Two Bouts Finalize UFC 101 Lineup

By Brian Knapp Jun 1, 2009
Thales Leites now understands how Jon Fitch felt.

One fight removed from a main event, Leites will creep onto the undercard at UFC 101 “Declaration” when he meets American Top Team’s Alessio Sakara on Aug. 8 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The UFC made the middleweight matchup official on Sunday.

Leites (14-2) last appeared at UFC 97 in April, when he dropped a unanimous decision in a lackluster bout with middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Though Silva bore the brunt of public criticism, Leites performance apparently did him no favors with UFC management. The 27-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt still has never been finished as a professional and holds victories against former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt, Brazilian veteran Jose Landi-Jons and middleweight slugger Drew McFedries. Leites has delivered nine of his 14 career wins by submission.

Having dabbled in professional boxing, Sakara (13-7, 1 NC) poses a significant threat when upright. He has not competed since September, when he knocked out Joe Vedepo with a beautiful head kick at UFC Fight Night 15. None of Sakara’s last seven bouts have advanced beyond the first round, and though he has posted lukewarm results inside the Octagon, he has remained on the UFC roster thanks to his kill-or-be-killed approach. The heavily tattooed 27-year-old Italian owns victories against Australian journeyman Elvis Sinosic, Canadian veteran Victor Valimaki and former King of the Cage champion James Lee.

Meanwhile, in a lightweight rematch, Pride Fighting Championship veteran Aaron Riley will lock horns with B.J. Penn protégé Shane Nelson. The first meeting between the two ended in controversy when Nelson stopped Riley on strikes in just 44 seconds at UFC 96 in March. Most considered the stoppage premature.

A product of Season 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Nelson (12-3) will carry an eight-fight winning streak into the bout. The 25-year-old Hawaiian has gone the distance in six of his last eight fights. He held the X-1 World Events lightweight championship prior to his appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Riley (27-11-1), a hard-nosed Indiana native in his 12th year in the sport, has lost three of his four matches inside the Octagon, none sourer than the last. A Pride Fighting Championships and International Fight League veteran, he counts victories against the well-traveled Nuri Shakir, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel and Sengoku featherweight grand prix semi-finalist Michihiro Omigawa among his 27 conquests. Nearly half (13) of his wins have come by submission.

A lightweight championship bout between Penn and top contender Kenny Florian will headline UFC 101, along with a super fight pairing Silva, the reigning middleweight king, with former 205-pound champion Forrest Griffin.

UFC 101: Declaration
Saturday, Aug. 8
Wachovia Center

UFC Lightweight Championship
B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian

Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks
Kendall Grove vs. Ricardo Almeida
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Josh Neer
Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley
Tamdan McCrory vs. John Howard
Thales Leites vs. Alessio Sakara
Matt Riddle vs. Dan Cramer
George Sotiropoulos vs. Robert Emerson
Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo Villefort
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