UFC boss Dana White made his entrance to the Wachovia Center at UFC 101 just as the first pay-per-view bout was ready to begin. Fans mobbed White as if he was a rock star, trying to get a photo with him. He must be pleased that Budweiser is back as a UFC sponsor — a big Bud Light logo is in the middle of the octagon — after Brock Lesnar declared at UFC 100 that he was going home to drink Coors Light since Budweiser wouldn’t pay him.
Kurt Pellegrino met Josh Neer in the octagon in a lightweight matchup to kick off the televised portion of UFC 101. Speaking of sponsors, the advertisement on the rear end of Neer’s trunks read, “Condom depot.com.”
They wasted their money. Not too many people got to see that part of Neer, because he was on his back most of the fight, dominated by Pellegrino on the ground.
Pellegrino (20-4) controlled nearly the entire fight, staying on top of Neer and keeping him down. In the final 20 seconds or so, Neer (25-8-1) managed to get up and land some blows that resulted in a cut above Pellegrino’s left eye. At the end of the fight, you would have thought a bloodied Pellegrino had lost, looking at the two fighters. But Pellegrino all three rounds on all three judges’ cards.
In the next bout, Kendall Grove, at 6-foot-6 stood tall over Ricardo Almeida — six inches worth —but Almeida proved to be the more powerful wrestler, taking Grove down several times in the first round and keeping him under control. Within the first 20 seconds of round two, Almeida took Grove down again. But then Almeida nearly got caught in an arm bar by Grove, but he managed to slip out of it and continue to dominate on the ground.
Just before the end of round one, the video screens in the Wachovia Center showed the great middleweight champion Georges St. Pierre at ringside, and he got the biggest cheer of the night to that point. Tito Ortiz did not get the same love.
By the way, I am sitting next to the announcers calling the action for Japanese TV. It doesn’t sound quite so brutal in Japanese.
Almeida (11-3) took Grove (12-6) down at will throughout all three rounds, and won every round on all three judges cards.
The next fight was the so-called swing bout — to fill in time before the co-main events — but it didn’t swing very long. It did, though, have the first controversy of the night.
Johnny Hendricks (6-0) met Amir Sadollah (2-1) in a welterweight bout. They said Sadollah fought out of Richmond, though he is listed as being from Brooklyn, N.Y.
About 30 seconds into the fight, Hendricks caught Sadollah with a right hand as Sadollah was coming in. Sadollah was stunned, but then Hendricks followed up with several uppercuts and the fight was stopped, much too quickly, according to Wachovia Center fans, who booed the decision and Hendricks until he left the cage.
They showed Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino ringside, and he showed off his 2008 World Series ring. Then they showed UFC legend Randy Couture, and he got a bigger reaction, even though the only thing he showed off was his cauliflower ears.
Shane Nelson and Aaron Riley were next in a rematch of a March bout between the two at UFC 96, which Nelson won when the fight was stopped in 44 seconds of the first round. Ringside observers here called it the worst stoppage in the history of UFC.
Riley is a local guy, born in Tell City, Indiana but now works as an MMA instructor at Jeff Gordon’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Gaithersburg, as well as at One Spirit Martial Arts in Herndon.
Whoever stopped this fight the first time was performing an act of mercy. It was so boring that midway through the third round, a fight broke out in the stand, and all eyes were watching that brawl. When the fight finally ended, no one barely noticed. Riley (28-11-1) won a unanimous decision over Nelson (13-4).
I’m stunned that it took this long for a fight to break out in this crowd. I would expect more blood in the parking lot later. More to come….