The Weekly Wrap: Aug. 29 - Sept. 4

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By Jack Encarnacao Sep 5, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week’s top story, important news and notable quotes.

Top Story

In a classic battle at UFC 102, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira bounced back from the worst performance of his career with a commanding outing against Randy Couture in the first-ever meeting between the two heavyweight legends. Nogueira and Couture brought out the best in each other before the 16,088 on hand Aug. 29 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. Couture’s clinch boxing and resilience meshed dramatically with Nogueira’s pointed punches and choke attempts, which had “The Natural” on the verge of being finished at several junctures.

The 33-year-old Nogueira took the unanimous decision on two 30-27 cards and one 29-28 card (tallied by Glenn Trowbridge). He appeared to take all three rounds, an analysis a facially bruised Couture, 46, conceded in a post-fight press conference. Firebrand UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar looked on from cage-side, at times shouting advice to Couture. In about as respectful a tone as possible, Nogueira requested a title shot against the winner of Lesnar’s title defense against Shane Carwin on Nov. 21. The bout earned both principals $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses. Nogueira’s disclosed purse was $400,000; Couture’s was $250,000, plus a percentage of pay-per-view revenue.

Despite Nogueira coming out on top, there was more buzz about what the future holds for Couture. The ageless UFC great appears far from done, announcing after the Nogueira loss that he had inked a multi-fight deal with the UFC and will retire under the promotion’s auspices. The Nogueira match was the first fight on the deal, which spans a little more than two years in duration. Sherdog.com’s Loretta Hunt reported the deal supposedly pays Couture six times more upfront than his last contract with the company. Couture told Sherdog he was most interested in fighting next at light heavyweight. Anderson Silva’s name was tossed around as a potential opponent, and 205-pound champion Lyoto Machida told Los Angeles radio station KROQ 106.7 he wants to fight Couture if he defeats Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104 on Oct. 25.

Nogueira vs. Couture headlined a card that exceeded expectations in terms of how eventful it was, if not how lucrative. UFC 102 took in $1.92 million at the gate for the promotion’s debut in Oregon, which was far from a sellout and considerably less than the UFC has done for its premieres in other markets in recent months. Last month’s opening in Pennsylvania, for instance, drew a $3.3 million gate. UFC President Dana White acknowledged in a post-fight press conference that the promotion should have put up better numbers in Portland, saying ticket prices were set too high for the market. Nevertheless, the crowd on hand was as enthusiastic as one could hope, serenading fighters with Oregonian roots, like Couture and Chris Leben, with full-throated cheers.

Thiago Silva and Nate Marquardt gave them something to cheer about, knocking out their respective opponents emphatically and improving their standings in their respective weight classes.

Silva took advantage of the wide-open hand positioning of Keith Jardine by countering a wild left uppercut with a powerful left hook that put Jardine down. Silva, who received extensive promotional attention in the UFC’s pre-show hype, followed up with bombs for the technical knockout at 1:35. The win catapulted Silva from an unranked position to No. 6 in Sherdog.com’s light heavyweight rankings.

Marquardt declined to go into deep water with Demian Maia, as he landed a right cross seconds into the fight that seemed to knock the Brazilian out of mid-air and put him away. Marquardt said he had trained to throw the shot when his camp, particularly UFC veteran Duane Ludwig, noted that Maia telegraphs his kicks. The shot earned Marquardt the “Knockout of the Night” bonus and moved him to the No. 2 middleweight spot on Sherdog.com’s rankings.

Like Nogueira, the mild-mannered Marquardt politely campaigned for a title shot on the microphone afterward, framing himself as the guy who “can kick Anderson Silva’s butt.” White was non-committal on who gets the next shot, telling Sherdog.com fellow contender Dan Henderson was campaigning for a title fight throughout UFC 102 and that he had to “figure out this middleweight mess.” Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, said in interviews that a Marquardt vs. Henderson title eliminator should be next. Henderson has indicated an interest only in facing Silva in middleweight competition and would pursue fights at 205 pounds if the Silva fight was not possible. He ramped up the campaign in interviews, claiming Silva, who submitted him last year, was ducking him.

Elsewhere at UFC 102, Jake Rosholt earned the “Submission of the Night” award by using an arm-triangle choke to put Leben to sleep on his home turf. It was Leben’s first fight after a suspension for failing a steroid test in wake of his loss to Michael Bisping last October; it was his first fight in his home state since a 2004 win over Benji Radach. Rosholt showed vastly improved footwork in avoiding most of Leben’s heavy strikes and took cornerman Marc Laimon’s advice to finish the match in the third frame. In the other main card bout, Brandon Vera used crisp muay Thai technique to outpoint Krzysztof Soszynski for a unanimous decision win.

On the undercard, vaunted American Top Team heavyweight prospect Todd Duffee, 23, set a supposed record in his UFC debut, as he dispatched Tim Hague with a left jab and beastly ground-and-pound for the seven-second knockout. Announcers proclaimed the KO the fastest in Octagon history, though Ludwig put down Jonathan Goulet in four seconds back in 2006; however, a timekeeper was late to log it and officially recorded it as 11 seconds. Duffee looked into the cameras after the win and called the fight an appetizer, begging White to let him eat. White was impressed with the debut, saying he planned to “fast track” the undefeated Duffee in the heavyweight ranks.

Also picking up wins at UFC 102 were Evan Dunham (split decision over Marcus Aurelio), Mark Munoz (split decision over Nick Catone), Michael Russow (unanimous decision over Justin McCully), Aaron Simpson (round two TKO over Ed Herman) and Gabriel Gonzaga (round one TKO over Chris Tuchscherer). Tuchscherer absorbed a brutal groin shot before the finish and said in an interview with MMAJunkie.com that he continued in the fight because athletic commission officials could not give him a straight answer about whether or not the bout would be declared a no contest if he did not go on. Herman, meanwhile, appeared to blow out his knee against Simpson, as he came out for the second round even though he was limping heavily. The state athletic commission suspended Herman indefinitely while the injury heals.
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