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TAKE FIVE: UFC 101:

Philly all set for UFC debut

Silva prepared to put on show, Penn ready for redemption

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Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News

The Ultimate Fighting Championship weigh in at the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia fon Friday afternoon August 7, 2009. The fight will take place on Saturday evening August 8, 2009. At left is UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn facing off with opponent Kenny Florian after weigh in on Friday afternoon at the Wachovia Center.

UFC 101 Weigh-in

The Ultimate Fighting Championship weigh in at the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia fon Friday afternoon August 7, 2009. The fight will take place on Saturday evening August 8, 2009. At left is UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn facing off with opponent Kenny Florian after weigh in on Friday afternoon at the Wachovia Center. Launch slideshow »

UFC 101 Press Conference

UFC competitors BJ Penn (left) and Kenny Florian (right) pose together following the press conference in advance of Saturday's card at the Wachovia Center. Launch slideshow »

UFC 101 Workouts

Las Vegas Sun fighting writer Brett Okamoto goes inside the UFC 101 workouts. UFC 101 is Saturday with the co-main event being Forrest Griffin vs. Anderson Silva. The main event will feature BJ Penn defending his UFC Lightweight Championship against Kenny Florian.

UFC 101 Workouts

Fighters with the Ultimate Fight Championship hold workouts at the Loews Hotel in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon August 5, 2009. Pictured is Anderson Silva, a light heavyweight fighting out of Curitiba, Brazil. He is shown flying through the air as he kicks a heavy bag. Launch slideshow »

Sun Expanded Coverage

PHILADELPHIA — The UFC makes its Pennsylvania debut and first show on the East Coast tonight for the first time since UFC 78 took place in Newark, New Jersey in November of 2007.

Some 17,000 fans are expected to pack the Wachovia Center for a lightweight title fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian and a co-main event between superstars Anderson Silva and the Las Vegas-based Forrest Griffin.

Here’s a breakdown of the major storylines:

1. “This ain’t Vegas”

Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission executive director Greg Sirb warned the fighters that Philly is unlike any fight city they’ve been to. Sirb said the town that made “Rocky” famous will reward you, if you reward them. If not, you might want to duck and cover. Afterall, not even Santa Claus was safe from Eagle fans’ furry in the form of snowballs.

“If you bring your ‘A’ game, (the crowd) will bring their ‘A’ game. If you bring your ‘B’ game, they’ll bring their ‘B’ game,” Sirb said. “And the ‘B’ game is you-know-what. They’ll boo you if you bring your ‘B’ game.”

2. Audition for NYC

No doubt plenty of fans, regulators and even legislators will be making the 100-mile trek from New York City. Mixed martial arts regulations in New York hit a snag during a legislative recess earlier this year.

While it has taken longer than expected, UFC president Dana White remains steadfast that sanctioning in New York soon.

“No matter how long it takes, no matter how much time it takes, it’s gonna get done,” White said. “The sport isn’t going anywhere, it’s only getting bigger. New York will happen.”

3. Showtime

After harsh criticism for his atypical performances in wins over Patrick Côté and Thales Leites, Silva will certainly have to engage with the always-engaging Griffin.

“I thought my fights were great last time, but most people weren’t too happy with my performances,” said Silva, who owns a UFC record nine straight wins. “This is the fight they thought would be the kind of fight that people want to watch.”

4. Redemption

After getting pounded by Georges St. Pierre in the Octagon in January, and taking a licking for the “Greasegate” allegations he levied against GSP in the court of public opinion, Penn will try to prove he’s back and better than ever as he makes his first title defense in more than a year.

5. Home away from home

Florian fights out of Boston, but there’s little doubt Philly fight fans will side with the East Coaster.

“It’s great, man, it’s like my little welcome home party," said Florian, who has won six straight.

"It’s nice knowing that my friends and family don’t have to travel too far to support me, so personally it’s definitely a plus to be fighting in Philadelphia."

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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