File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
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.
It was the kind of dominance that left commentators thinking about the career legacy of the victor instead of the night’s performance.
Georges St. Pierre did everything he was expected to do at UFC 111 on March 27 against Dan Hardy, hitting perfect takedowns and firmly controlling position to a unanimous decision that produced one 50-43 scorecard. Though he was intensely self-critical about his inability to coax a tapout from the game but over-matched Hardy, St. Pierre again sparkled in showcasing the best wrestling in the game, switching levels and leveling his opponent at a moment’s notice. The welterweight champion scored on nine of nine takedown attempts, extending to 25 his run of consecutive rounds won, a UFC record.
The victory was so decisive that the post-fight discussion revolved around whether St. Pierre needed to develop better finishing ability to achieve his stated goal of being considered the greatest MMA fighter of all time. While he made no apologies, he sees room for improvement. St. Pierre harped on his inability to get Hardy to tap out to an armbar in the first round or a shoulder-wrenching kimura in the fourth. He told Sherdog.com that his jiu-jitsu coach told him the alignment of his body wasn't correct on the kimura attempt and that he was counting too much on strength in his earnestness to finish.
UFC President Dana White said in a press conference that he’d developed the audience en masse was not happy with the one-sided but drawn-out UFC 111 main event, saying his Twitter account was full of comments by fans who felt they had seen nothing more than a wrestling match. White faulted Hardy's takedown defense more than St. Pierre's finishing ability in the fight, during which spectators noticeably left the arena. While White may have noted an especially high level of discontent, that could be tied to the fact that there were likely more people looking in on March 27 than for any UFC card in recent months.
Some 17,000 fans packed the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for UFC 111, which also drew an overflow crowd of 2,200 for a closed-circuit screening at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The New York press picked up on a lot of the hoopla, including an item in the New York Daily News about St. Pierre taking 40 friends out to dinner after the fight in Manhattan. UFC 111 was the first UFC event to air in movie theaters in the United States, distributed in some 300 cities. The card drew a $4 million gate, nearly double the $2.1 million take for the UFC's first event in the arena, UFC 78 in November 2007. Very preliminary estimates for pay-per-view buys were in the 850,000 range, according to The Wrestling Observer, a height the industry leader hasn’t reached since UFC 101.
Shane Carwin seized the spotlight to blister Frank Mir -- who along with St. Pierre likely drew the majority of buyers -- and take the UFC interim heavyweight title. Carwin pushed the fight to the fence, used left uppercuts in the clinch and fired punches on the ground to earn the win at the 3:48 mark. It was the 12th fight, 12th win and 12th first-round stoppage of the Coloradan's career. After the fight, Carwin blogged about a medical complication that emerged in a pre-fight scan of his brain that caused doctors to inject a contrasting dye into him that had him feeling sick for a day on fight week.
The heavyweight outcome was about the best possible in terms of galvanizing interest in Carwin challenging Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, who White said wanted nemesis Mir to win, likely because a rubber match between the two would mean record-breaking business, entered the cage and immediately began the hype, belittling Carwin's belt and posturing. Carwin, who took home a $65,000 knockout bonus and jumped from No. 9 to No. 4 in Sherdog.com’s heavyweight rankings, took the talk in stride. The title unification bout is expected to take place at UFC 116 on July 3 in Las Vegas.
A fight expected to establish a contender for St. Pierre's title ended up highlighting a schism between Dana White and Jon Fitch, Sherdog.com's No. 2 ranked welterweight. Fitch took a grinding unanimous decision over late replacement Ben Saunders, who stepped up after No. 3 ranked welterweight Thiago Alves was not allowed to fight due to an irregularity detected in a pre-fight scan of his brain.
Post-fight, Fitch made the pitch for a rematch with St. Pierre, which caused White to propose Fitch prove his hunger by fighting American Kickboxing Academy brethren Josh Koscheck, who faces Paul Daley on May 8. Fitch maintained he would not fight his teammate in the Octagon and only behind closed gym doors. "That'll make a lot of money," White intoned. Fitch told Sherdog.com that his chief regret about Alves falling out of the fight is that he doesn't have as strong a case for a title shot and is more beholden to promotional considerations.
Also at UFC 111, three New Jersey fighters rode a home-field advantage to victory. The night's best submission bonus went to Kurt Pellegrino for a second-round rear-naked choke victory over Fabricio Camoes, a Royler Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt. Fellow lightweight Jim Miller took a hard-fought unanimous decision over Mark Bocek. And Ricardo Almeida found success in his welterweight debut by cutting Matt Brown over the eye with an elbow, securing a body triangle and sinking a rear-naked choke for the submission in round two.
Both Almeida's and Nate Diaz’s victory over Rory Markham were the featured bouts in a one-hour preliminary special that aired on Spike TV prior to the pay-per-view. The rating for the broadcast ran counter to all the other positive interest signs heading into UFC 111, drawing a 0.9 share rating for an average of 1.2 million viewers, according to MMAPayout.com. Of the six UFC preliminary specials Spike TV has aired, the March 27 offering did the lowest rating and was a big dip from the 1.7 million-viewer average for the UFC 109 pre-show in February. Competition from the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament may be partly to blame.
In a bout that technically ended up a middleweight contest when Markham weighed in at 177, Diaz effectively counter punched and took Markham's back in the first round, stopping him with ground and pound. Diaz indicated in an interview with MMAFighting.com that he’s leaning toward a return to lightweight for his next fight. Markham was fined 12.5 percent of his purse for missing weight, forfeiting $1,000 to Diaz. Markham was shelved with injuries since Feb. 2009 and had a weight cut that went "haywire," his trainer Pat Miletich told MMAJunkie.com.
Also picking up wins at UFC 111 were Rousimar Palhares (first round heel hook submission over Tomasz Drwal); Matt Riddle (third round disqualification over Greg Soto after an illegal upkick); and Jared Hamman (unanimous decision over Rodney Wallace). Hamman and Wallace took home the Best Fight bonus for a hard-hitting affair, while Palhares was suspended 90 days by the New Jersey State Athletic Control board for not relinquishing the heel hook in a timely fashion.
NJSACB counsel Nick Lembo told Sherdog.com that Palhares crossed the line when referee Kevin Mulhall had to tug on his arm three times before he relinquished the submission. Palhares' manager Alex Davis said his fighter's intent was to be absolutely sure the tap was recognized before giving up a position. Drwal screamed in pain while he tapped and had a difficult time exiting the cage. The extent of his injury was not clear.