The Weekly Wrap: Jan. 31 - Feb. 6

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By Jack Encarnacao Feb 7, 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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The fight was supposed to be a showcase of two of the best mixed martial artists in the world, in their prime, battling for five rounds. What resulted was a four-round showcase for the victor and a bit of controversy.

Georges St. Pierre retained his welterweight title by thoroughly dictating the pace against B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC 94 on Jan. 31 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. St. Pierre preempted most of Penn’s punches -- which damaged the French Canadian’s face heavily in the pair’s first clash in 2006 -- and proved a more dominant wrestler than ever, easily scoring takedowns against one of the hardest fighters in the game to put on his back.

St. Pierre, who entered the cage with a near 20-pound weight advantage, passed Penn's vaunted guard several times, and dropped hard shots from top position for three straight rounds. Penn's brother J.D. called the fight off after the fourth, which awarded St. Pierre a TKO victory. The judge's tallies up to that point (40-35, 40-34 and 40-34 for St. Pierre) told the story. St. Pierre took home an event-high $400,000 in disclosed pay for the win, plus will reportedly receive a percentage of pay-per-view revenue, according to The Wrestling Observer. Penn made $125,000 in disclosed pay.

It appeared the book was closed on one of the most intriguing fights in MMA history. But a whole new chapter was added when Penn’s attorney filed a request with the Nevada State Athletic Commission calling for them to investigate whether St. Pierre’s corner “greased” his shoulders and back with Vaseline in between rounds, giving him an unfair ability to slip out of submissions. Nevada regulations state “excessive use of grease or any other foreign substance may not be used on the face or body.”

During the fight, NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer conferred with ringside inspectors about the Vaseline, and commission officials were shown on camera wiping down St. Pierre's back after he rose from his stool to enter the second and third rounds. Kizer himself entered the cage at one point to admonish cornermen Phil Nurse and Greg Jackson.

St. Pierre said in several interviews that Nurse rubbed his shoulder and back as part of a ritual that assists in breathing. The technique was developed by Steven Friend, a trainer whom several top fighters refer to as the “witch doctor” for his physiological knowledge and ability to heal injuries. St. Pierre told Sherdog.com’s “Beatdown” radio show that he has “never cheated in his life” and that Nurse did not put Vaseline on his back after applying it to his face. He challenged Penn to a rematch wearing rash guards. Penn called for the rematch on his Web site as well.

Penn trainer Rudy Valentino told Sherdog.com that he believes the substance had not been completely wiped off, and told InsideFighting.com that Matt Serra's camp told them to watch for slipperiness on St. Pierre. Matt Hughes, who has lost to St. Pierre twice, also made a similar accusation on his personal blog this week. UFC President Dana White, who on his video blog is shown preoccupied with the allegation at cageside while St. Pierre was celebrating his victory, said that if a cornerman greased St. Pierre's back, he should never be allowed in the Octagon again.

NSAC Director Kizer was stern in his response, going so far as to say the episode may have tainted St. Pierre's victory. The commission has obtained camera footage of the fight for review. In an interview with Fight Network Radio, veteran cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran said the episode will lead to new rules being implemented for cornermen designed to prevent greasing allegations.

Controversy aside, the St. Pierre-Penn rematch was a financial smash for the UFC. The bout sold out the MGM Grand, and the spillover crowd attended several closed-circuit airing in nearby locations. The 14,885 in attendance translated into a $4.3 million gate. Once finalized, the attendance figure could be a Las Vegas record for the UFC, while the gate ranks fourth or fifth in company history.

White told The Las Vegas Sun this week that he expects the show to do 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, which would be a new UFC record. A three-part "Primetime" documentary series on Spike TV building up the fight undoubtedly contributed to the numbers, as well as one of the liveliest atmospheres for a UFC main event, with the crowd feverishly hanging on every twist and turn. When all numbers are finalized, UFC 94 has a strong shot at being the most lucrative event in company history.

The night also saw other significant outcomes. Lyoto Machida, sometimes derided for not finishing fights, swept the undefeated Thiago Silva and a put him away with a heavy punch on the ground with one second left in the first round. Machida did an animated interview afterwards, rallying the crowd behind him to receive a light heavyweight title shot. The UFC 96 main event of Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine in March will likely decide when that happens.

Machida was the third highest paid fighter of the night with a $120,000 disclosed payday and a $65,000 bonus for best knockout. His win snapped a streak on the card of nothing but decision finishes; there were a total of five split decisions during the night, a UFC record. The decision streak was particularly puzzling considering the UFC promised $20,000 bonuses for any fighter who cleanly finished his opponent on the show, according to The Wrestling Observer.

Because there were no submission finishes at UFC 94, the UFC was able to hand out two bonuses for “Fight of the Night.” Those went to Clay Guida and Nathan Diaz for their razor-close lightweight skirmish and to welterweights Chris Wilson and UFC newcomer and East Coast standout John Howard for their preliminary fight. Howard opened eyes getting the decision nod over the talented Wilson.

Perhaps no one opened eyes wider, though, than Jon “Bones” Jones, who extended his impressive undefeated streak with a dynamic performance against Stephan Bonnar. Jones implemented sudden, impactful suplexes, saltos, and a spinning back elbow that caused UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to explode with excitement at cageside. Jones took the unanimous decision.

Also picking up wins were Karo Parisyan in a sluggish performance against Dong Hyun Kim; Jon Fitch, after a thorough controlling of Akihiro Gono; Thiago Tavares, Jake O'Brien and Dan Cramer.
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