UFC 97 post-mortem: Silva-LeitesBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Sunday, 1:55 a.m. ET: Being a pacifist is admirable.
Being one in the Octagon somehow misses the point.
Anderson Silva, we were told, was looking to erase the bad taste left by a non-effort against Patrick Cote in October. But what was treated as an anomaly may have been the beginning of a very eccentric title reign.
Against challenger Thales Leites Saturday, Silva looked alternately bored, annoyed and frustrated. Many of his fans must have felt the same way: Despite Leites’ increasing fatigue and tempered stand-up, Silva never got hydraulic in his offense. He was content to swim in, land a few push kicks and then swim back out, unmarked with the exception of the boos cascading around him. Leites was often so leaden that he’d flop to the ground rather than waste fumes on a takedown attempt.
He should have been a piece of red meat to Silva’s wolf. He didn’t bite.
Joe Rogan greased the situation by articulating that Silva was under no obligation to put himself in jeopardy -- but his job description would indicate otherwise. Silva is a professional combat athlete, and while it may not be a contractual mandate to get clocked in the head, one assumes to absorb a modest amount of punishment in the process of trying to crack the other guy.
If all participants fought the way Silva did -- striking only when there was virtually zero chance of reprimand -- a UFC telecast would be indistinguishable from “Dancing with the Stars.”
At fight’s end, Silva seemed to be involved in a deep conversation with the Octagon floor. The performance netted him the winner’s purse, retention of his title and a record for most consecutive victories in the Octagon (nine).
Measured against the fans he alienated, Silva still might be running at a deficit.
Sunday, 12:51 a.m. ET: Silva and Leites bow to one another. Silva’s feeling-out process lasts a full minute, drawing the ire of the crowd. Two minutes pass, and still nothing. Silva backs Leites up, but doesn’t attack. Three minutes in, barely three strikes have been attempted in total. Leites tries a high kick; Silva digs into the body. Silva sweeps Leites. Back on the feet, Silva is admonished for using foot stomps, a no-no in Canada. Round one might be the worst in recent UFC memory.
Round two sees Leites successful in a takedown, landing in half-guard. Silva gains full guard and delivers elbows from the bottom. Silva gets up, and Leites is slow to follow him. Leites likely won the round based on his brief ground effort.
In round three, Leites is tiring -- he misses a takedown. Silva pokes him in the eye, but Leites regains composure while on the ground. Leites begins flopping to the mat, but Silva doesn’t bite. Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg begin discussing hockey. This one is for Anderson purists only.
Round four: Silva accelerates uses of a push kick that lands solidly against Leites’ knee and thigh. Leites tries to get it down, but he’s simply too tired to outhustle Silva. Silva attempts a punch to Leites’ foot. Despite having a near-stationary target in front of him, Silva refuses to put together an offense. An absolutely bizarre performance.
Round five: Leites lands a last-ditch single, but he can’t maintain control and Silva winds up on top, delivering punches. The crowd chants profanities. Leites is trying, but his gas tank won’t do him any favors.
Silva wins the decision to make UFC history with a ninth consecutive victory.
Sunday, 12:09 a.m. ET: Wiman is working a “Rocky IV” look. There’s no feeling-out process, as both men wade right in to trade. Wiman lands a takedown, but Stout gets up. Wiman attempts a guillotine, but Stout slips out. The two are busy, but rarely landing flush. In round two, Stout lands a nice left hook. Wiman is dogged, and Stout appears to be perplexed by his wilder approach. A crumbling body shot sends Wiman down. In round three, Stout connects with a loud body kick. Wiman gets into the backpack position, riding Stout’s back and trying to squeeze him with a body triangle. Stout turns into him. On the feet, Wiman connects in the closing seconds, but it’s not enough to steal the round or the fight.
Channing Tatum Def. High-Quality Cinema (TKO, 2:01 of “Fighting”)By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Sunday, 12:08 a.m. ET
Sunday, 12:05 a.m. ET
What It Means: For Silva, a chance to make UFC history with a ninth consecutive win -- and more importantly, to erase the bad taste left by his confusing and irritating performance over Patrick Cote in October of last year. For Leites, a chance to render slobbering Silva fans incontinent in a victory.
Precedent: Leites dispatched another savage striker in Drew McFedries that same October evening, but McFedries is far from the technical wizard Silva is. Silva hasn’t fought a dyed-in-the-gi Brazilian black belt since the beginning of his career.
Watch Out For: How much damage Silva can inflict when Leites goes for a takedown.
Saturday, 11:37 p.m. ET: Rua appears to be in the best shape of his UFC career; Liddell looks homicidal, giving Rua the Dahmer eyes. Rua opens with low kicks, then goes high. Rua nails a takedown, but Liddell is a coiled spring and won’t stay put. Liddell hits a takedown of his own to even things up. Liddell lets him up, but that proves to be a mistake: Rua charges in with a left, dropping Liddell and punctuating it with hammerfists -- and a blunt-force forearm -- for the victory.
Saturday, 11:15 p.m. ET
What It Means: The future of Liddell as a crowd draw. The “Iceman” has been a perennial hitman for the UFC, but the losses are building and picky fans have the memory banks of lobotomy patients. If he doesn’t look good here, it’ll take a spectacularly unique fight -- vs. Anderson Silva -- to warrant another main event slot.
Precedent: Liddell dispatched former Rua teammate Wanderlei Silva, both of whom share similar attackattackkillkill philosophies, though Rua tends to be slightly more patient.
Watch Out For: Whether Liddell has corrected a tendency to remain predictable in his stand-up, and if we might finally see some of the offensive Cal-Poly wrestling pedigree he’s kept hidden for the majority of his career.
Saturday, 11:14 p.m. ET: Soszynski looking very relaxed. They trade some light stand-up before Soszynski moves into a Thai clinch. A big double-leg takedown by Soszynski, who then lands in the mount. Stann bucks him off, but Soszynski winds up in side control. Stann again pops up, and Soszynski tosses him. He secures a Kimura, adjusts, and forces Stann to tap.
Saturday, 11:01 p.m. ET
What It Means: For Stann, a chance to reclaim some of the patriot act the WEC used to good effect -- until Steve Cantwell TKOed him last summer. Stann was criticized as a green fighter being pushed too soon, and that chatter is only going to be amplified in a UFC debut.
Precedent: Soszynski can take a heavyweight shot, having competed in the IFL’s unlimited-calories division. (But not too heavy: Bear-man hybrid Ben Rothwell put him away early.) Stann, meanwhile, has yet to be folded into knots on the mat.
Watch Out For: Stann 2.0, which may negate the preceding blather: He’s been training at Greg Jackson’s for the past several months.
Saturday, 10:54 p.m. ET: Both men are very cautious of the other’s striking. Hardonk moves forward and starts working his leg kicks. Kongo catches a body kick and lets Hardonk fall to the mat, where he toys with kicks to Hardonk’s thighs before the referee stands him back up. Kongo clinches and gets him down, trying to unload, but Hardonk ties him up nicely until the bell. In round two, Kongo knocks Hardonk down and peels off hammerfists. One gets through that touches off Hardonk’s panic button; he covers up, folded, and the referee calls it.
Saturday, 10:43 p.m. ET
What It Means: Kickboxer Hardonk has been working covertly in the UFC, running up a 3-0 streak to minimal fanfare and press. Kongo is slightly harder to miss, a rangy striker who looks like he eats concrete for breakfast carbs. Similar styles and similar deficits on the ground likely mean a K-1 contest. Winner goes on to another rung in the heavyweight title ladder, only a degree or two removed from title contention.
Precedent: Kongo played the striking game against declining striker Mirko “Cro Cop” to a win in ’07.
Watch Out For: Kongo’s ability to dictate where the fight lands, with wrestling and base informed by a stint with Quinton Jackson at the Wolfslair Academy in the U.K.
Saturday, 10:34 p.m. ET: Cane takes Octagon control early, stalking Cantwell and hunting for his head. Cantwell can’t get comfortable and eats shots. Round two sees the tide turn slightly, as Cantwell moves forward and finds success with combos and body kicks. Round three is mostly Cane, who unloads and finds Cantwell’s chin often -- but fatigue has him swinging big late in the round. By fight’s end, Cantwell is bleeding and Cane is on his camp’s shoulders. Decision is academic.
5 ways to impress your friends during UFC 97By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 10:23 p.m. ET: There’s something about violence that really brings people together. Your average street fight usually has a crowd of people surrounding it. And who doesn’t love a good mass riot? It’s a bonding experience.
Naturally, you’ll be hosting a throng of people for tonight’s pay-per-view event, the wife or girlfriend exiled to a screening of “17 Again” and recoiling in horror at the compressed, squishy face of a rapidly aging Matthew Perry.
The preferred scenario is as an attendee, spilling beer on someone else’s new carpet. (Hint: Small house pets are very absorbent.)
Whatever the case, some key factoids you can use to impress your friends:
• Anderson Silva hasn’t lost in nearly five years, save for a DQ “loss” via an illegal strike to Yushin Okami in 2006. He hasn’t gone the distance since 2004, when he found himself unable to put away notorious future bank heist-man Lee Murray. (The cops, however, did.)
• Silva’s opponent, Thales Leites, has never been knocked out. If someone brings this up before you do, you can retort by reminding him that neither had Nate Marquardt, and Silva performed an archaeological dig into his skull.
• Chuck Liddell and Mauricio Rua have four common opponents. Each defeated Alistair Overeem and Kevin Randleman, but Rua lost to Renato Sobral (whom Liddell thumped twice), and Liddell lost to Quinton Jackson (whose ribs Rua snapped in half).
• Liddell is 2-0 against Chute Boxe alums Jose Landi-Jons and Wanderlei Silva. He is 0-4 against cold medication.
• According to his Web site bio, Iraq vet Brian Stann found himself “taking on over 30 rocket-propelled grenade attacks, multiple machine guns firing and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonating” during an operation in 2005. If Stann doesn’t seem to flinch in the ring, well, there you go.
Steve Cantwell vs. Luis Cane (205 lbs.)By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET
What It Means: Cantwell retired as the WEC light heavyweight champion -- a weight class dropped by the promotion -- and had a successful UFC debut in December, defeating unfortunately named Razak Al-Hassan in a military tribute event. A win here further solidifies the placement of WEC castaways in the bigger-brother promotion, though both Cantwell and Cane have yet to log victories against any top-10 competition.
Precedent: Cane is aggressive, but so is Brian Stann -- whom Cantwell dropped in a WEC rematch, avenging his only loss.
Watch Out For: Cane’s patience under fire, allowing strikers to tee off until their lactic acid begins working for his corner.
4 highly unreliable predictions for UFC 97By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 10:00 p.m. ET: Jumping in the DeLorean to grab tomorrow’s headlines today. It’s just like that show “Early Edition,” except I won’t stretch this out to an unbearable 44 minutes. And no pandering moral lessons. Deal? Deal.
Liddell defeats Rua via decision
They say power is the last thing to go, but Chuck Liddell was unable to finish off Wanderlei Silva in their December 2007 meeting -- even though Silva had been neutrally softened by both Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Dan Henderson, and was shortly thereafter crumbled by Quinton Jackson. Considering Liddell’s previous slaughters, it should’ve been an easy punctuation mark to make.
Liddell will outhustle Rua, landing flush but unable to finish. He will then sit out for the remainder of the year, earmarked to fight the current 205-pound titleholder during Super Bowl weekend. And lose. (This psychic stuff can get pretty grim.)
Soszynski submits Stann
Brian Stann hits hard. Very, very hard. He’s also playground bully-aggressive, which works well sometimes (see: Houston Alexander) and not so well other times (see: Houston Alexander).
Krzysztof Soszynski is too seasoned for the adrenaline-spaz-out strategy to work, and Stann has yet to meet someone with appreciable submission acumen. Soszynski via taking an arm home, mounting it and charging the neighborhood kids admission to see it.
MacDonald vs. Quarry makes the broadcast
“May not be broadcast” is a disclaimer that is often PR-speak for, “If you want to see this fight, buy a ticket, cheapskate.”
There should be little concern about Jason MacDonald-Nate Quarry being restricted to burial in the eventual DVD release. Quarry has yet to have a boring fight, and he’ll have to scrap like an upended cat against the bigger, stronger, better MacDonald. Definitely a recipe for mayhem. MacDonald in less than two rounds.
Silva is in for a surprise
I’m not going to be the nut who calls for the upset special in favor of Thales Leites during Saturday’s main event, but I would consider this: In the majority of Anderson Silva’s UFC bouts, opponents have more or less played his game. (I believe Silva calls it the Let’s-See-Who-Makes-It-To-The-ER-First Contest.) The one truly competent jiu-jitsu black belt who didn’t -- Travis Lutter -- had him mounted and was landing shots to his chin before the clock and his own cardiovascular deficit failed him.
It will be very interesting to see how Silva responds to a submission machine on the order of Leites.
Silva vs. SilvaBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 7:50 p.m. ET: Sherdog.com’s Marcelo Alonso is helping Wanderlei Silva stir the pot (see "War is Declared" below) for a pending move to 185 pounds and a possible fight with current (as of this afternoon, anyway) middleweight champion and former training partner Anderson Silva.
“I should have to have many fights before facing him,” Silva said, “but concerning his last statements, I think the way is open and the war is declared. … If he beats Thales, we will meet and we will see if he will be able to do everything he says.”
While a Silva-Silva bout might be the most exciting three minutes on pay-per-view that doesn’t require proof of age, Wanderlei might be getting slightly ahead of himself: The last time he fought a top-shelf 185-pound fighter in Dan Henderson, he went horizontal. And a June bout at a 195-pound catchweight against Rich Franklin is a bizarre anomaly that doesn’t really do anything for anyone.
Lashley’s third fight in MayBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET: If you breathe through your mouth, you’re likely aware of Bobby Lashley, a former WWE performer who has recently transitioned into MMA. Now HDNet’s “Inside MMA” reports that Lashley will enter his third fight on May 15 for the Maximum Fighting Championships, to be televised on their network.
Lashley’s amateur wrestling pedigree and absurdly inflated physique are intriguing, but a March fight against Jason Guida ended with Lashley unable to mount much of an offense. He needs finishing skills, but credit is due for skipping the big-fight, big-money paydays most cross-pollinating athletes would entertain.
Rumor control: toegateBy Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET:Next to Wikipedia, I can't think of any source more trustworthy than a random Internet message board. Where else can we get early word of fabricated celebrity deaths and pages of colorful libel?
Today's attempt to curb crippling loneliness and parental neglect comes from posts declaring Chuck Liddell broke his toe while inspecting the Octagon; trainer John Hackleman told Sherdog.com's Loretta Hunt that the story is false, but Liddell does have a blister on his hand.
Points for creativity, though.
Wanderlei on Anderson: ‘War is declared’By Marcelo Alonso ([email protected])
Saturday, 5:00 a.m. ET: Anderson Silva discussed former teammate Wanderlei Silva’s move to 185 pounds last week, calling it “pretentious.” Wanderlei hasn’t taken too kindly to Anderson's remarks.
“I thought it was excellent being quoted by the champion without having had a fight in (Anderson’s) division,” Wanderlei told Sherdog.com. “It’s a sign that I’m already bothering him. Nobody kicks a tree that is not able to give fruits.”
Wanderlei also criticized Anderson for discussing Chute Boxe training sessions.
“Anyone who is a man knows that training shouldn’t be talked about. That’s a basic rule for any fighter: training is training. I’ll not say that I already knocked him out in training. … What happens in training has to stay inside the gym. Training is training and a real fight is a real fight.
“He is too cocky. I hope he can read this. … I never talked anything bad about him; I always respected him. He has always been my friend, always respected me, but now he came with that statement. I can’t understand that. I didn’t come down to 185 to face him. Actually I didn’t have that intention. … Changing divisions and fighting the champion would be too pretentious. I should have to have many fights before facing him, but concerning his last statements, I think the way is open and the war is declared.
“If he beats Thales, we will meet and we will see if he will be able to do everything he says. … He knows me; I know him. We trained a lot together. He knows my failures, but I also know his failures, and I know nobody has given him a hard time. Nobody has beaten his face badly. I believe the future is pretty promising. Let’s wait and see.”
While Wanderlei declared war on one former teammate, he opened the doors of his gym to another in Rafael Cordeiro, who recently left Chute Boxe.
“Besides being a great friend, Rafael is one of the best MMA trainers in the world,” Wanderlei said. “I can say that because I was trained by him for more than 10 years. The doors of my academy are open to him. It would be a pleasure to be trained by him again.”
Guilherme Cruz contributed to this report.
Useful pre-fight linksBy Mike Fridley ([email protected])
Saturday, 4:45 a.m. ET: Months of anticipation are nearly over. Middleweight champion Anderson Silva will take to the cage tonight against challenger Thales Leites.
Here are a few useful links to compliment your Saturday pre-UFC tailgate.
'Shogun will retire Chuck Liddell': Friend of the site Guilherme Cruz penned a Brazilian version of Mike Sloan's “Pros Picks,” and the final tally is quite interesting.
Leites finds himself on brink of history: Old pal and mentor Josh Gross wrote that Thales Leites will make history Saturday night in Montreal, for better or worse.
UFC 97 Live Play-by-Play: Yes, TJ De Santis, Jordan Breen and I will put our reputations on the line as we score the fights round-by-round tonight from the comfort of our mothers’ basements. Good times. Don’t forget to hassle Breen and De Santis about their scoring on “Beatdown After the Bell,” which airs directly after the pay-per-view broadcast.
UFC 97: Sherdog's Complete Coverage: All of the major news, video, articles and features leading up to Saturday's UFC 97 card are collected here.
Check the blog all day for more entries.