UFC 97 Lineup Complete

By Brian Knapp Mar 16, 2009
Heavyweight contender Cheick Kongo will toe the line against Dutch kickboxer Antoni Hardonk at UFC 97 “Redemption” on April 18 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The matchup was part of a finalized 12-fight lineup released by the UFC, as it prepares to touch down in Canada for a second time.

Kongo (13-4-1) has posted back-to-back wins since his split decision loss to Heath Herring in March 2008. The chiseled 6-foot-4, 240-pound Frenchman last appeared at UFC 92 three months ago when be brutalized Mustapha al Turk, finishing the Cage Rage veteran with first-round punches and elbows. One of the division’s most-feared strikers, the 33-year-old Kongo holds victories against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Christian Wellisch and Dave Dalgliesh.

A Vos Gym teammate of Gilbert Yvel, the only man to finish Kongo, Hardonk (8-4) will carry a three-fight winning streak into the bout. The 33-year-old has not competed since he polished off the previously unbeaten Mike Wessel with second-round strikes at UFC 92 in December. Hardonk last tasted defeat at the hands of current interim heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who submitted him with a kimura in August 2007.

Another compelling showdown will pair former World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight titleholder Steve Cantwell with the world-ranked Luis Arthur Cane.

The 22-year-old Cantwell (7-1) has delivered four wins in a row by knockout, technical knockout or submission and avenged the lone defeat of his career when he stopped Brian Stann on second-round strikes at WEC 35. The Long Beach, Calif., native last appeared at UFC Fight Night 16 in December, when he dismissed Razak Al-Hassan with a gruesome armbar that left the Iowan with a disfigured limb. Cantwell has never gone the distance as a professional.

Cane (9-1, 1 NC) booted Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou out of the Octagon with an impressive technical knockout victory at UFC 89 and has enjoyed a rapid rise up the light heavyweight ladder. The 28-year-old Brazilian has rattled off two straight wins since his disqualification loss to James Irvin 15 months ago and has emerged as a viable contender inside the 205-pound division. None of his 11 career bouts have reached the judges.

Other notable matchups pit Denis Kang against Xavier Foupa-Pokam and International Fight League mainstay Mike Ciesnolevicz against Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and “The Ultimate Fighter 8” product Eliot Marshall.

A middleweight title bout between champion Anderson Silva and Thales Leites will headline UFC 97, along with a pivotal light heavyweight showdown pairing former titleholder Chuck Liddell with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

UFC 97 “Redemption”
Saturday, April 18
Bell Centre

UFC Middleweight Championship
Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites

Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Brian Stann vs. Krzysztof Soszynski
Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk
Luis Arthur Cane vs. Steve Cantwell
Denis Kang vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam
Jason MacDonald vs. Nate Quarry
Ed Herman vs. David Loiseau
Eliot Marshall vs. Mike Ciesnolevicz
Mark Bocek vs. David Bielkheden
T.J. Grant vs. Ryo Chonan
Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman
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