PHILADELPHIA — BJ Penn again proved to be one of the world’s best 155-pound mixed martial artists.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion retained his belt with a submission of Kenny Florian in the main event of UFC 101 at the Wachovia Center on Saturday night.
In the co-main event, Anderson Silva completely turned around the crowd of nearly 18,000 with his performance in a first-round knockout over Forrest Griffin.
Penn suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Georges St. Pierre in January when he again tried to move up to welterweight.
"After you get a loss like I had, it’s very important to come back (strong)," Penn said. "I really wanted to show everybody that I’m a fighter and fighting is my life."
Back in his natural weight class, Penn returned to the form that has seen him lose just once in his career at lightweight.
Penn controlled the fight on his feet for the first three rounds as Florian continuously tried to get the action to the ground.
Penn stifled every takedown attempt before getting Florian to the mat in the fourth round.
Once on the ground, Penn showed his dominance.
He worked to a mount and rained down punches, then let the mount go and took Florian’s back.
Moments later, he secured a rear-naked choke, and Florian was forced to tap out.
Silva, the middleweight champion, came up to the 205-pound class to take on former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
It was no contest.
Silva toyed with Griffin before knocking him on his back with a backpedaling jab 3:23 into the fight.
Griffin, who couldn’t mount any offense and had been hurt by several of Silva’s shots, put his hands up to indicate to Silva and the referee that he wanted no more punishment.
Silva, who had been booed loudly during his ring entrance, leaped atop the cage to a standing ovation.
"The crowd can think what they want, but it’s a different type of fight," Silva said. "Styles make fights. It’s just part of the business."
The displeasure stemmed from what the fans viewed as sluggishness by Silva in his last two victories.
It was not the case Saturday.
Silva ducked and dodged each time Griffin tried to mount an attack, then responded with fists of his own.
Clearly frustrated, Griffin had seen enough and, after indicating he was finished, got up off the mat and jogged back to the locker room.
"I want to see somebody in this room or anywhere else deny who’s the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now," UFC president Dana White said of Silva.
In a matchup of Las Vegas residents, Johny Hendricks knocked out Amir Sadollah in 29 seconds.
The outcome was not without controversy, however.
Hendricks dropped Sadollah with a series of left hands, then pounced with a series of punches as his opponent was on all fours.
Sadollah appeared to be rising back to his feet just as the fight was stopped, and the crowd booed loudly for several minutes.
Hendricks improved to 6-0 as a professional by winning in his first UFC appearance.
Ricardo Almeida ground out a unanimous decision over Kendall Grove.
Almeida secured several takedowns in the bout and did enough damage to win on all three scorecards.
Grove came the closest to finishing the fight, but Almeida worked out of a second-round armbar and never was in trouble again.
"It was tight, but I wasn’t going to tap," Almeida said of the armbar. "When he adjusted his body, that’s when I was able to get free."
In the first bout of the main card, Kurt Pellegrino had top position on Josh Neer for almost the entire 15 minutes.
Neer was dangerous from the guard, but the judges didn’t reward him. Pellegrino won 30-27 on all three cards and said he was active from the top.
"He said I was (just) laying on him," Pellegrino said. "I said if I’m laying on you, why is your face so red?"
The preliminary card was filled with decisions.
Aaron Riley and Matthew Riddle each won convincing unanimous decisions.
John Howard took down Tamdan McCrory several times and won a split decision, but it was Alessio Sakara’s split-decision victory that provided the most controversy.
Sakara and Thales Leites engaged little in three full rounds. Leites won all three rounds, according to one judge, who gave him the fight, 30-27.
Sakara, however, won two of the three rounds, according to each of the other two judges, and was awarded the victory.
George Sotiropoulos submitted George Roop in the second round with a kimura, and Jesse Lennox defeated Danillo Villefort when a ringside doctor ruled Villefort could not continue because of a cut above his eye.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@ reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.