White to Liddell: ‘Retire’ if you lose SaturdayBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 11:55 p.m. ET: Say what you will about Dana White -- hair-challenged, prone to FCC fines, offensive to Howard Stern -- but he clearly doesn’t let friendship muddy the waters when it comes to hanging up someone’s gloves.
Talking to Michael Landsberg on TSN’s “Off the Record” Wednesday, White cautioned that pal Chuck Liddell “will retire” if Mauricio Rua should happen to hand him his fourth loss in five fights.
Heady statement, and one that probably needs revision: It’s not so much Liddell losing, but how it happens, that should determine his fate. An even fight followed by a late KO or decision? Let Liddell do what he likes. A one-sided mauling with Liddell succumbing to a flying heelhook? It’s probably time to enjoy a relaxing retirement of punching out inebriated degenerates in the California club circuit.
On the polar-opposite side of humanity, Kazushi Sakuraba told reporters Monday -- translation courtesy of BloodyElbow.com -- that he could return to the ring in July. Maybe Dream officials could keep some vultures in the rafters to pick at his bloody carcass, since that’s where his career is inevitably headed.
The Fulcrum: Liddell-RuaBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET: Handicapping fights in mixed martial arts is a miserable business. Too many ways to win and lose, and no accounting for split-second lapses in judgment. (Really -- a spinning elbow, Urijah Faber? Really?)
Fights often come down to one athlete’s failure to cope with the other’s judicious use of talent and timing. For Saturday’s Chuck Liddell-Mauricio Rua bout, it’s likely to be whether or not Rua’s knee woes have allowed him to test his cardiovascular conditioning in training camp. If he has the lungs of a 28-year-old again, it’s likely he can outpoint and outhustle Liddell, who may regain some measure of elite performance but probably can’t reverse a sluggish offense brought on by his advancing years.
The Big Right Hand (copyright Liddell, 2005) might as well have a neon sign flashing on it. To his credit, though, Liddell likely hasn’t lost the ability to pop up like a champagne cork when wrestled to the mat. That leaves a striking contest measured by speed (Rua) and counter-fighting (Liddell).
If Rua shows up in a shape other than round, he’ll win.
Leites explains new monikerBy Mike Fridley ([email protected])
Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. ET: UFC middleweight title challenger Thales Leites wants to tell the world about his new nickname.
A big fan of Mel Gibson’s William Wallace-influenced screenplay, the 27-year-old has adopted “Braveheart” as his official alias.
“I love the movie ‘Braveheart.’ I love how he behaves in the war, his focus,” said Leites (14-1).
Despite the Brazilian’s new Gibson-inspired moniker, he offered no plans to abandon his MMA career to direct back-to-back movies filmed entirely in ancient, out-of-use dialogues. He also failed to offer any comment on whom he thinks really runs Hollywood.
Coleman: licensed to remain stillBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. ET: Following a gutsy, oxygen-deprived performance against Mauricio Rua in January, MMAJunkie.com reports that the delay in announcing July 11’s Mark Coleman-Stephan Bonnar oddity was getting the Nevada State Athletic Commission convinced he should be allowed to fight.
He’s been granted a one-fight license; the NSAC might have opted to take it on a round-by-round basis.
Barring any injuries or undisclosed medical conditions, it appears Coleman’s running-on-fumes-of-fumes performance was attributable to the strain of cutting weight at 44 years old. To add insult to exhaustion, light heavyweights are frequently faster, more agile and more prone to outlast you than the heavyweight division’s slabs of concrete.
Those variables should be taken into consideration when evaluating a fighter’s licensure, regardless of whether a fighter is moving up or down. Both can be equally dangerous. Coleman’s fans -- and his career -- might be better served if he remained a heavyweight attraction.
Jason MacDonald’s action planBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:45 p.m. ET: Jason MacDonald, with a streak of red hair that makes him look not unlike a sinister Opie Cunningham, takes on Nate Quarry at UFC 97 on Saturday. (While it’s often difficult to predict fights, I would wager that his ability to do everything better than Quarry works slightly in his favor.)
It’s a big week for the Canadian: The Fight Network reports that MacDonald has signed a deal with Round 5 to create a collectible action figure in his likeness.
One more time: a Jason MacDonald action figure.
I am sure MacDonald is a nice guy. I know he’s a good fighter. I cannot imagine a single youth asking Santa for a toy bearing his likeness, and I would expect any child granted one by ignorant parents who grab the first MMA-themed thing they see in their shopping haste to burst into a flood of angry tears.
Decisions like these are why KB Toys went out of business. (That, and those Gary Oldman figures from “Lost in Space.”)
But I’d happily buy a Junie Allen Browning figure if it came pre-decapitated.
UFC 97: Xavier Foupa-Pokam Tries to Make a Name for HimselfBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 4:25 p.m. ET: Xavier Foupa-Pokam. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Foupa-Pokam, a French kickboxer who logged an impressive stint in the UK’s Cage Rage promotion, debuts in the UFC this Saturday against Denis Kang. (Kang, you may recall, entered the Octagon in January propelled by substantial hype, only to be submitted by Alan Belcher. You could almost hear the pffft noise that a nearly exhausted whoopee cushion makes.)
Foupa-Pokam and Kang are mixed martial artists, yes, but they also represent the purest style-vs.-style match on the card. On the ground, it’s difficult to imagine Foupa-Pokam sticking around long; on the feet, Kang is in real danger of needing a drool cup for hours afterward.
The Frenchman’s style is reminiscent of Gilbert Yvel, minus the growth spurt. And while his ground game is reputed to be getting better, I kind of hope it’s not. There are few guarantees in MMA, but a kickboxer with limited mat skills is usually anything but boring. They knock you out or they spend a few weeks with their arm in a cast. Either way, there’s not much of a lull in the action.
Shamrock: It Pays to TalkBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wednesday, 3:40 p.m. ET: In compensation that can be attributable only to his ability to drive San Jose fans into a lather, Frank Shamrock netted $370,000 for a cringe-inducing performance against Nick Diaz last Saturday.
While higher than many guarantees for UFC’s headliners -- who often bank a $250,000 ballpark base pay -- Shamrock couldn’t profit from any pay-per-view revenue. He did, however, profit from nine years of crowing about what turned out to be a very lackadaisical skill set.
Hitomi Akano, meanwhile, pocketed a measly $1,450 for sustaining a wolverine-level mauling at the hands of Cristiane Santos. Does that pay for even one day in the ICU?
5 quotes from Lyoto MachidaBy Marcelo Alonso ([email protected])
Wednesday, 3:00 a.m. ET: On Saturday’s UFC 97 bout between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Chuck Liddell: “In my opinion, Shogun and Liddell will be the toughest fight of the evening. Of course I’m cheering for Shogun. I trained with him at Chute Boxe and he is a great person, but I believe this fight will be pretty strategic. If Liddell can keep it standing up, he will have advantages. But if Shogun can take him to the ground, he has advantages. I would say it is 50-50.”
On his UFC light heavyweight title shot against Rashad Evans on May 23: “Rashad is a very strategic and calm fighter. Against Forrest he was being punished badly and turned the fight around, but my father and my brother are helping me a lot to bring up my game. I always dreamed for this opportunity and I’m training harder than ever to get this belt.”
On the UFC 97 main event between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites: “I’ve already trained with Anderson, and I can say he is a fantastic fighter. Besides being very experienced and intelligent, he is dangerous from everywhere, even from the bottom, where he hurts you badly with his elbows and punches. Thales is an amazing fighter and deserves respect, but I believe Anderson is the favorite.”
On Anderson Silva’s potential in heavier weight divisions: “Anderson normally weighs (215 pounds). If Fedor fights him weighing (220), I believe Silva would win. Besides being very tactical, Anderson is way superior technically and I truly believe he has the tools to put Fedor in trouble.”
On training with Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii: “He learns really fast. He improved his striking a lot since he arrived. Ishii is helping me a lot with my grappling game as well. Soon he will be ready to make his MMA debut, and I believe he will do a great job. He hasn’t signed with an event, and I advised him to not hurry. First get experience in a Japanese event and later come to the UFC, and I think he will follow my advice.
Check the blog all day for more entries.