The UFC descends on Philadelphia this weekend. Which means that hordes of Tapout-clad drunks from the East Coast will fill the Wachovia Center and howl like gibbons as they work themselves into the Blood Frenzy. Well, bully for them.
It's hard to even remember when the last sanctioned violence of any national significance occurred in America's fight town. We might rewind to the Bernard Hopkins snoozer versus Morrade Hakkar (who?) in 2003. That was for a title, after all. But we probably have to go back to the early 1980s for the regular action. Weep, Rocky, weep.
In one fell swoop, however, Dana White has busked away the Spectrum ghosts. UFC 101 is poised to sell more than 15,000 tickets for an estimated total of $3.4 million, better than any boxing gate in Pennsylvania history. As if born again, local fight scribes are covering every conceivable angle of the event. It seems only proper, then, for Deadspin to get boots on the ground. I've volunteered to be your correspondent. Don't worry. I've written about MMA for several media outlets. So I'm a professional, you see. Until my vile Chicano bodyman dips into his medicine pouch, that is. Then all bets are off.
But enough about me. Here's what to look for on this card headlined by the lightweight championship between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian:
How good is Florian? Florian has pounded out six straight wins against tough competition. But has he improved enough to beat an MMA great in Penn? The Vegas money says no. Florian's got wicked elbows and kicks (he's a former BC soccer player), but Penn is top-notch on his feet and the ground. Somehow, amazingly, he's also three years younger than the upstart Florian. If Florian wins, he'll lay claim to a seat among the sport's elite. He'll also induce a private wank session between his two increasingly cozy employers — the UFC and ESPN The Cable Network.
Will Anderson Silva club Forrest Griffin into gatekeeper status? I've seen Griffin ragdolled too many times to believe he's got much of a chance against the best fighter in the world, even if Silva is moving up to 205 lbs. Silva is too elusive and too precise with his striking. And Griffin's not a power puncher. He'll hope to maul. He does, however, win in the chest hair showdown. It's like a mongoose crawled up there and died.
Amir Sadollah, the hipster warrior. Sadollah has all of two pro fights to his name. Yet here he is, the UFC's latest marketing project, third in line on the card. Sadollah won The Ultimate Fighter show. But what's interesting about him is that he's a sarcastic Iranian-Irish bastard who wears infinite regression T-shirts and comes off as the type of guy who should be lobbing wisecracks from the peanut gallery rather than winging punches in a cage.
Silly Nicknames! Since we can't help but compare MMA to boxing when the scraps go down in Philly, let's take a moment to scrutinize that marker of sporting maturity: the ring/cage nickname. Although MMA has eclipsed all but the most mega-y of boxing mega-fights, the sport remains an infant when it comes to good nicknames. Here are some sobriquets from UFC 101, along with some boxing nicknames off the top of my head. Guess which list is which.
The Motor City Cobra
Touch of Sleep
The Sweet Swatter from Sweetwater
The Barn Cat (okay, this one's not bad)
Luke O'Brien is a writer in Washington DC. He's written about MMA for Washington Post Magazine, SI.com and other publications.
UFC 101: Declaration [UFC.com]