs. guy who works on ESPN’s MMA show, Boston vs. Hawaii, orthodox vs. southpaw, natural heel vs. natural face, awesome talent vs. incredibly hard work. If one of these guys is a Democrat and the other a Republican, I would not be surprised; it’s a good bet one’s a Coke man and one for Pepsi as well. Other than being similarly-sized human beings they come to this fight with little in common and very different stories and styles, which to me is utterly fascinating. I absolutely love this fight, and while I freely acknowledge that Griffin and Silva is the big draw on this show, this is the fight which holds the most interest for me by far.
Stand up wise, it’s an interesting contrast. As a boxer alone, BJ Penn actually is probably the best I’ve seen in MMA; he’s become almost scarily good for a guy who first last and always will be known as a jiujitsuman, skilled at all the little tricks. His chin is excellent, it’s rarely tested as his head movement is so good, his jab has become terrifying of late, and he’s got enough power to hurt even granite-chinned types like Sean Sherk (yes, a knee KO’ed him, but punches set it up). He has a wide variety of punches in his arsenal including a nasty uppercut, and he throws them all in a defensively responsible fashion. His major weakness is simply that he’s just a boxer; there’s few if any kicks in his back of tricks, so he’s somewhat one-dimensional. Florian, meanwhile, is a lefty Muay Thai guy with awesome footwork, and if there’s a striking style out there to beat Penn standing, he’s it- his movement is good enough to keep out of Penn’s grasp and fight going forwards or backwards, he throws sharp elbows and cuts people, and he’s developed a nasty kicking game to legs and body which seems to wear guys out. He comes in at odd angles, and his kicks probably give him a functional reach advantage. Not good news for Penn. If Florian lacks something, it’s power- his official record has him with only 3 wins by KO- one a cut and another a 7 second fluke- and he doesn’t seem to have the ability to really hit and hurt top-level opponents. But his strikes tell over time, and now he’s got 5 rounds to work with.
On the ground, well, one guy’s BJ Penn and if the other isn’t GSP, the result is pretty clear. Penn’s jiujitsu is legendary, and no more need be said. Florian’s very good but if they’re rolling for any length of time the best he can hope to do is survive and either get an escape when BJ tries something, or else stall it out for the standup.
So what happens? The X factor here is as always Penn’s conditioning, and despite the bag of mouth emanating from Penn’s camp I assume the usual BJ Penn will show up: deadly as fuck for 2-3 rounds. To win this fight Florian needs to keep it standing, move, point-strike his way to winning one of those rounds and then hope or cause BJ to gas so he can take the last two. I don’t put much faith at all in Florian winning this fight on any kind of stoppage; Penn doesn’t cut much, he’s got a great chin, all jokes about his heart aside he’s shown the ability to grit his way through even when blown up, and Kenny’s not a megapowerful striker. There’s always the chance he whacks BJ with a head kick unexpectedly or knees him to death when he’s gassed, but I wouldn’t put money on it. For Penn to win, he either needs to be seriously in shape for once or he needs to get it to the ground and keep it there, and in either case he has to be prepared or adjust in the cage to Florian’s movement and odd angles. If it takes him too long to get comfortable, or he expends too much energy chasing Kenflo around, he will be in serious danger of losing the fight by just not being able to do enough to win rounds; he survives when gassed, but often does so by becoming passive, languishing in clinches and failing to move.
In the end, I have to pick BJ- he’s more talented, I think he’s going to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder for this fight given what happened last time out, and at some point in the early rounds I expect them to end up on the ground. My hunch is that Penn draws Florian in and cracks him with a big uppercut, follows him down and eventually gets the RNC while Florian’s still stunned. Call it the 2nd.
Side note: speaking of BJ, it’s past midnight here as I finish this up, and it sounds like two of my neighbors are just finishing something else up in the yard. Good on them.
* Light Heavyweight bout: Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Griffin falls into a wheat thresher, dies, the end.
Seriously, this is not a great matchup for him if he fights like a doofus, which he may. People picking him have been saying that Silva is vulnerable to the takedown especially from the clinch, and from top position Griffin can GNP his way to winning rounds and possibly a TKO. Maybe. On the feet those same people are saying that Griffin is MUCH larger, that he’s durable, that he’ll engage a Silva who hasn’t looked great of late and make him exchange with a larger, stronger man. Maybe. They’re throwing in that Silva hasn’t looked impressive in a while, that his last three opponents were respectively a coward, a joke as a challenger at this level, and a junkie, and that he lost the first round to Dan Henderson in their first fight. Arguable. And I would agree that if Griffin decides he wants to win above all, uses his chin to get past the initial flurries and ground Silva and punches steadily but cautiously from that position, he can definitely win this thing. But.
But folks he’s got to fight Anderson Silva for 5 rounds. For a decent portion of that it’s going to be standing- Silva’s not that easy to clinch, he moves well, and if he thinks he needs to dipsy-do dodge and stink the joint out to avoid that takedown he will. And while they’re standing, well: no one’s ever been able to consistently compete favorably with Andy from that position and he’s a counter-striker facing a guy who will come towards him and give him opportunities. Forrest is going to catch an almighty ass-whipping in this one even in the scenarios where he wins, and at the end of the day in 5 losses in his pro career Griffin’s been KO’d three times, including last time out by a naturally smaller man. In a lot of ways Silva offers the same challenges that Keith Jardine did, except that Andy’s bigger, a much better athlete, a more skilled and disciplined striker, and a more naturally vicious finisher. I think Anderson Silva wins this by TKO, I think it’s competitive only in spots, and I think it lasts until the 3rd round only because I suspect Andy’s still going to fuck around a bit out there and Forrest, whatever else you can say about the guy, is insanely physically tough.
* Welterweight bout: Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks
S’dollah dollah billl y’all! Amir’s so cute you want to put him in your purse and take him home, if you have one, but I do not and frankly I’ve somehow become completely sick of this guy despite the fact that the reason I’m sick of him is that he NEVER FUCKING FIGHTS. It’s been over a year since the last time he’s gotten in there and he’s pulled out of two previous fights, and despite that he’s all over UFC advertisements and such. I recognize this bothers me more than it should, but what can you do?
Anyway, this one is going to turn on how good Amir’s grappling actually is because he’s facing a 2 time national champion wrestler who WILL take him down. What gives me pause is that Hendricks trains with a guy he wrestled with at OSU, Jake “watch the guillotine” Rosholt who’s so far demonstrated exactly zero standing defense, head movement, or meaningful grappling acumen beyond wrestling so far in his short career. I don’t have strong memories of Hendricks from his first two WEC appearances (at least one of which wasn’t shown on TV, and the other may not have been either) so it’s hard for me to judge from him directly, but it’s a worry. On the other hand Amir tapped out CB Dollaway and Matt Brown to make his reputation; Brown’s tapped in 5 of his 7 career losses, and Dollaway’s tapped in his only 2, so all we know for sure is that Amir is death to shitty grapplers from Ohio. Meh. Let’s say Amir hangs around long enough to tap Hendricks with an armbar from the bottom.
* Middleweight bout: Kendall Grove vs. Ricardo Almeida
I don’t buy Kendall Grove. Don’t even rent him, frankly. But Big Dog hasn’t looked all that great since his comeback and had no real business losing to Patrick Co-fucking-te by decision last year. On the other hand, he just lost his way and then a decision in that one- Grove got KO’d by the same guy about a year previously. The MMAth here doesn’t really add up for either guy. I throw up my hands. In their respective primes on their best day Almeida taps Grove quicker than instantly, but the Brazillian’s now 32, his two comeback wins are over a guy who never won a fight outside of Alaska and another guy who’s lost 3 of his last 4 on his way out of the UFC, and he just hasn’t looked that good. An 8 year age gap. I’m taking Almeida- that’s how little I buy Kendall Grove. Taps him in the 2nd, say RNC.
* Lightweight bout: Josh Neer vs. Kurt Pellegrino
Another bout which invites MMAth-type analysis. Both fought Nate Diaz, both lost, Neer by split decision and Pellegrino by triangle. Both fought Mac Danzig and won, although at radically different points of their and Danzig’s career. Both fought Joe Stevenson, Pellegrino losing a decision and Neer winning one. Both will be having their 9th (!) UFC fight on this show, but Neer’s piled those up in a year’s less overall experience and somehow has nearly twice as many fights listed on the records I’m working from as Pellegrino- despite being 4 years younger. Pellegrino’s 5-3 in the UFC; Neer is 4-4. It’s actually quite good matchmaking in that both guys have an all-actions rep and there’s nothing obvious to pick a winner off of, and whoever takes it will start to get some steam on them as a result. I’ll take Neer, just because he seems meaner and more determined, seems to believe in himself more and is younger; he’s been doing some stupid stuff recently though, so if his attention is divided he could easy lose this. Should be one of the better fights on the show.
* Lightweight bout: Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley
A rematch of an apparently infamously crap stoppage which went untelevised at UFC 96 (“the forgotten show”) and won by Nelson. Meh. I’ll say Riley is motivated and takes it on the rematch. Decision.
* Welterweight bout: Tamdan McCrory vs. John Howard
For no better reason than that he seems intensely creepy I’m not a McCrory fan, but I’ll still pick him here since he’s probably more talented and gihugic for the weight. Decision.
* Middleweight bout: Thales Leites vs. Alessio Sakara
Christ. This one pisses me off. Tallest Ladies puts on one of the most shamefully reticent performances in recent UFC history because he’s afraid to engage with a striker, so here he is selected as an injury replacement to face… a pure striker. Blah. My hope is that he redeems himself with a (vastly) more aggressive performance, because there’s absolutely zero reason he shouldn’t choke Legionarius out here. Let’s say second round, arm triangle. If this is 3 more rounds of his last performance I’m going to be furious.
* Welterweight bout: Matt Riddle vs. Dan “Non-Dairy” Cramer
Riddle. He’s a goofy muppet, but he’s a big, strong goofy muppet. 3rd round KO?
* Lightweight bout: George Sotiropoulos vs. George Roop
Give me Sotiropoulos in this one. RNC, 2nd.
* Welterweight bout: Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo Villefort
Two guys, 22 fights listed on the records I’m working off of, 1 decision result between them. Should be fun at any rate- I’ll take Villefort simply on suspicion that he’s more skilled and has a better pedigree. Let’s say triangle from the bottom.
Apparently TROLLS~ got into the UFC101 media conference call today and asked BJ Penn if he got his nickname during his days in gay porn. I really shouldn’t laugh, but this is the same guy who apparently announced later in the call that he would never speak to Sherdog again because of things said in their FORUMS. He may be the most trollable man in the sport.
Best moment was apparently after they booted the gay porn troll, the next question was asked by Franklin McNeil who opened with “I have a followup….”