PHILADELPHIA -- B.J. Penn held on to his UFC lightweight title, as he stopped Kenny Florian by fourth-round rear-naked choke at UFC 101 “Declaration” on Saturday at the Wachovia Center.

Penn -- who lost out on being the first reigning two-division champion in UFC history when he lost to welterweight king Georges St. Pierre in January -- was adamant he would retain his 155-pound belt, and he did not disappoint.

Penn dominated the match from the opening bell, when he charged out and took the center of the Octagon. Penn moved forward most of the fight but made sure to stay out of the dangerous middle ground. He either remained outside and neutralized Florian’s ability to use his kicks or got in tight where he used uppercuts to batter the challenger. Florian seemed to back off a bit after being buckled by a right hook in the first frame. He threw a wild left hand that Penn easily ducked before retaliating with a right hook that staggered the Boston native. Penn followed up with a flying knee and a flurry of punches as the opening round came to a close.

From there, Florian seemed reluctant to open up his striking game. He was content to use movement to stay out of danger, as he tried to score while clinching with Penn along the cage. He never did get Penn into trouble, and his failure to secure one takedown sealed his fate when he could not do any damage on the feet.

Penn changed it up in the fourth round. He pelted Florian with a pair of right hands as they broke from the clinch along the cage. He then picked up Florian and slammed him to the canvas, moving the battle to the ground for the first time.

Penn landed in half-guard, where he battered Florian with short elbows and softened him up for his eventual pass to mount. The champion moved from mount to Florian’s back twice before securing the fight-ending rear-naked choke at 3:54 of the fourth frame.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com


B.J. Penn submitted Kenny Florian.

Florian tried to defend the submission, as he attempted to peel Penn’s arm off the back of his head twice before finally tapping. This marked his second chance at the lightweight title; he also lost to Sean Sherk in 2006.

For Penn, the win provided some redemption after his loss to St. Pierre and the greasing controversy that followed it.

“When I woke up this morning, I thought, ‘I’ve been at this thing for nine years. What the hell am I doing with myself?’” Penn said. “And then I realized this is my dream since I was a kid to come here and perform for the fans. I love you guys.”

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva reinforced his standing as one of the greatest fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts with a knockout win over former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin just 3:23 into the first round. Silva made the feat more impressive by moving up to 205 pounds to challenge Griffin.

The crowd was squarely behind Griffin as the bout got underway, but it soon became apparent that Silva was in a different class. He dropped Griffin with a clubbing left hook only to let him back up before staggering him with the same punch.

Silva then planted Griffin again with a straight left hand that sent him careening to the canvas. This time the Brazilian held out his hand in a gesture that looked as if he was looking to help him up off the floor.

Silva, now in complete control, toyed with his foe, dropping his hands, using only head movement to avoid punches. A wobbly Griffin stepped into a jab that crumbled him to the mat for the final time. Referee Kevin Mulhall stopped the onslaught before Silva could do any more damage.

Silva, dogged after a pair of sluggish performances against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, answered any and all questions about his ability.

“I want to fight against the best,” Silva said when asked after the fight if he’d continue competing as a middleweight or light heavyweight. “Whoever the best is at the time, that’s who I want to fight.”

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com


Hendricks stopped Sadollah.

Johny Hendricks made short work of “Ultimate Fighter” winner Amir Sadollah. Fighting for the first time in more than a year, Sadollah rushed into a left hook that stunned him. Hendricks then grabbed the back of Sadollah’s neck and battered him with uppercuts. Sadollah fell to his knees, and Hendricks, who was debuting in the UFC, continued punching until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the bout. Fans booed the intervention, which may have been premature at 29 seconds.

Ricardo Almeida showed improved takedown ability in his three-round middleweight bout with former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Kendall Grove. The jiu-jitsu specialist continuously took Grove to the mat and passed to superior positions on his way to a dominating shutout decision, 30-27 on all three cards.

The Renzo Gracie disciple was in complete control throughout the bout aside from a slick armbar attempt from his Hawaiian counterpart. Grove latched onto Almeida’s arm from the bottom and nearly locked up a submission early in the second round. The highly decorated Almeida remained clam and wormed his way out of the hold, however, then finished off the final round in dominating fashion.

Kurt Pellegrino used a swarming top game to stymie Josh Neer over 15 minutes and win a unanimous decision in their lightweight bout. Neer tried to push forward in the early moments of each round but repeatedly found himself fighting from his back, a position he could not extricate himself from until the final 30 seconds of the bout.

Pellegrino fought off numerous submission attempts, most notably an armbar in the first round that he escaped by slamming Neer on his head. He also bloodied Neer’s nose but otherwise didn’t mount much offense from the top. However, the only damage Neer did came as the fight drew to a close, when he swept Pellegrino and drew blood with a series of elbows to the side of his head.

The judges’ cards all read 30-27 for Pellegrino, giving him his third win in a row.

Aaron Riley defeated Shane Nelson by unanimous decision, using effective, if not flashy, striking to keep the Hawaiian off balance throughout the 15-minute affair.

Riley was baffled after his March fight with Nelson was controversially stopped in just 44 seconds. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva felt strongly enough about the poor stoppage to rebook the fight.

In the rematch Nelson could not muster much offense. He found himself on the receiving end of Riley’s punches and a number of high kicks that did not look to have caused much damage other than on the judges’ scorecards, which all read 30-27 for Riley.

Riley’s finest moment came in the opening seconds of the second period when he landed a left high kick that sprayed a sheen of perspiration from Nelson’s brow.

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