Saturday, April 18, 2009
Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Pay per view review
As often is the case the UFC doesn’t rely on one fight as the main event but rather feature a double main event to sell their monthly pay per views. In this case of the UFC return to Canada UFC 97 featured one championship title clash from Anderson ‘Spider’ Silva challenged by top contender Thales Leites, backed up by a fight featuring arguably the most marketable face of the UFC ‘The Iceman’ Chuck Liddell. Skipping forward to the two main events we’ll take a detailed look at both bouts.
Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Liddell’s opponent on the night was Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, both
Light-heavyweights had something to prove tonight in Montreal. Chuck the most recognisable MMA fighter in the world, with a distinct look plus a great fighter who put the UFC firmly in the mainstream along with Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture and Tito Ortiz, is now at a junction in his career. When I first started watching the UFC Liddell was the exciting dominant light-heavyweight champion who consistently won by knocking his opponents to the deck. Time has passed Liddell’s star is fading following a succession of losses inside the octagon. It is make or break versus Shogun. Then we have Rua another fighter with past glories on a comeback trail. The difference with Rua is he a younger fighter than Chuck who has been recovering from an injury for a long time. Will Shogun return to his form in Pride or will Liddell surprise us? Let’s see what went down in this decisive fight for Liddell and Shogun.
First round underway, Shogun looks noticeable light and nibble with great footwork. Liddell receives some brutal leg kicks from Shogun to weaken his defence. On the ground Shogun attempts a leg submission on Liddell. The action is up and down from the mat and back to an upright position. Chuck shoots in on Rua taking him down but he defends well standing back up. In a flash Rua knocks down former champ Liddell, pounces on his him laying in hammer fists. The Iceman was down and out! He didn’t know what had happened, asking referee Mario Yamazaki what had happened. Rua got the TKO win.
Liddell and Rua gave us an exciting scrap with a decisive win, but perhaps not the fighter most fans wanted to win. Sad to see Liddell lose again but it seems his best is past him. The fight could possibly be the last appearance inside the octagon for the Iceman. For Rua it pushes him higher up the ladder towards the gold with this impressive performance.
Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva vs. Thales Leites
- Middleweight Championship fight
The story here is we have Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva the seemingly undefeatable champion a master Muay Thai kickboxer who is great on the ground defending against Thales Leites a fantastic BJJ practioner unbeaten in the UFC since 2006. Both men are Brazilians so neither are as marketable as an English speaking fighter both none the less both are outstanding martial artists. Anderson Silva is up there as one of the top 3 pound for pound best fighters in the world so Leites has a tough contest ahead of him but would the Canadian fans get their money’s worth?
Just before the first round Georges St Pierre shown sitting in the front row gets a huge ovation from his Montreal fan base. Both fighters are slow getting started; Silva keeps his arms low inviting his opponent in, as he is a fighter who plays the counter attack game. Silva sweep kicks Leites off of his feet landing him on the canvas. Silva despite possessing excellent BJJ skills stays standing deciding not to follow, letting Leites back up to his feet.
In the second round Leites takes down Silva, he defends well underneath eventually regaining a standing position. On their feet neither fighter show any clear sign of wanting to win, making it frustrating viewing. The fighting spirit is missing.
The fight continues into the third round of this five round title fight. Throughout the round Anderson avoids Leites guard repeatedly creating pauses in the action. We hear chants of GSP! GSP! He’s not in this fight but the Montreal fans make it clear he’s the man to beat Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva. Forget the idea of a BJ Penn and GSP rematch a dream match-up of GSP versus Silva is the way to go. By the sounds of the crowd the Montreal fans will lap it up! Back to what is happening inside the octagon and it is much of the same – Leites laying on his back but Silva wants no part in a BJJ contest.
The way it looks by round four we have Silva mentally winning as he frustrates Leites but the Brazilian is not doing enough to finish the fight. Silva shimmies, putting on a show as he dominates in the striking game. Anderson is amazingly nibble and loose limbed making it hard for Leites to get him to the ground.
Here we are the fifth and final round of the middleweight title contest. Silva is without a doubt intelligently defending himself appearing unscathed but the fight is rarely exciting. Chants of BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! Followed by GSP! Then boos are heard from the crowd. Silva wins on a judge’s decision but failed to entertain the masses. Was it his fault? Both fighters could be to blame if we are to be fair. Despite not putting on the fight the fans wanted Anderson set the record for the most championship defences. Plus it was the first time he had gone the distance since September 2004.
The rest of the PPV from the bottom up:
Luis Cane vs. Steve Cantwell – Light Heavyweight
A tough stand-up battle fought over the 3 round the time limit. Brazilian Cane won this close fight on a decision over Cantwell, the last WEC Light Heavyweight titleholder.
Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk – Heavyweight
A battle of heavy hitters that was won by fan favourite Kongo using a successful strategy of taking the fight to the ground thus besting the Dutchman with brutal ground and pound in the second round. Another impressive victory for the French man.
Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Brian Stann – Light Heavyweight
Canadian Soszynski successfully beat Stann in the 1st round via Kimura submission for the tap-out win. Very impressive.
Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman - Lightweight
(Aired from the preliminary card) A fast paced contest that became a pure battle of wills between 2 young warriors of the cage. After 3 tough rounds Canadian Sam Stout is declared the winner on the judges scorecard.
Some great performances from the Canadian fan favourites. Unfortunately it was a shame Silva versus Leites did not deliver.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to PPV on May 23rd for UFC 98 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. Top of the bill will see Lyoto Machida challenging Rashad Evans for his Light Heavyweight crown. Co-headlining for UFC 98 will be the long-delayed welterweight bout between Matt Hughes and Matt Serra.
MMA blog by Dynamite Duane