The Weekly Wrap: August 8 - August 14

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By Jack Encarnacao Aug 15, 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.

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Two divisional leaders, Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn, re-asserted their stature as part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut in Philadelphia, while bantamweight king Miguel Torres suffered defeat the next night for the first time in nearly six years.

At UFC 101 on Aug. 8, Silva and Penn took centerstage with impressive wins, though they were markedly different in duration. Silva, moving up to light heavyweight for the second time in the UFC, made remarkably short work of former 205-pound champion Forrest Griffin, dropping the fan favorite seemingly at will with precision punches. As advertised, Griffin came forward, but at about the three-minute mark lunged with a one-two combination that he paid dearly for, as Silva flicked a short punch while moving backwards that zapped the Georgian and put him down for the third time to finish the fight. Silva threw 27 strikes to Griffin’s 55 in the dominant performance, according to CompuStrike, and deliberately kept his hands down for much of the exchanges to show off his head movement.

The TKO took Silva, who was coming off two protracted and heavily criticized middleweight title defenses, from a subject of jeers to a subject of awe. Combined with his past conquests of Hayato Sakurai and Rich Franklin, the win made Silva the first mixed martial artist to defeat top-five fighters in three weight classes. There were a myriad of reports about his next step; all told, it looks like Silva will be defending his middleweight title and taking 205-pound superfights rather than making a permanent switch.

As for Griffin, his abrupt exit from the Octagon post-fight bred some sour feelings toward the perennial fan favorite and inspired some Internet mockery. Despite the outcome, Griffin shared a $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus with Silva, who collected $120,000 in total bonuses, also adding a “Knockout of the Night” prize to his take. Aside from bonuses, UFC 101 payouts were not reported, as per the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission’s protocol.

While Silva’s win created excitement about his prospects at a different weight, it was Penn’s return to his established class that produced results for the world’s top lightweight. In his victory over Kenny Florian, Penn recovered nicely from a deflating loss at welterweight to Georges St. Pierre and looked in top form. The champion did not show any significant signs of fatigue as the fight entered the championship rounds, a question coming in. After taking Florian’s back in the fourth, Penn used his heel to kick at Florian’s body, drawing the Bostonian’s hands down to create the split-second opening Penn needed to secure a rear-naked choke for the tap. He earned a $60,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus for the win method.

As for Torres, the seemingly peerless bantamweight met his match against the heavy-handed Brian Bowles at World Extreme Cagefighting 42 on Aug. 9 in Las Vegas. Bowles landed an overhand right early that caused Torres to stumble, but the Chicagoland fighter was able to recover. Bowles later ducked into a right cross, causing Torres to close in with punches. Bowles laid low through the flurry and corked off a short right hook that put Torres down. Torres appeared to be going for an armbar on his back but got stung with lefts and rights until his lights went out for the first time in his career. Bowles improved to 8-0 with the victory, and collected a $10,000 knockout bonus on top of his $18,000 purse. Torres took home $26,000.

The three fights capped one of the busiest weekends of the year in MMA, as UFC 101 and WEC 42 went down on back-to-back nights, a first for the two Zuffa outfits. The UFC card drew 17,471 fans to the Wachovia Center for a $3.55 million gate, a combat sports record in Pennsylvania. While there were fears that the notorious Philly sports fans would be too quick to boo inactivity, they appeared no quicker to jeer than any other crowd. A wild fight in the crowd between two spectators, however, drew much of the attention away from the event’s Aaron Riley vs. Shane Nelson rematch.

The WEC event took place at the newly expanded Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which holds about 4,000 people. The Versus telecast of the event drew an average of 670,000 viewers, up significantly from the 470,000 who tuned in to the live airing of Torres’ last fight against Takeya Mizugaki in April. The number was a big drop-off from the 1.28 million who tuned in for the last WEC card in June, headlined by the Mike Thomas Brown-Urijah Faber rematch.

Aside from the top two fights, UFC 101 card was rather dull. Six of the night’s fights went to decisions, and Johny Hendricks’ TKO win over “The Ultimate Fighter 7” champion Amir Sadollah came after an underwhelming referee stoppage 30 seconds into the fight. Also picking up wins on the card were Aaron Riley (decision over Shane Nelson), Ricardo Almeida (decision over Kendall Grove) and Kurt Pellegrino (decision over Josh Neer) in main card bouts. On the preliminary card, winning fighters were John Howard (decision over Tamdan McCrory), Alessio Sakara (decision over Thales Leites), Matt Riddle (decision over Dan Cramer) George Sotiropoulos (Kimura to tap George Roop) and Jesse Lennox (TKO via cut over Danillo Villefort). Leites, McCrory and Cramer were cut from the UFC following their losses, according to several reports. Almeida will cut to welterweight to face Jon Fitch later this year, according to MMAMania.com.

In addition to the title fight, WEC 42 also featured two other high-stakes bantamweight bouts. In an all-energy, 15-minute affair, Dominick Cruz handed Joseph Benavidez his first pro loss in a spirited bout that likely determined Bowles’ next contender. Cruz took the unanimous decision, using his marked four-inch height advantage to hit all of the takedowns in the fight, scramble effectively and keep the Alpha Male fighter at bay with long punches.

Takeya Mizugaki defeated Jeff Curran via split decision. The Japanese fighter, coming off a five-round war with Torres, used his size to hold top position for much of the fight, though Curran appeared more active working submission attempts and strikes from the bottom. Curran snatched a tight triangle choke that he held until the end of the fight, and decried the judging in interviews after the fight.

Also victorious at WEC 42 were Leonard Garcia (decision over Jameel Massouh), Danny Castillo (second-round TKO knockout of Ricardo Lamas), Cole Province (decision over Fredson Paixao), Ed Ratcliff (decision over Phil Cardella), Rani Yahya (first-round submission over John Hosman), Diego Nunes (decision over Rafael Dias) L.C. Davis (decision over Javier Vazquez) and Shane Roller (decision over Marcus Hicks). Hicks missed weight by four pounds and had to forfeit 15 percent ($1,200) of his show money to Roller. The bout took place at a 159-pound catch-weight.
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