Sunday, April 19, 2009

UFC 97 Review

Last night will not go down as the most exciting night in UFC history but it may go down as very important one. Anderson Silva broke the UFC consecutive win streak of nine and tied the consecutive title defense streak at five. We may have also seen Chuck Liddell's last fight in the UFC or possibly ever.

It was a very strange night in my opinion. The UFC had their first swing bout in all the cards I can remember watching live. There were also rule modifications (e.g. no foot stomps) to placate a sensitive Montreal sporting commission after a riot broke out at the last MMA event held in the city.

The card was looking very solid until the main event. Anderson Silva implemented his strategy perfectly. In fact, it was too perfect.

Leites couldn't get Silva to the ground after the first round and essentially gave up, and Silva (a noted counter puncher) wouldn't go in for the kill. This did not amuse anyone in the crowd, most notably Dana White. All in all it was not a bad night, just a weird one.

Let's see if my picks were affected by the weirdness that transpired:

Eliot Marshall v. Vinny Magalhaes:Marshall wins by unanimous decision. I was wrong on this one. By the way, who would've thought after two fights in the UFC Marshall would be 2-0 and Vinny would be 0-2?

Ryo Chonan v. TJ Grant:Grant wins by split decision. I got this fight right on the button. Chonan could be in trouble of losing his contract and with another loss I'd say it's definite.

Mark Bocek v. David Bielkheden:Bocek was impressive here winning by RNC in the first round. I got the pick right but not the prediction.

David Loiseau v. Ed Herman:Herman comes out with a huge unanimous decision win (even getting one 10-8 round). This saved Herman's UFC career and unfortunately probably will kick Loiseau right back out the door. I got this one wrong.

Jason MacDonald v. Nate Quarry: Quarry gets a very impressive win by TKO in the first round. I got some heat for picking Quarry so I'm happy to say that I got this one right. In fact I gave MacDonald too much credit and gave him until the second round. Another loss for MacDonald could be bad news as much as the UFC loves him.

Denis Kang v. Xavier Foupa-Pokam:Kang gets his first win in the UFC by unanimous decision. I got the pick right but not the prediction.

Steve Cantwell v. Luiz Cane:This was a great fight that saw both guys go toe to toe all three rounds. Cantwell won the second round I thought as Cane seemed to gas a little. However, Cane definitely won the first and third landing the better and more powerful strikes.

Cane wins by unanimous decision (though I thought it was closer than what the judges had). Cane looks really good right now and I'd love to see him take a step up in competition. I didn't give Cantwell enough credit for how tough he is. I got the pick right but not the prediction.

Cheick Kongo v. Antoni Hardonk: This fight was all Kongo. Hardonk couldn't get his leg kicks off and Kongo easily took Hardonk down and pounded on him. He eventually finished the fight by TKO in the second round.

Kongo has to start being mentioned for title contention. Maybe a fight against Gabriel Gonzaga might make sense? In any case, I got the pick right but not the prediction.

Krzysztof Soszynski v. Brian Stann:KS put a ground clinic on Stann and put Stann's lack of ground game on display. KS got Stann to the ground almost too easily where he controlled and manipulated Stann until he finally sunk in the Kimura in the first round.

This was a poor debut for Stann. It will be interesting to see what the UFC does with him. This was KS's second win in a row by Kimura and is quickly showing why the UFC put so much faith in him to be on the main card last night over vets like Kang, MacDonald, Quarry, and Loiseau.

I got the pick right but not the prediction.

Chuck Liddell v. Mauricio Rua: This is the end of an era fight fans. Never say never, but my guess is that this is the last time we see Liddell in the octagon and possibly in a fight ever again. He's just hit that age where he fell off a cliff and doesn't have it anymore.

His reaction time is slow, his chin is weaker than ever after three KO's in five fights, and he's too one dimensional to compete at this level. "Shogun" exploited all of that in this fight.

His stand up was crisper and more powerful. He was able to get Liddell to the mat and fought for a submission. And ultimately he caught Liddell on his ever weakening chin and ended the fight by TKO in the first round.

Obviously Liddell wouldn't comment on his future after the fight. He shouldn't have to either. It's just my humble opinion that we've seen the end of an illustrious career and unlike Randy Couture, Liddell has let his age catch up to him.

While it is quite sad for this Liddell fan to have watched last night there is a silver lining. I also happen to be a huge "Shogun" fan and did the true "Shogun" ever return in spades last night! He was fast, aggressive, powerful, and smart.

He showed up Liddell in every facet of the game and it appeared that he was back in top form like he was in Pride. He only went one round so he'll have to prove his stamina is better but for that one round he looked like the "Shogun" of old. The crazy part is that he's still only 27!

I can't wait to see what's next for Rua! Unfortunately I got this pick wrong.

Sam Stout v. Matt Wiman:In the first swing bout I can ever remember on a UFC card in the last three years, these guys put on the fight of the night. They both kept up a Clay Guida like pace for three rounds and never backed down.

Both these guys were trading shots and control on the ground. It was a very close fight but ultimately Wiman's striking and his ground control won him the unanimous decision much to the chagrin of Stout. This fight went exactly like I thought it would as I picked the fight right on the nose.

I don't think we'll be seeing Stout back in the octagon any time soon.

Anderson Silva v. Thales Leites: Someone asked me last night if this was the worst title fight I've ever seen. I would have to do some research before giving a definite answer, but in my recent memory, I can't think of a fight that was less eventful.

Silva won the fight by unanimous decision. I got the pick right but not the prediction.

Leites got Silva to the ground one time and Silva proved that the key to beating him does not lie on the ground. You have to be the total package because as Silva proved just getting him to the ground does not win you the fight.

Leites could do nothing with Silva even once he had him on the ground and then could never get Silva back to the mat. Leites essentially gave up after the first round and wouldn't attack Silva on the feet. People started booing and Silva and Leites both became visibly frustrated.

Leites was frustrated that his game plan couldn't be executed. Silva was frustrated that Leites wouldn't play in to his game plan (to have Leites attack so he could counter). So as the boos rained down both showed displeasure, and toward the end, apathy.

Silva was uncharacteristically apathetic and not congenial or even respectful in his post fight interview. The whole fight left a really sour taste in everyone's mouth especially Dana White who had some tough criticism for Silva after two less than stellar performances.

In a business where going to war and losing is worth more than being boring and winning Silva's last two fights have put him in the UFC's dog house. In my opinion it's time to up the ante. Assuming GSP beats Thiago Alves, another super fight needs to be put in place in order to challenge Silva and hopefully give him the type of opponent who will attack and test Silva in more than one facet.

All in all the night was important but ended on a serious down note. Silva broke and tied two records respectively. We may have seen the last of "The Iceman" in the UFC. And "Shogun" appears ready for a run at the title.

I went an awesome 9-3 plus two bonus points for picking the fights perfectly.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for my TUF 9 review later this week as well as my fighter rankings coming later this month as all the major promotions are off until May. Until then,

Soccer kicks and head stomps...

P.S. I want to say thank you to Chuck for all he's done for this sport whether we see him fight again or not. He was never the best all around athlete or fighter. However, he tapped into something in our culture that put butts in seats and sold PPVs that built this sport into what it is today.

Chuck has the image but he also had the skills to back it up. Chuck brought an amazing sprawl and brawl style that allowed him to capture the LHW championship and hold on to it for well over a year and four title defenses against some of the legends of the sport.

Chuck, whether we do or don't see you again, thanks for everything. MMA wouldn't be the same without you.

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