UFC 101: "Declaration" in Philadelphia is off and running, and by the looks of the crowd, you’d think we were already live on pay per view (PPV). I’ve never seen a venue this packed this early. Not even in Montreal or Columbus. Philly fans love fights!
Let’s get to it.
Jesse Lennox and Danillo Villefort are first to take to the Octagon. After feeling each other out for a bit, Lennox shoots for a takedown and gets a knee to the crotch instead, but it doesn’t seem to faze him. Later in the first, Villefort looks to have the superior clench game, and Lennox also shows disinterest in engaging his opponent on the ground.
The biggest hit landed in the first was a spinning body kick that Villefort lands squarely in Lennox’s abdomen. It probably won him the round.
We go into the second, and Lennox pushes the pace. He lands a solid uppercut early on, which seems to rock Villefort, who appears to be much more tired than Lennox. Around the three minute mark, Lennox lands a well-timed superman punch, which drops his opponent to the canvas. Lennox looks to finish, but Villefort recovers surprisingly well.
We’re in the third, and Lennox looks to be the fresher fighter. Villefort continues to call Lennox in to brawl, but then runs a bit from him when things don’t go his way. At 2:30 of the round, Lennox takes him down, when Villefort plays his smartest card yet by locking his opponent tightly into his guard, locking his feet. He eventually rolls into an armbar, and it looks to be over. But somehow, Lennox escapes.
When they get back to their feet, Villefort motions to the ref about a cut above his eye that is pouring blood down his face. The ref calls timeout, and the doctor quickly calls the fight. Game over at 3:37 of the third round. Lennox wins via TKO due to doctor stoppage.
Next up, it’s a battle of Xtreme Couture lightweights between George Sotiropoulos and George Roop.
Sotiropoulos takes the other George down and flattens him out, pushing his head to the canvas with his forearm. Roop rolls out of it after about a minute. They stand and exchange strikes with Sotiropoulos coming out on top, picking his opponent apart.
Back on the ground with Sotiropoulos in side control. He steps over for a kimura, but fakes it, taking Roop’s back instead, but he’s too high. He goes for an armbar, but Roop slips out the back door. The first round ends with Roop on top, but he certainly loses the round.
We head into the second, and Sotiropoulos is sporting a shiner. Roop lands some solid blows, before they both crash to the canvas with the Aussie landing on top in full mount. Roop bucks him, but Sotiropoulos is determined. He earns his way back to side control, grabs hold of Roop’s arm, steps over and finishes his opponent with a kimura.
Next up is a pair of undefeated, up-and-coming welterweights in Matt Riddle (2-0) and Dan Cramer (1-0). Riddle comes out to MJ’s "Beat It" and the crowd goes wild. He’s got a wide grin plastered across his mug. He’s enjoying himself as always.
The two waste no time in getting to work, exchanging blows until Riddle shoots in for an unsuccessful takedown. After a struggle, Cramer gains control of Riddle’s back in the standing position, but Riddle muscles his way out of it.
After another exchange, Riddle takes down his opponent but lands in a tight arm-in guillotine. It looks to be over, and if it’s not, Cramer’s arm is going to be spent because he’s putting everything he has into this. It’s not enough, Riddle muscles his way out and ends up taking Cramer’s back. Cramer gets back to his feet, and the round comes to a close.
We head to the second round with Riddle taking down his opponent early and staying there for most of the round. Eventually he takes Cramer’s back and lands several short strikes. He attempts a choke, but he’s got nothing. Round comes to a close.
Just seconds into the third, Cramer lands a shot that drops Riddle straight to the canvas, but he might have had some help from a slippery canvas. Cramer lands in Riddle’s guard, who quickly recovers and goes for an armbar. He ditches and stands up instead, taking his opponent right back down to the mat and landing in Cramer’s half-guard. Riddle’s elbows from the top open up a cut on Cramer’s left eye.
Riddle works for mount and tries to soften up Cramer by raining down fists. He continues his assault, but Cramer plays decent defense and by the end of the round they’ve returned to their feet, throwing punches until the round ends.
Riddle’s got this one, 29-27, 30-26, 30-27. It was a solid fight from the two former Team Rampage teammates of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 7.
We head to a fight between the former number one contender in the middleweight division, Thales Leites, who is looking to put his oft-criticized title fight loss to Anderson Silva as far behind him as is humanly possible. His opponent: the Italian slugger and former light heavyweight, Alessio Sakara, who comes in a sizeable underdog. Sakara is sporting a scratchy-looking beard and resembles a painted Andre Arlovski with his many tattoos.
The two circle one another with "Legionarius" keeping his right hand fully cocked for the heavy bomb, but his left is down by his knees. Can’t see him blocking too many shots that way. Leites shoots, but comes up short. Sakara lands a combination. The two circle around for much of the round, with the crowd booing loudly. Leites tries to push the pace, but his takedown attempts are pretty weak. For his part, Sakara spends sizeable energy backing up for most of the round.
We head to the second. Leites continues to push the pace, landing a good shot before taking down his opponent 30 seconds into the round. The jitz ace takes "Legionarius’" back, but the crafty Italian spins out, and we’re back on the feet. After an exchange, Leites ducks an elbow and takes down Sakara, eventually gaining his back. Again Sakara escapes.
Leites is starting to look tired. Sakara takes him down, but nothing comes from it. Back on the feet, some good exchanges before Leites takes him down and mounts his opponent. A small cut has opened up near the corner of Sakara’s left eye. Leites tries to rain down punches, but Sakara continues to show terrific defense despite being mounted. Round comes to a close and both fighters show their respect for one another.
As decent a round as the second was, the first half of the third is back to the uneventful circling we saw in the opening frame. Other than the cut on Sakara’s eye, there’s no noticeable damage to either fighter. With a minute 30 remaining, the ref calls a timeout and tells the two fighters to get to work.
They both agree.
Leites gets the takedown, but again Sakara escapes and stands over his opponent, refusing to engage on the ground. Probably a smart decision. The two end the round circling with only a few strikes. The crowd let’s them hear their lack of appreciation for the effort.
I’m thinking Leites has got this, but as we head to the judges’ scorecards, Bruce Buffer announces the results: 29-28 Sakara, 30-27 Leites, 29-28 Sakara! Holy cow, I’m surprised. Obviously so is one of the judges who scored it 30-27 for Leites.
We head to the third of four welterweight bouts between Tamdan McCrory and John Howard. It’s a fast-paced opening frame that makes the last fight look that much slower. McCrory goes for a guillotine early and often, pulling guard several times throughout the round unsuccessfully.
The pace slows by the end of the round, which bleeds into the second. Both guys are tied now and spend much of the second round trading positions on the ground. "Doomsday" nearly has a guillotine that might have been set up by a brabo choke, but it was hard to see. The round ends with Howard going for some kind of crazy scissor leg lock ala Ryo Chonan. McCrory escapes and leaps over his opponent, but the round ends.
We hit the third round.
"Doomsday" gets a takedown and lands in McCrory’s guard. Howard stands with McCrory still wrapped around him, then slams his opponent to the canvas, bringing his weight down on top of the "Barn Cat." Back on the feet, McCrory hip-tosses "Doom," and then later, Howard returns the favor with a slam of his own. We go back and forth for two minutes, but "Doomsday" is largely controlling it from the top with McCrory trying several submission attempts.
With a minute to go, Howard is in side control, and then north-south, before McCrory reverses him and lands on top in Howard’s full guard. We end the fight back on the feet. Difficult to call. Buffer calls out the split decision: 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for John "Doomsday" Howard. The crowd loves it. Howard is very respectful toward his opponent in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, before ending it:
"UFC … here comes the Doom!"
With just 20 minutes to go before the start of the PPV broadcast, the UFC has run out of time, and so has Aaron Riley and Shane Nelson, the final preliminary fight. It looks like it will be pushed back toward the end of the night.
That’s a wrap for me. Enjoy the rest of the fights!