The Weekly Wrap: Feb. 6 - Feb. 12

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By Jack Encarnacao Feb 15, 2010
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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On a night where the "Godfather of Ground and Pound" was primed for his last main-event hurrah in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it was a once written-off middleweight contender, Chael Sonnen, who adhered successfully to Mark Coleman's trademark fighting technique in making a resounding impact at UFC 109 on Feb. 6 in Las Vegas.

When the dust settled, Sonnen looked a strong possibility to step in for an injured Vitor Belfort to test Anderson Silva for the middleweight title, and Coleman was out of a job.

Coleman, 45, faltered on what could be seen as the biggest stage of his storied career at UFC 109. He was over-matched by 46-year-old Randy Couture, who lit up the fellow Hall of Famer with sound boxing at distance and in the clinch. Coleman stood flat-footed and was hesitant executing a game plan that apparently did not include the former NCAA national wrestling champion shooting for any takedowns.

It was Couture who wrested Coleman to the mat in the second round, taking mount and forcing Coleman to turn his back, opening up Couture’s third career submission victory via rear-naked choke. Couture's trainer Neil Melanson told that Couture trained the turtle position for months knowing Coleman would turn to his stomach when the fight hit the floor. There was no formal post-fight sendoff, as Coleman's interview with Joe Rogan was interrupted by a heckling Tito Ortiz, who said Coleman had made a remark about his family in the run-up to their scheduled fight last year.

Coleman made $60,000 in disclosed pay for the loss and was cut by the UFC, an unceremonious end to a career that began when “The Hammer” burst onto the scene in 1996, wresting all manner of opponents to the floor and punishing them with punches and headbutts.

Post-fight, UFC President Dana White took pains to frame Couture, who has been as active in the past six months as he has since 2003, as a top-five light heavyweight. According to Yahoo Sports, both light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar have requested a fight with Couture, knowing his final run at a belt would spark healthy business and greater revenue in which to share. Couture, who earned an event-high $250,000 payday for his UFC 109 win, told he has been broached about a fight with Rich Franklin at UFC 115 in June, which is expected to be headlined by Ortiz v. Chuck Liddell. Couture said he has previous commitments with his burgeoning acting career that might prevent him from accepting the bout on that date.

UFC 109 drew an announced 10,687 fans for $2.27 million at the gate at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, down from the $3 million gate drawn the last time the UFC ran the building for UFC 106 in November. It was the UFC’s lowest gate at Mandalay Bay since UFC 64 in 2006.

In the biggest stock jump of the night -- and perhaps the biggest the game will see all year -- Sonnen took a grinding and bloody middleweight title eliminator fight against Nathan Marquardt via unanimous decision. The battle earned both fighters $60,000 bonuses for having the night's best fight.

Sonnen bulled through knee strikes that Marquardt threw and counter with dogged takedowns. Marquardt struggled to get out from under Sonnen's busy ground and pound attack, but did manage to open a gash with an elbow from the bottom and nearly put Sonnen away with a dramatic third-round guillotine choke. Sonnen was surprised by his ability to dictate the pace of the fight, saying he’d worked out with Marquardt five years ago and couldn't take him down once. Marquardt said he should have focused on stopping takedowns rather than going for the knockout.

All eyes turned to Sonnen when it was reported later in the week that Vitor Belfort had pulled out of his UFC 112 title fight against Anderson Silva due to a shoulder injury. Sonnen, who found himself in the No. 1 contender fight against Marquardt after Dan Henderson left the UFC for Strikeforce, had used his gift of jab to take inflammatory shots at Silva and get himself into the title conversation. However, it was announced Friday that Silva will face Demian Maia, another UFC 109 winner, at UFC 112 in April.

Earlier on the UFC 109 card, Maia mixed up his punches and footwork to take a decision over Dan Miller, who was able to rebuff the submission master's attempts to keep the fight horizontal.

Sonnen suffered a forehead cut in the fight and other damage that led to a commission suspension that bars him from making contact in the gym until March 9. That made the turnaround time very short for an April 12 title fight that would have also entailed extensive travel to the United Arab Emirates. Sonnen is also wrapped up in a November political bid for the state house of representatives in Oregon, a quest that earned him an interview on the Fox News Network’s morning show this week. Still images of his UFC exploits were interspersed with his sound bites.

Silva's manager, Ed Soares, who has also been a target of Sonnen's verbal vitriol, suggested Sonnen should face Maia -- who briskly submitted Sonnen last February -- before he's truly a No. 1 contender for the belt.

The night's best submission and knockout bonuses came after impressive performances by Paulo Thiago and Matt Serra. Thiago became the first man to submit Mike Swick after a left cross in the second dropped the American Kickboxing Academy welterweight and opened up a D'Arce choke. Swick was seeking an underhook to control a descending Thiago when the choke was locked. While the strangle put Swick to sleep, Frank Trigg looked one step from unconsciousness after Serra landed a flush overhand right and followed with hard punches that led to the referee stepping in. Trigg, suffering his second consecutive loss in the UFC, was cut by the promotion.

Surging light heavyweight prospect Phil Davis, a 2008 NCAA national wrestling champion, made an emphatic UFC debut against former WEC titlist Brian Stann. Davis took the Iraq war veteran to the canvas with authoritative takedowns and rendered Stann helpless under his top control. Davis, now 5-0, took the unanimous decision and earned effusive praise from commentators. The Davis bout made the pay-per-view broadcast, as did Rolles Gracie's miserable UFC debut against last-minute replacement Joey Beltran. Gracie failed to put the fight in his element, losing a first-round back mount, and came out positively exhausted in the second, where he was stopped via TKO. The performance was panned, and Gracie, who was said to have a rib and foot injuries that hampered his training, was released by the UFC.

A pair of preliminary fights aired on Spike TV in a one-hour preview show. Melvin Guillard came out sharp after a training camp under Greg Jackson, competently countering the takedown and ground attacks of debuting lightweight Ronys Torres to take a unanimous decision. Mac Danzig stayed alive in the UFC ranks with a decision win over Justin Buchholz in a bout promoted as "Loser Leaves Town." The Spike broadcast averaged 1.7 million viewers, the highest rating of the five preliminary fight specials the network has done.

Also picking up wins at UFC 109 were Rob Emerson (unanimous decision over Phillipe Nover) and Chris Tuchscherer (majority decision over Tim Hague). Despite being on the losing end of a decision that touched off a chorus of boos, Hague was cut from the UFC.
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