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UFC 97: Redemption review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on October 19, 2009, 3:20 PM

UFC 97: Redemption

Montreal, Quebec

-First off, and I realize I’m probably one of like, ten people who cares about stuff like this, but why would UFC call the show ‘Redemption’ when that was the subtitle for UFC 17? It’s not like they’d completely ran out of names – I mean sure, ‘UFC 97: Silva vs. Leites’ might not have sold well, but why not call it, I don’t know, ‘Retribution’ or something? Yes, I’m a petty, sad man sometimes.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Eliot Marshall vs Vinny Magalhaes

Marshall had originally been set to fight Mike Ciesnolevicz here, but the Miletich fighter pulled out late with an injury and so Eliot’s TUF 8 teammate Vinny stepped in on short notice, looking to bounce back from his KO loss at the hands of Ryan Bader. My pick here was Magalhaes as he’s a far better BJJ guy than Marshall and the BJJ game is where Eliot’s strength lies too.

We begin and both men circle and exchange some largely ineffective strikes, with Vinny throwing out some kicks. Both guys look pretty tentative here; I’d say Marshall looks to be the better striker but why two skilled ground guys are putting on a shoddy kickboxing bout I don’t know. Decent combo ending in a body kick lands for Marshall. Crowd begin to get restless with about 1:30 remaining and it’s understandable as this has been an unbelievably slow fight so far. More of the same until the round ends, exchanging strikes, and I give the round to Marshall by a hair as it was just so uneventful.

Round Two and finally Vinny decides to close the distance and look for the takedown. Marshall stuffs it into the clinch though and then breaks off. Not a good sign for Vinny. Still, Marshall is hardly opening up on him standing or anything. Couple of good body kicks from Magalhaes. Another one is caught though and Eliot clips him with a nice counter right hand. “It’s so interesting to see two great grapplers fight and turn it into a kickboxing match”, says Joe Rogan. No it’s not, it sucks as neither guy is a good striker and neither guy is doing any damage. Finally Vinny catches a kick and gets a takedown to side mount, where he lands some nice elbows and then steps over right into mount. Good scramble from Marshall brings it back to guard, but Vinny quickly passes again and lands some punches, only for Marshall to escape to his feet before the end of the round. Well, nothing happened until the takedown so for me it’s Vinny’s round.

Magalhaes’ corner between rounds – “When you do things you can win, when you don’t do anything you won’t win”. Well, that’s sage advice. Almost as brilliant as Kenny Florian’s corner telling him “God will tell you what to do!” in the Sean Sherk fight.

Third and final round and it’s more of the same garbage. Look, I respect anyone who goes into the Octagon and these guys are definitely decent fighters, but they’re not going to gain anything from having a b-level kickboxing match here. I mean sure, it might be in Marshall’s best interests to avoid the ground game because Vinny’s better there, but hey, losing to Demian Maia in a fight-of-the-night level grappling war didn’t do any harm to Jason MacDonald’s UFC career now did it? Vinny is beginning to look gassed here too, and it looks like it’s being caused by a bloody nose preventing him from breathing correctly. One minute to go and this is looking like Marshall’s decision via the Josh Koscheck against Diego Sanchez gameplan – land like four punches to your opponent’s one each round. Finally though Magalhaes closes the distance, forces Eliot into the cage and gets the takedown! Side mount right into full mount for Vinny and he lands with some hammer fists and punches as Eliot scrambles to escape, and the buzzer sounds there.

Personally I’ve got this 29-28 for Magalhaes for at least doing SOMETHING with the takedowns he got late in rounds two and three. Judges go the other way though, 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Eliot Marshall. Bleh. Fight was enough in fact to get Vinny released from the UFC, and really while I’m disappointed they’d let such a grappling whiz go, this was a really sub-par performance from both guys and you have to think Marshall’s spot on the roster is hardly safe either. Atrocious fight.

Welterweight Fight: TJ Grant vs Ryo Chonan

Canadian Grant had come into the UFC following four wins on the run, including two over UFC veterans Chad Reiner and Forrest Petz. Beating UFC veterans on smaller shows always seems to be the best way to open the door to the big show. Chonan meanwhile hadn’t really set the world on fire in the Octagon, sandwiching a very arguable decision win over Roan Carneiro with losses to Karo Parisyan and Brad Blackburn. Still, Chonan’s a very tough veteran and this was a difficult test for Grant in his UFC debut.

First round gets started and Chonan pushes forward, but takes a couple of leg kicks. Suddenly both men open up with combos and Grant tags the Japanese star, but Chonan clinches and hits a SICK hip throw to guard! We’re less than a minute in and there’s been more action than in the whole of the last fight. Grant uses the fence to post off and gain a better position, getting a butterfly guard, and it looks like he’s turning for an armbar, but Chonan blocks it. Good sweep attempt from Grant but the cage prevents him from completing it. Couple of nice short elbows land for Chonan. Grant keeps a very active guard, constantly shifting his hips as Chonan looks to posture up for some ground-and-pound. Decent oma plata attempt forces Chonan to pull out, but he drops back into the guard and lands some more shots. Excellent sweep from Grant allows him to escape to his feet, and both men tag one another with some stiff punches. Nice takedown from Grant puts him on top for the first time in the fight, and he works through into half-guard. Ryo works back to full guard and kicks him away, and they end the round trading strikes with both men landing again. Really good opening round, you could score it either way really.

Round Two and Chonan pushes forward, but eats a pair of left hooks that stun him and ends up clinching, forcing Grant into the cage. Chonan drops for a single leg and gets him down to guard, but again Grant looks active from his back. It looks like he’s going for a kimura on the left arm, and then he manages to push off and get to his feet. Now TJ gets a single leg to half-guard, pinning Chonan into the cage. Couple of punches land for Grant and then he takes Chonan’s back with an over/under. He puts one hook in and follows with the second, and the crowd are going mental now. Good job done by Chonan of slipping free, but Grant remains on top and he takes the back again. This time he only gets one hook in, and Chonan turns into him and takes top position in side mount, before Grant shifts his hips to get full guard back. This fight rules. Nice right hand from Chonan and he stands to drop some more punches down. Big chant for TJ as he lands some upkicks as Chonan stands over him. Chonan drops down into half-guard, and then full guard. They exchange from inside the guard and then Chonan stands over him, and drops down for a leglock. He can’t get it though and this allows TJ to scramble and get into top position. Full mount for Grant but Chonan reverses position and winds up in Grant’s guard. Chonan stands to drop some punches and the round ends with a scramble. Another close round to call.

Third and final round of what could easily be either man’s fight. Chonan pushes forward and they exchange a few punches before the ref calls a time out to get Chonan’s mouthpiece back in. Huh, didn’t see Grant knock it out or anything. Good leg kick from Grant off the restart and he follows with a takedown to guard. Into half-guard for TJ and he lands some short elbows to the face. Grant looks to pass but Chonan gets a nice reversal into top position, momentarily having side mount before Grant shifts back into full guard. Triangle attempt from Grant but Chonan pulls out. Sweep from Grant almost allows him to take Chonan’s back, but Ryo prevents it and keeps top position. Chonan’s not doing much from the position now but he is still on top and he does a nice job of blocking a sweep attempt from Grant. Grant attempts another reversal and risks giving his back in the process, but this time it works and he takes top position in Chonan’s half-guard, chopping at the body. Into side mount for TJ and he looks to take the back, then goes for full mount as Chonan tries a reversal, and finally the fight ends with TJ landing punches as Chonan scrambles to his feet. Awesome fight.

I have no idea how I’d score this, but quite honestly, who cares? In a fight like that there’s no loser really as both guys performed incredibly. Judges have it a split decision, 30-27 Grant, 29-28 Chonan, and 29-28 for TJ Grant to take the upset victory in his UFC debut. Fight was non-stop action from start to finish, bravo to both fighters, and how Zuffa could release Chonan on the back of a performance like this I don’t know. This was like the anti-Marshall vs. Magalhaes and thank God for that too.

Lightweight Fight: Mark Bocek vs David Bielkheden

Two grappling-based fighters here, with the ‘Brazilian Swede’ Bielkheden taking on the Canadian Bocek. Both men were coming off UFC wins – over Jess Liaudin and Alvin Robinson respectively – but I suspected Bocek would pick up the victory here based on his stronger BJJ game and powerful takedowns.

We begin and they clinch early with Bocek immediately looking for the takedown. Bielkheden does a good job of stuffing the takedown and forces Bocek into the fence, but takes an elbow. Single leg attempt from Bocek follows and he finally gets the Swede down on his back in guard. He passes to half-guard and lands some short punches before working free into side mount, beautiful guard pass there. Mount attempt is blocked though and Bielkheden works a butterfly guard back in. Bocek stacks up and drops a couple of elbows, and a big right hand lands flush to the face. Bocek passes to half-guard and then works that free into side mount. Bielkheden looks to be in trouble and he takes some more short elbows before managing a half-guard. Mount for Bocek and now the Swede is in deep trouble. He tries to hold on, but Bocek lands punches to break free and then really opens up, hammering Bielkheden until he turns his back. Bocek locks up a rear naked choke and that’s it.

Pretty much a one-sided beatdown as once Bocek got into top position it was pretty clear that Bielkheden had no answer for him. Whether he can translate this performance into success against the upper echelon of the division I’m not sure, but after this win and his previous one over Alvin Robinson he’s probably ready for another crack at a proper contender.

Middleweight Fight: Ed Herman vs David Loiseau

This was Loiseau’s return to the UFC following almost three years away from the Octagon, and I have to admit I was pretty pumped as I was a big fan of his back in 2005 when he was beating the likes of Charles McCarthy and Evan Tanner. Admittedly though – despite reeling off three wins on the bounce prior to this – he had never looked the same fighter since taking that beatdown from Rich Franklin. Herman had lost his last two fights and looked to be in the last chance saloon with UFC here, and so this was a pretty important fight for both guys. Being biased I was taking The Crow.

We get underway and the crowd seem pretty psyched for the return of the Crow. Unbelievably Loiseau begins with TWO of his trademark spinning back kicks to the body, and they do land, but Herman manages to clinch and forces him into the cage. Herman looks to trip him down and does so, landing in the Crow’s guard. Loiseau gives his back and turtles up, and Herman begins to pound him from the side, landing unanswered punches to the head. Loiseau tries to get to his feet, but Herman grabs a head-and-leg cradle and pulls him right back down, taking an over/under from the back. More punches land to the head and Loiseau looks in trouble early on. Herman gets one hook in and looks to get the second, using the one hook to keep Loiseau down on the ground. Loiseau gets to his feet again, but Herman still has the over/under and he uses it to drag him back down. Knees to the body now from Herman as Loiseau is still stuck firmly in the turtle position. Herman tries to get the second hook in and practically flattens Loiseau out, landing elbows to the head and another heavy knee to the body. More vicious knees to the body land, reminiscent of GSP vs. Matt Serra, and this is becoming a severe beatdown. Loiseau manages to explode to his feet with seconds remaining, but the round ends there. One-sided round for Ed Herman, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Loiseau misses a wild wheel kick, allowing Herman to tackle him to the ground into half-guard. Herman continues right from where he left off with his ground-and-pound, landing elbows and punches from the position before Loiseau manages to get a full guard in. Half-guard and then full mount now for Herman before Loiseau gives his back again. Herman takes the over/under from the side once more, and he goes right back to the knee assault to the body. Herman continues to pound away, and although Loiseau manages to explode to his feet, Short Fuse drags him right back down for more punishment. Loiseau works to his feet in the clinch, and this time he manages to avoid a trip takedown. Herman retains the clinch position though and forces him into the fence, but the ref breaks them. Superman punch attempt from Loiseau goes horribly wrong as he slips, and ends up lunging for a leg and missing badly. Herman gets on top again to end the round. This is a whitewash thus far. 10-9 Herman.

Third and final round and Loiseau throws a couple of combos, and then wobbles Herman with a big left hook! Crowd explode as he charges forward, but Herman ducks and goes for a takedown. Loiseau breaks with an elbow, but Herman gets on him again and forces him into the cage. They muscle for position with Herman looking for the takedown again, and finally he gets it, tackling the Crow with a double leg to half-guard. Loiseau gives his back again and uses it to reverse to his feet, but Herman remains clinched with him and goes for the takedown once more. Loiseau blocks and manages to separate, but Herman takes him down to half-guard again, deflating the crowd. Punches and elbows land for Herman from the half-guard and then he works into full mount. Punches land for Herman as he locks his legs in to prevent any escape, and Loiseau resorts to giving his back again where he takes some more knees to the body. One last explosion allows Loiseau to escape to his feet, and he throws a body kick, but Herman gets him against the cage again and the fight ends there.

Judges score it 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 all for Ed Herman, much to the disappointment of the Canadian crowd. Herman was just all over Loiseau from the get-go here and the Crow never really looked like he was in the fight. It’s sad to say because I genuinely like Loiseau, but I just think he’s a shot fighter since the Franklin fight and I wonder if he can ever recapture the magic he had prior to that. Worse for him, this was enough to earn his release from the UFC again. Sad stuff really.

Middleweight Fight: Nate Quarry vs Jason MacDonald

Two real veterans here, middle-of-the-pack guys and it’s somewhat surprising they hadn’t faced off before this to be honest. Both men were looking to bounce back from losses, Quarry to Demian Maia, MacDonald to Wilson Gouveia. And man, Quarry must’ve been praying to put on a better fight than the last time he was in Canada, as he’d fought in the awful, awful fight with Kalib Starnes here at UFC 83, although that fight stinking was no fault of Quarry’s. Hard to believe Nate is 37, too! Especially when you consider he was pushed as a “young up-and-comer” during the first season of TUF.

First round begins and MacDonald clinches, with Quarry grabbing a plum clinch to deliver a knee to the gut. MacDonald looks to take him down, but Quarry blocks and uses a whizzer to reverse, taking MacDonald down and landing in the Canadian’s half-guard. Full guard from MacDonald but Nate postures up to deliver a couple of elbows. MacDonald tries to work a high guard, but Quarry’s posture is really good here and he lands another elbow that opens a cut on MacDonald’s forehead. Now Quarry REALLY opens up with the elbows, just destroying MacDonald with the ground-and-pound, and he’s wearing the crimson mask already. BRUTAL ELBOWS land for Quarry and MacDonald is hardly defending, and sure enough Mario Yamasaki steps in to stop things.

Really impressive performance from Quarry – probably his best in his UFC career in fact. MacDonald made the mistake of just not controlling Quarry’s posture with his guard at all, and once Nate hurt him with the elbows it was over and done. This was one of the most brutal ground-and-pound finishes in UFC history, up there with Ortiz over Sinosic and Kongo over Al-Turk.

Middleweight Fight: Denis Kang vs Xavier Foupa-Pokam

Kang’s UFC debut in January had been one of the most highly anticipated in years, but he ended up fighting flat and losing in an upset to Alan Belcher. Thankfully UFC didn’t cut him or anything and instead he returned pretty quickly to fight in his native Canada against French kickboxer Professor X, who was making his UFC debut. On paper this seemed to be a tailor-made bout for Kang given that Xavier’s ground game is pretty lacking while Kang is a BJJ black belt with strong takedowns.

First round and they circle early before Professor X lands a lunging knee to the midsection. Xavier continues to push forward throwing strikes, but Kang catches a kick and takes him down, landing in half-guard. Quick guard pass from Kang puts him in side mount. Good job from Professor X at regaining half-guard though. It looks like Kang’s setting up for an arm triangle choke, but as he tries to pass into side mount to finish it, Professor X slips free and explodes to his feet. They trade some strikes before Kang lands a nice one-two to the body and head. Stiff body kick from Xavier but Kang fires right back with a right hook. Beautiful leg kick from Professor X. Kang comes back with a right to the body and a counter left hook. To his credit Kang’s doing really well in the stand-up against such an accomplished kickboxer. They continue to circle and then Kang hits a sweet double leg down to side mount. Few solid elbows land for Kang but he whiffs on an armbar attempt to end the round. Easy round to score there, 10-9 for Denis Kang.

Round Two gets underway and Professor X looks very light on his feet, bouncing around in circles, but the crowd get restless about a minute in, probably having flashbacks to Marshall-Magalhaes. Clinch from Xavier and he looks to land some knees, but Kang breaks off with a pair of overhand rights. Couple of kicks from Xavier, but Kang catches a third and forces him to the ground in half-guard again. Kang looks to free himself and passes into side mount, landing a sharp knee to the body. Punches and elbows land for Kang and then he begins to prep a keylock on the right arm. Kang transitions into the arm triangle again, but once more Xavier slips free. Good scramble from Professor X allows him to get to his feet, and then he lands a big knee to stuff a takedown attempt. Spinning back kick misses for Xavier and he tries a couple more wild strikes, but Kang avoids and looks to counter. Xavier is looking tired and now he outright stops for a breather, hands on his knees Mark Coleman style. Good bodyshot by Kang and then he ends with a flurry as Xavier slows up again. This is all Denis Kang so far.

Third and final round and surprisingly enough Kang comes out really passive; I expected him to come out like a whirlwind looking for the finish as Xavier looked so gassed at the end of that last round. Easy takedown by Kang finally gets Xavier on the mat, but why he waited almost two minutes to do it I don’t know. Kang passes into side mount and he looks to be going for a kimura, but he lets it go and Xavier scrambles to half-guard. Surprising reversal from Xavier allows him to take top position, but Kang quickly reverses that and hits a switch to get back on top in half-guard. Looks like the tank is running on empty for Professor X. Kang almost gets mount, but Xavier pops him right back to half-guard. Thirty seconds remaining and Kang takes the back with one hook, but Xavier manages to get back to his feet with Kang behind him. They break off, and that’s the fight.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Denis Kang, 30-27 from all three judges. Easy fight to score in the end as Xavier had nothing for Kang on the ground and didn’t really win the fight standing either as I think Kang landed the better shots there too. Basically a dominating performance from Kang who did everything but finish, but as a big Kang fan I have to admit I was slightly disappointed overall, as I thought he could’ve put Xavier away in the third round, but left it too late and allowed the Frenchman to recover a little. Still, not a bad fight by any means.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Luiz ‘Banha’ Cane vs Steve Cantwell

Two of the young guns of the 205lbs division here, with the last WEC Light-Heavyweight champ in Cantwell facing the unbeaten (we’ll ignore the ridiculous DQ thing) Brazilian bomber in Cane. Both men were coming off impressive victories, Cane TKOing Sokoudjou and Cantwell breaking Razak Al-Hassan’s arm, but the experience factor was hugely in Cane’s favour as he’d also fought Jason Lambert and James Irvin, and so I figured his heavier hitting style would stop Cantwell, probably via strikes in the second round.

Opening round begins and both men look in a mood to strike. They exchange some early combos, with Cane landing a sharp left uppercut. Cane looks to be the aggressor, stalking forward, as Cantwell stays on the move looking to create some angles. Big combo looks to have Cantwell hurt and he looks for a takedown, but Cane stuffs it, and forces the former WEC champ into the fence. Cane physically looks much larger. Big combo exits for Banha and he continues to fire shots at Cantwell before landing a pair of knees in a clinch. High kick attempt from Cantwell is blocked and he eats another combo. Cantwell fires back with some combinations of his own, but they’re not really landing cleanly and Cane catches him again with a left hook. Cantwell’s sporting a bloody nose now too. Good bodyshot by Cane. Striking exchange continues until the round ends and it’s clearly to the advantage of Cane as he’s landing shots practically at will. Strong opening round for Luiz Cane, 10-9.

2nd round and Cane continues where he left off, landing a straight right and then a left that snaps Cantwell’s head back. More combos land for Cane but Cantwell looks a little looser in this round and he’s landing a couple of shots of his own. Big exchange sees Cantwell fire back with a hard right, and now he comes in with a good combination. Pair of big right hands from Cantwell look to have Cane stunned, but he recovers quickly. Left high kick glances off the side of Cane’s head and Cantwell follows with a combo. Cane comes right back though, pushing forward with a combination. This round is looking a lot closer than the last one, that’s for sure. Exchange continues and it looks like Cantwell is taking over now. Left hook ends the round for Cantwell. I’d say that’s Cantwell’s round, 10-9.

Round Three and Cane comes out stalking again, pushing forward as Cantwell looks for the head kick. Good combo from Cane ending with a body kick, and he follows with a left uppercut that lands heavily. Another body kick lands for the Brazilian. Punching exchange sees both men land. Overhand right into a head kick is blocked by Cane, but Cantwell is pouring on the pressure now. Good knee to the body from Banha though. This fight is still hanging in the balance. Both men are landing combos but it looks like Cane’s packing a little more power which could make the difference. Cantwell’s combos look slightly crisper to me though. Couple of high kick attempts from Cantwell are blocked and Cane follows up with a big combination that backs Cantwell into the fence. Exchange continues with neither man thinking about a takedown. Hopping kick from Cantwell doesn’t pay off. Seconds to go and they slug it out in the center of the cage, and that’s that.

Close fight but I think overall Luiz Cane has to edge it. Judges all agree, all three of them going 29-28 for Banha. Pretty fun fight as far as kickboxing matches in MMA go, as both men showed solid technique and put together some decent combinations. Difference was largely that Cane landed more power shots, and although he never really came close to finishing, I think he had Cantwell hurt more than the other way around. Still, Cantwell acquitted himself well against a dangerous opponent. Decent fight if nothing spectacular.

Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs Antoni Hardonk

Since both men debuted in the UFC in 2006 fans had talked of a match between the two, as they’re two of the best kickboxers in MMA at Heavyweight, but really at this stage it seemed a bit of a step backwards for Kongo, as he appeared to have really improved his grappling game – particularly his vicious ground-and-pound – while Hardonk didn’t seem to have progressed in that area at all. I was taking Kongo to stop the Dutchman with strikes on the ground in the first round.

Round One and Kongo opens with a leg kick. High kick misses for Hardonk. Leg kick from Hardonk now as he pushes forward, forcing Kongo to circle off on the outside. Kongo is looking pretty tentative here as Hardonk pushes forward and lands a leg kick. Combo from the Frenchman and he forces Hardonk into the cage, and the crowd are chanting for Kongo now. Couple of knees to the legs land for Kongo but the ref breaks them up. Body kick from Hardonk but Kongo catches it and throws him down, then stands over him with the Dutchman in the crab position. Kongo kicks at the legs before the referee brings Hardonk up to his feet, and now Kongo looks more relaxed and he lands a straight right and follows with a hard uppercut. They clinch and Kongo drops for the takedown, then goes back to landing the knees to the legs. Takedown from Kongo and Hardonk goes to a closed guard, but eats a couple of short elbows. Good job from Hardonk of tying the Frenchman up, and the round ends there. Close round actually but it goes to Kongo on my scorecard.

2nd round and Kongo lands a kick to the body. Leg kick by Hardonk gets caught and Kongo gets on top, looking to really pound away now. Hardonk gets his guard quickly closed again as Kongo looks to posture up, cutting Hardonk open slightly with some short hammer fists. Big elbow lands for Kongo now. Hardonk’s guard is beginning to look sloppy and sure enough Kongo lands with a monstrous right hand that causes the Dutchman to cover up and go foetal, and Kongo stands over him and drops some BOMBS for the stoppage.

Well, not to sound my own trumpet but the fight went exactly as I thought it would go down. I’m not a fanboy of Kongo’s or anything like that, but if anything I think he’s become underrated by the hardcore fanbase at this stage as really, he’s one of the most dangerous fighters in the division in all areas except flat on his back, and if we’re honest, how many fighters in that division will put him there these days anyway? This was another example of his massive improvement over the past couple of years. Solid win for the Frenchman.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Krzyzstof Soszynski vs Brian Stann

No idea how this made the main card over Kang-Xavier or Herman-Loiseau to be quite frank, as Stann, while clearly a great guy with his US Marine background and what-not, had shown himself to be little more than a one-dimensional banger in his WEC run, while Soszynski had hardly set the world alight during his TUF run. Despite not being enamoured with his skills, I figured Krzyzstof just had too much experience for Stann and would probably submit him pretty early on.

Round One begins and Stann looks to swing some haymakers, but Soszynski avoids by clinching before they break off. Body kick narrowly misses for Stann as Soszynski stays on the outside. Nice inside leg kick from the former Marine and then they clinch up and Stann forces the Polish Experiment into the cage. They exchange some knees in close before Stann breaks with a right hand. Takedown from Soszynski, driving Stann into the fence and down into the mat, and Stann looks to be in trouble right away as Krzyzstof mounts him instantly. Stann manages to buck him off and he tries a leglock, but Soszynski easily pulls out and retains top position, in side mount this time. Stann manages to squirm to his feet, but gets dragged back down pretty quickly into half-guard, and Soszynski locks up a kimura and twists it up, but lets it go due to the half-guard. He goes back to it though and this time cranks it on properly for the tapout.

Stann actually looked much improved standing there and I felt he was outstriking Soszynski, but he had nothing for him on the ground and despite using his natural explosiveness to avoid a couple of dodgy situations, he couldn’t get out properly and it was only a matter of time really with a guy as experienced as Krzyzstof. Decent enough win for him I guess but Stann is a difficult case as really he’s not skilled enough to survive with the majority of the sharks in the UFC’s 205lbs division, but with his background and all I wouldn’t like to see him cut from the roster or anything. Hopefully he’ll just improve his skills and be able to stick around for some time yet.

Lightweight Fight: Sam Stout vs Matt Wiman

This one was originally set for the preliminary card, but they ended up shifting it onto the PPV portion after so many of the prelims went the distance. No complaints from me as both guys are nearly always exciting and bring the fight. On paper it was close but I was leaning towards Wiman as he’d looked more well-rounded than Stout in their past fights. For some reason Wiman’s sporting a HUGE beard here, forsaking his ‘Handsome’ nickname I guess.

Round One gets underway and both men come out swinging early although neither really lands. Good job from Stout to avoid a takedown but Wiman lands with a left and a right and then manages to get Stout on his back in guard. Stout looks to wall-walk up the cage to escape, but Wiman stays right on him and brings him back down. Mount attempt goes wrong and Stout gets to his feet, forcing Wiman into the cage before breaking off. They exchange some strikes and it’s a pretty even exchange with both men landing some decent blows. Wiman looks super aggressive here, landing a couple of times with a wild overhand right. Good right from Wiman and he lunges for a takedown, but Stout blocks it and then Wiman ends up on his back after going for a guillotine. Stout looks to open up from the guard, but ends up bringing it back to the feet where Wiman continues to attack, tagging Stout with a superman punch. Double leg attempt from Wiman but Stout stuffs it and lands a knee to the gut. Nice uppercut by Stout and he follows that with a pair of body kicks. Takedown attempt from Wiman again but Stout blocks it and then manages a reversal as Wiman looks to take the back, winding up on top in Wiman’s half-guard. Wiman looks to secure an arm, but Stout pulls out and gets to his feet, where they exchange punches to end the round. Good pace for the opening stanza. I’d probably go with Wiman 10-9.

2nd round and Wiman opens with a left hook. Nice combination from Stout finishing with a right hand. Good right hand from Wiman but Stout’s chin is as solid as a rock and he just eats it up. Stout begins to open up a little more and lands a left hook, but Wiman manages to lunge in and spins over to take Stout’s back. He ends up a bit too high though despite having two hooks in, and it looks like he’s going for an armbar, but Stout ends up slipping free into the guard of Wiman. Good hammer fists and punches land from the top for Stout and he avoids a sweep and stands. Nice left to the body from Stout. Wiman continues to push forward though as both men land combinations, and it looks like Stout’s taking over now as Wiman looks like he’s slowing up a little. Nice left bodyshot into a low kick puts Wiman down and he looks hurt, and Stout pounces looking for the finish. Stout rains down with some punches over the top of Wiman’s guard, but suddenly Wiman locks up an armbar! Stout manages to pull out though and then calls Wiman up to his feet. Wiman looks wobbly still as Stout attacks the body with some kicks, and Wiman still looks hurt as he desperately shoots on a leg and fails badly with his attempt. Stout continues to go to the body with the left hook, but he can’t finish and the round ends shortly after. Very good round for Stout, 10-9.

I’ve got this one round apiece going into the third round so whoever takes this one wins the fight. We begin and Wiman charges right out swinging, putting Stout on the retreat. Body kick lands for Stout again though. Wiman shoots in for a takedown but Stout does a good job of blocking initially, and then pounds the body as Wiman desperately drives for a single leg. Wiman finally gets him down and then takes the back, hopping up onto it and then pulling him down with a body triangle. Stout tries to push off the fence to reverse out, but he looks stuck as Wiman lands a couple of punches. Finally Stout manages to turn into Wiman’s guard and he looks to cover the mouth to disrupt the breathing, ala Maurice Smith. Series of nice elbows and hammer fists land for the Canadian and then he brings the fight up to standing again. Nice combo by Stout but Wiman catches a kick and tackles him to the ground in guard. Stout looks to tie him up, presumably stalling for a stand-up, but Wiman stays busy enough with short elbows and hammer fists, opening a small cut on Stout’s left eye. Stout tries to get up but ends up being slammed back down, and then Wiman ends the fight with a great combination as Stout explodes to his feet. Well, that was a close round but I’d give it to Matt Wiman, making him the winner 29-28 overall.

Judges surprisingly all have it 29-28 for Sam Stout, giving him the unanimous decision. Huh. I guess they scored the first round for him then given that nobody in their right mind could’ve given the third to Stout. Good fight but I definitely felt it should’ve gone the other way. Not a FOTYC or anything like that but on a slower card like this it was definitely a welcome addition!

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Chuck Liddell

Aw man, talk about a dream match! Despite both men not really looking like their 2005 selves – when this match would’ve been like the biggest fight you could’ve made at 205lbs – I was still crazy excited for it. The story going in was that both men were looking to reclaim past glory and really, neither guy could afford a loss. Liddell was of course coming off that vicious KO loss at the hands of Rashad Evans, and the rumor was that if Shogun was able to beat him then he’d probably end up retiring. Shogun meanwhile had beaten Mark Coleman in his prior match but looked horribly out of shape in doing so, with many fans believing that the PRIDE version of Shogun was gone for good following his myriad of injuries.

Back in 2005 when this fight was talked about I always argued Liddell would probably win due to his counterpunching power, and the fact that Shogun’s striking was so wild and left him open to a counterpuncher like Chuck. In 2009 while many things had definitely changed – namely Liddell’s reaction speed and recovery power – I was still leaning towards the Iceman, as styles make fights and I figured a slowed-down Liddell would take out a slowed-down Rua in the same fashion I would’ve called in 2005.

Pre-fight the crowd are quite clearly behind Liddell although Shogun looks in far better shape than he did for the Griffin and Coleman fights, looking physically like the same Shogun we saw in PRIDE.

We begin and both men look a bit tentative as Shogun takes the center of the cage. Nice leg kick lands for Shogun as Liddell circles around the outside. High kick misses for Shogun and he backpedals to avoid a combo. They trade some punches and Liddell looks to come forward swinging, but Shogun covers up nicely and comes back with a right hook. Overhand right again lands for Shogun and he follows with a leg kick as Liddell tries to counter. Shogun definitely looks like the quicker fighter here. Takedown from Shogun as he ducks a right hand, but Liddell immediately works to his feet and Rua spins for a leglock. Chuck does a good job of pulling free and then stands again with Shogun holding a rear waistlock. Liddell turns into him and they end up clinched, but Chuck breaks off to a big pop from the crowd. Combo from Chuck and Shogun tries to take him down again, but this time Liddell shrugs it off and then comes forward swinging. Shogun again wings the right hand over the top, but misses this time and now Liddell takes him down. Surprising. Chuck ends up pulling out of the guard and standing back up, and they circle before Shogun suddenly rushes in with a left hook and DECKS LIDDELL! Chuck looks badly hurt and a few more hammer fists finish him off. Damn.

Post-fight Shogun puts Liddell over as a legend of MMA and thanks well, pretty much everyone, before saying he’s willing to fight anyone in the Light-Heavyweight division. Joe Rogan then talks with Liddell, who gets a monstrous crowd pop even in losing. Chuck says he’s disappointed as he trained hard and was in great shape, but he just couldn’t get anything going. On the subject of retirement he says he needs to talk to people and he doesn’t know, and Rogan thanks him for his tremendous career anyway.

Well, what can you say about this one? Firstly I guess, credit where credit is due, Shogun came out and fought a tremendous fight, using the leg kicks and overhand rights and then surprising Chuck with that lunging left hook. He looked in the best shape he’d done since his PRIDE days and it definitely showed in his performance. With that said though, Liddell was clearly slower off the mark as he was beaten to the punch numerous times, and to me it looks like his reflexes and his chin are both gone. After this show Dana White promised we’d never see Chuck fight again – for his own health more than anything – and personally I hope that’s the case as I really don’t want to see a legend like Chuck tarnish his legacy by losing again. Things still seem a little up in the air I guess as Liddell himself claims he’s not sure whether he’ll be back or not, but assuming this is the end I think it’s fair to say that Chuck should be remembered as a true legend of the sport, one of the greatest knockout artists to step into the MMA arena. I mean, just look at his list of victims – Monson, Randleman, Mezger, Bustamante, Belfort, Babalu, Overeem, Ortiz, Couture, Horn, Wanderlei – that’s as good a resume as anyone else’s. I’ll miss him, that’s for sure.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Thales Leites

While some people weren’t too excited about this fight, mainly due to the fact that Leites had never truly beaten a top-ten level contender (the Marquardt win was perhaps the most controversial of 2008), I was pretty stoked as back in 2006 when Silva first burst onto the UFC scene and started killing everyone, I always argued that it wasn’t going to be a wrestling-based guy like Henderson or Lindland that could stop him, but it’d be a world-class BJJ player with the takedowns to put Silva on his back and finish him via submission. At the time I named the likes of Ricardo Almeida and David Terrell as the guys with the potential to do that, but Leites fits that bill too. Throw in Leites’ extremely strong chin (witness the beatings he took at the hands of Marquardt and Kampmann) and I thought on paper this was a difficult test for Anderson, certainly more difficult than previous opponents Irvin or Cote. Still, Silva had looked so good in his previous fights – even the Cote fight was a masterful performance minus a proper finish – that it was basically impossible to pick against the guy, particularly as this was his chance to not only break the record for most consecutive wins in the UFC (this would be Silva’s ninth, topping Royce Gracie and Jon Fitch) but also tie Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes’ record for the most consecutive title defences with five. So I was going with Silva via decision, with the off-chance of Leites pulling the upset via a submission early on.

Round One begins and Silva looks so relaxed it’s not even funny, hanging his hands by his waist. Neither man throws a thing for the first couple of minutes, with Leites missing a flying knee. This is looking like a copy of the Cote fight thus far as Silva’s dancing around without attacking. Good leg kick from Leites but Silva easily avoids a takedown attempt. Silva throws a ton of feints at him and then lands a short right to the body. Nice leg kick from Silva drops Leites to his back, but the champ refuses to enter the guard. Leites decides to pull guard and then goes for a single leg, but takes a shot in doing so. He manages to force Silva down momentarily, but Anderson uses the fence to get back to his feet in a clinch. Leites works hard for a trip takedown, but can’t get Silva off his feet and the round ends shortly after. Hard round to score actually as so little happened. I guess you’d give it to Silva for the low kick, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Leites opens with a nice inside leg kick. Double leg from Leites gets Silva down and he quickly passes into half-guard. Leites looks to pass, but Silva’s lockdown on the half-guard looks incredibly tight and then he transitions to a body triangle full guard. Leites tries to work some ground-and-pound but doesn’t really do much damage and he ends up standing over Anderson to attempt the pass. He can’t get through though and now Silva tries to get his legs up for a triangle choke. Leites postures out, but that allows Silva to escape to his feet and he’s having none of Thales’ attempts at enticing him into his guard. Crowd begin to boo as Silva stalks him without really throwing anything, Finally Anderson lands with a low kick and another right to the body. High kick misses but another low kick lands heavily and the round ends there. Well, Leites at least got Silva down there even if he didn’t do much with it, and Silva did so little that I’d probably give the round to the challenger 10-9.

Third round and Leites opens with a leg kick, but Silva blocks a takedown and causes the challenger to flop to his back. Silva calls him back up and continues to stalk him, but Leites lands a right hand. Leites leans in for a takedown, and it looks like he takes a poke to the eye as he drops to his back again. Silva stands over him and kicks the legs though and the crowd begin to boo as the ref stands Leites up. Single leg attempt from the challenger but Silva stuffs it and again refuses to enter the guard. Crowd are getting annoyed with Leites flopping to his back now. Good leg kick from Anderson. Crowd are now chanting “GSP” as Anderson continues to stalk forward and land the odd leg kick. Again Leites flops to his back and again Silva’s having none of it and calls him to stand. Vicious body kick from Silva and he’s avoiding Thales’ strikes with his hands down, like he’s moving at a completely different speed. Leites drops to his back again but ends up being stood by the ref and this is not looking good for him. Odd stomping side kick to the knee lands for Silva, ala Brandon Vera on Keith Jardine. Jumping left roundhouse kick clips Leites and Silva follows in with a combo, landing an uppercut that has the challenger hurt. Leites manages to avoid being finished, but Silva’s landing at will now and he’s not having anything to do with Leites’ butt-scooting. He’s reduced now to lunging and diving for a single leg, and the round finishes as Yves Lavigne stands him back up. That was a bad, bad round for Leites. 10-9 Silva.

We’re into the championship territory now, fourth round. Silva goes for the stomp kick to the knee again as Leites leans for a takedown. Silva hits the same kick a few times and continues to bounce around on the outside as Leites lumbers forward. Weird dancing stance from Silva leads into a low kick and a left straight. Left high kick is narrowly deflected. This is frustrating though as Silva’s toying with Thales at this point. Good leg kick from Silva and Leites gets deep on a single leg, but Silva still manages to stuff it. Really odd little kick lands for Silva to Thales’ leg, like someone trying to show off in soccer and stepping over the ball to kick with their back leg, if that makes sense. More showboating follows but the crowd are not enamoured to say the least. Another takedown is easily avoided and Silva again refuses to engage on the ground. Ref brings Leites back up and the round peters out with more Silva showboating. 10-9 Silva, would’ve been 10-8 as Leites did nothing, but Silva did almost as little too if we’re honest.

Fifth round, hard to believe this fight’s gone so deep given it’s been this one-sided. Leg kick to open things for Anderson and then he begins to dance around again as Leites pushes forward. Takedown attempt is easily avoided and Silva also pulls out of a leglock attempt. Desperate takedown from Leites but Silva stuffs it again and gets on top, landing some shots before standing over him to the boos of the crowd. Spinning back kick and a superman punch clip Leites and he drops down, taking some more punches from the guard before Silva stands. Crowd are outright chanting “bullshit” now. Silva avoids a takedown and shoves Leites to the ground like a matador as the GSP chants become loud again. This fight is horrible. Fight ends with Leites still trying to do something, anything, but failing miserably.

Judges score it unanimously for Anderson Silva, no surprise there as he breaks the winning streak record and equals the title defence record. Which is all well and good, but that was one of the worst five-round fights I’ve seen in a long time. I mean, sure, Anderson won the fight easily, but it was as if he was toying with Leites and just chose not to finish him rather than Leites being uber-tough or anything like that. And that’s not a knock on Leites as the guy is clearly a top-level fighter, but Silva is just on another level right now. I mean, some of the stuff Silva hit here shouldn’t work in an MMA fight, and yet here he was hitting stomping side kicks to the knees and turning leg sweeps and stuff. This was a virtuoso performance, but sadly it just wasn’t entertaining to watch.

-Cue the highlight reel.

Final Thoughts....

Overall, I felt this was one of the weaker UFC PPVs in recent memory. Prelims were hit-and-miss, with solid fights like Grant-Chonan and Kang-Xavier mixed in with duller fare like Magalhaes-Marshall, and really nothing stood out on the main card aside from Shogun’s knockout of Liddell, which will probably end up on most of 2009’s highlight reels. Aside from that, Cantwell-Cane and Stout-Wiman were decent enough, but Kongo-Hardonk and Soszynski-Stann were largely pointless and the main event, while a virtuoso performance from Silva in a lot of aspects, in terms of a fight was the worst five-rounder since Sylvia-Arlovski at UFC 61 or perhaps even Pulver-Hallman at UFC 33. Honestly there’s nothing to see here outside of Shogun-Liddell and that’ll probably be on the UFC’s ‘Best of 2009’ DVD or whatever. Thumbs down then for UFC 97.

Best Fight: Chonan-Grant
Worst Fight: Magalhaes-Marshall

Overall Rating: **1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 98-103, Fight Night 19, TUF IX Finale.
WEC: 43
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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