File Photo: 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.
From its inception, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's voyage to Abu Dhabi was a quixotic idea. But what was most unusual about the night wasn’t where the event took place, in a makeshift, open-air arena outside a massive theme park that stands where there was only desert when the UFC was founded.
Instead, due largely to the baffling neurosis of one the planet's best fighters, what was most unusual about UFC 112 on April 10 is what happened in the cage. With taunting head and body movement that at times resembled interpretive dance, Anderson Silva soured UFC brass, the live crowd and a bulk of media with a level of showmanship never before seen in the Octagon in his successful title defense against Demian Maia.
Silva, appearing to have a meltdown during entreaties for Maia to engage, took the fight the distance despite displaying otherworldly striking in the first two rounds. Maia's face was badly busted from well-timed punches, and he was swept off his feet from leg kicks. But he ended up the aggressor down the stretch: Silva held off entirely as Maia didn’t take the bait and open himself up for Silva’s counterstrikes. When they weren't jeering, the crowd broke out in chants of "Maia" and "GSP" during the fight. Referee Dan Miragliotta even received a loud ovation when admonishing Silva for not engaging. Scores were not announced on the broadcast, but were 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.
The display saw UFC boss Dana White walk away from cageside in protest, dropping Silva's middleweight title in front of Silva's manager, Ed Soares. "You put it on him," said White. Silva’s showing wasn’t positive, particularly coming in front of the UFC’s new Middle Eastern business partners and 10-percent stakeholders, Flash Entertainment. Middle Eastern sports media outlet Maktoob Sport concluded that "what was meant to be a showcase of the world’s most violent and controversial sport descended into farce."
A steaming White said in a post-fight news conference that he was embarrassed by the display and had to make it up to fans. "How do you sell Anderson Silva after tonight?" he wondered. White later said he would cut Silva from the UFC if he put forward a similar performance, which was reminiscent of the Brazilian’s apparent withholding against Thales Leites and Patrick Cote. White also said he wasn't interested anymore in booking the much-discussed Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre bout. In an interview with ESPN's Jim Rome, White said Silva's next match will be against Chael Sonnen. If Silva fails to impress, White pledged to fire Silva. Sonnen expressed doubt Silva would take the fight in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. The site reported the UFC is targeting the fight for an Aug. 7 event in Utah.
UFC 112 also saw the world's top lightweight fall from his perch in a fight that engendered a more conventional form of controversy. Frankie Edgar was tremendous in not allowing B.J. Penn to pressure him or establish a rhythm, using five rounds’ worth of nonstop evasive movement and footwork that prevented Penn from putting together many combinations.
Penn did though, by most accounts, land more strikes, mainly jabs and counter left hooks, to take at least three rounds of the fight. According to FightMetric, Penn landed more strikes in the first three rounds, with very small differentials in the third and fourth. Edgar, who just started his MMA career four years ago, was declared the winner by unanimous decision. He told SI.com he returned home to Toms River, N.J., Sunday to a hero’s welcome, with police cars and fire trucks escorting him home. The UFC is looking to make an Edgar vs. Penn rematch on one of two dates in August, Sherdog.com reported.
Edgar won on scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 49-46, and entered Sherdog.com's Pound-for-Pound rankings at No. 9, dropping Penn from No. 5 to No. 10. The 50-45 scorecard, posited by Douglas Crosby, grabbed a lot of the post-fight attention, as most felt Penn took at least two rounds of the fight. Several posts Crosby made on The Underground MMA forum further fanned the flames, as he mocked Penn fans whom he said were protesting and chanting "50-45." Crosby wrote Edgar "dictated the tone of the fight, successfully implemented and executed a strategy, landed better strikes, and basically outworked Penn" and that a review of the fight didn't change his mind. The Wrestling Observer reported that Crosby got some heat from commission officials for the posts, as judges publicly expounding on their decision-making is often frowned upon. Unlike UFC cards in commissioned states, Crosby was selected by the UFC to judge on the Abu Dhabi card.
UFC 112 drew a reported 11,008 fans for a $3.5 million gate to The Concert Arena, constructed in three weeks outside of the Ferrari World theme park and torn down 48 hours after the event. It was the first UFC event to take place in an open-air arena, though a tent bearing the UFC logo was hung high above the cage in case of rain. It aired live at 1 p.m. EST on pay-per-view with the typical 10 p.m. replay. Early estimates have the show doing 525,000 buys on pay-per-view, according to The Wrestling Observer, the largest number the UFC has drawn for a pay-per-view that emanated overseas and thus airing live at a different time.
The event also featured the auspicious UFC debut of Renzo Gracie, who struggled to put much together against Matt Hughes past a few early punch flurries. Hughes piled on leg kicks and didn't go for takedowns, eventually picking apart a gassed Gracie in the third frame for the TKO. On the mat at one point, Gracie, 43, asked for and received help from Hughes to get back to his feet and continue fighting.
The other main card victors were Mark Munoz and Rafael dos Anjos, both of whom earned $75,000 bonuses for best fight and submission. Dos Anjos showed great poise defending an aggressive early flurry by Terry Etim in the first round and in the second round found an armbar after transitioning from a north-south mount. Munoz and opponent Kendall Grove got the broadcast off to an electric start, as the up-and-down middleweight battle saw Munoz dropped in the first round but hang on to score a ground-and-pound stoppage in the second. Grove and Munoz earned Fight of the Night paydays. DaMarques Johnson picked up the Knockout of the Night bonus for a third-round finish of Brad Blackburn on the preliminary card. Blackburn was cut from the UFC after the loss.
In the one preliminary fight to make the pay-per-view, NCAA National Champion Phil Davis secured an impressive anaconda choke from the front headlock position against Alexander Gustaffson in the closing seconds of the first. Also picking up wins at UFC 112 were Rick Story (split decision over Nick Osipczak); Paul Kelly (round two guillotine submission over Matt Veach); and Jon Madsen (unanimous decision over Mostapha Al-Turk). Paul Taylor fell off the card hours before his fight with John Gunderson due to a reported medical issue that involved migraine headaches. Gunderson was paid his show and win money. Veach and Al-Turk were cut from the UFC after their losses, MMAJunkie.com reported.