The main event of UFC 101 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia was a lightweight championship match between B.J. Penn and top contender Kenny Florian, but the match that stole most of the headlines was a non-title light heavyweight bout.
That's because Anderson Silva, the UFC's reigning middleweight champion, recorded one of the most sensational victories of his career by knocking out former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin with a jab while Silva was backpedaling.
UFC president Dana White made the Silva-Griffin fight because of public unrest regarding Silva's two previous title defenses, wins over Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. Neither was exciting and White was fuming at the end of each.
He put Silva into a non-title bout at 205 pounds against Griffin, who only nine months earlier had worn the belt. It was expected to be the type of match that would force Silva to either fight or buckle.
Silva responded in sensational fashion, dominating Griffin and winning with one of the most astounding knockouts of his career. After having previously knocked Griffin down – and offering to help him to his feet – Silva was moving back, away from Griffin, when he fired out a jab. The punch landed on Griffin's face and it knocked Griffin out.
Griffin was so angry at his own performance that when he came to, he ran out of the cage, back to the dressing room and didn't attend the postfight news conference.
The UFC kept its momentum from the record-setting UFC 100. UFC 101 drew 17,411 to the Wachovia Center for a live gate of $3.55 million. The pay-per-view buy rate was a reported 850,000.
Penn retained his lightweight belt with a workmanlike victory over Florian, ending the bout with a rear naked choke submission victory.
Leites was cut a few days after losing to Sakara on a questionable decision and just one fight removed from fighting for the championship. White said at the postfight news conference that he would not cut Leites, a move he reversed several days later.
Quoteworthy: "He might be in Georgia by now. He ran out and I haven't seen him since." – UFC president Dana White, on Griffin.
Jesse Lennox def. Danillo Villefort, TKO (doctor stoppage), 3:37 R3
George Sotiropoulos def. George Roop, submission (Kimura), 1:59 R2
Matt Riddle def. Dan Cramer, unanimous decision
Alessio Sakara def. Thales Leites, split decision
John Howard def. Tamdan McCrory, split decision
Kurt Pellegrino def. Josh Neer, unanimous decision
Ricardo Almeida def. Kendall Grove, decision
Johny Hendricks def. Amir Sadollah, TKO 0:29 R1
Aaron Riley def. Shane Nelson, unanimous decision
Anderson Silva def. Forrest Griffin, TKO 3:23 R1
UFC lightweight championship: B.J. Penn def. Kenny Florian, submission (rear naked choke) 3:54 R4 (Penn retains title)