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UFC 101: Hard Work vs. Natural Gifts

Preview by Brady Crytzer

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will look to make a statement in its Keystone State debut when it presents UFC 101: Declaration. Though the two headlining bouts appear to be highly competitive, a key theme pervades the battles. On one side stands a tremendous specimen brandishing natural abilities that can never be taught. On the other, a tried and true underdog that has outmuscled and outhustled opponents on his way to the top of the sport. Up first, Kenny “KenFlo” Florian challenges world lightweight champion BJ Penn. Fightnews takes a look at the main event of UFC 101.

Striking

Throughout his career BJ Penn has proven to challenge traditional values that support the superiority of hard training against natural ability. In his 2007 bout against Sean Sherk, Penn dazzled observers by decimating the face the former champion’s face with piercing jabs. In 2008, Penn surprised onlookers once more by nearly knocking out challenger Joe Stevenson with an uppercut. One thing is for sure, if there was ever a person born to fight, it’s Hawaii’s Penn. Though natural ability is one thing, hard work is a whole different ball game. Since losing the aforementioned Sherk in 2006, Florian has continued to improve at an exponential rate. With all credit going to his training camps at Team Sityotong, “KenFlo” continues to “finish fights” by combining wicked muay thai with a natural affinity for taking the “David” role.

Although Penn could beat most fighters with little time spent in training camp, he will need a lot more than good genes to outstrike Florian. Look for the challenger to wear out the champ using quick leg kicks and short, accurate counterpunches.

Grappling

Although both men hold black belts, there is a reason that Penn was the first American to ever win a grappling title in Brazil. Time and again Penn has displayed an unearthly ability to bend and stretch in ways thought to be impossible. These traits, along with lifetime training, make for an extremely dangerous world titlist. Despite these facts, Penn has been relying heavily on his striking as of late. On the flipside, due to his lack of natural gifts, Florian has had to rely on superior submissions for most of his career. Tapout wins over Sam Stout, Kit Cope, Din Thomas, and Joe Stevenson make Florian a threat to any 155 lb’er on the mat.

Kenny Florian is a dynamic and sometimes robotic grappler, but no amount of training can make up for the genetic gifts that the champion possesses.

How They Match Up

The outcome of this fight is dependant on one variable: Penn’s conditioning. Penn’s penchant for laziness during camp is only overshadowed by the fact that he hasn’t lost at 155 lbs in over seven years.

If Penn does not come to fight in shape he will most certainly have underestimated Florian and will be pressed like never before at the lightweight limit. Think Penn-GSP 2.

If the Penn that battled Stevenson and Sherk ventures to Philadelphia however we could see a dominating and convincing win that will surely push the Hawaiian back to the top of the pound for pound ranks.

 


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