Sunday Blog: Rua Resurrected; Liddell’s Probable Retirement

Apr 19, 2009

Notes on the UFC 97 news conference
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 8:55 p.m. ET:

--Dana White began by announcing a crowd of 21,451 people at the Bell Centre in Montreal, all of whom pitched in to amass a $4.9 million gate. (At the depths of political animosity a decade ago, a Depression-Era UFC drew as few as 1,000 in the Midwest, and likely profited more in concessions than in ticket sales.)

--Matt Wiman and Sam Stout earned $70,000 each for Fight of the Night. Wiman was exhausted and sloppy -- “Heart of the Night” might be a more accurate label for the bonus. Mauricio Rua earned $70,000 for knocking out White’s friend, Chuck Liddell. That must be a bummer check to write.

--Stout discussed having a six-hour warm-up. He and Wiman expected to fight first, but wound up getting switched to the near-midnight slot.

--Much of the media/White chatter revolved around Anderson Silva’s newly created position of Reluctant Champion. White began by saying he “wasn’t thrilled with it,” but grew less ambiguous in his disappointment as the conference wore on. At one point, Chuck Liddell became visibly upset at a reporter chastising Silva, telling him that it’s difficult to strike with a guy “flopping to his back.” (That was true for the later rounds but doesn’t explain Silva’s narcolepsy for the first 15 minutes.) Retired or not, a ticked Liddell is a very unnerving sight.

--“We all turn 40,” White said of Liddell’s probable finale. He promised Liddell would retain a role in the company, but to be frank, that future probably doesn’t involve being a color commentator. Liddell is a somnolent personality.

--White was intrigued by the prospect of a Georges St. Pierre/Anderson Silva meeting, possibly in Toronto, to decide who really is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world today. St. Pierre, though, has to pass a fairly tough test in Thiago Alves in July. If it’s like most fantasy matchups, it won’t happen until both men are in their mid-40s, broke and missing an ACL.

--According to White, David Loiseau “looked old” against Ed Herman. Loiseau, bounced from the UFC in 2006, amassed a 4-2 record against unheralded opponents in the interim. Aside from his obvious standing in Canada, there was little reason to have him back in the first place.

--A bemused-looking Silva promised White he would “do better” in the future. Silva is hard to dislike, but performances like Saturday’s are going to harden hearts against him.


Life after UFC 97: Maynard, ‘Mayhem’ and more
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 5:25 p.m. ET: The UFC monolith tends to dwarf the rest of the MMA world on a big fight weekend. But -- surprise, surprise -- life goes on outside the Octagon.

The weekend’s mentionables:

--- Kyle Maynard’s opponent won’t be named until the weigh-in, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Maynard, who fights April 25 despite not having any hands or feet, is apparently a tough sell for opponents wary of PC backlash.

“It’s not exactly a win-win situation for someone who wants to fight me,” Maynard told the paper.

No kidding. Either you beat a limited-limbed opponent or he beats you. Either way, nothing worth celebrating at a Pizza Hut afterwards.

--- Slightly unhinged Jason “Mayhem” Miller beat Kala Hose via rear-naked choke to win something called the “Kingdom Middleweight Title” in Honolulu on Saturday. Miller’s victory comes on the heels of a hosting stint on MTV’s “Bully Beatdown,” a reality series that enlists professional fighters to spar against society’s delinquents. The fewer brain cells you possess, the more you’ll enjoy this show.

--- Promising judoka Hector Lombard was successful in his Bellator Fighting Championships debut, knocking Virgil Lozano cold less than 90 seconds into the fight. The win advances him into the promotion’s middleweight tournament bracket; Lion’s Den alum Alex Andrade dropped a decision to James Damien Stelly in the same division.

Andrade, you may or may not recall, delivered an obscene number of low blows to Krzysztof Soszynski in March 2008, earning him the DQ.


Anderson Silva edition
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Paranoia and the Internet go together like … things that go together. If you have a logically bankrupt theory to disseminate, do it online: No one can call you a family embarrassment to your face.

The latest conspiracy to make the rounds: that Anderson Silva is sabotaging his UFC fights in an attempt to be released from his contract so he can box Roy Jones Jr.

This is so patently absurd that it’s almost believable.

We know Silva does indeed want to box Jones, a contest that might be considered a very painful form of hero worship. We know the UFC is not about to dull the shine of its product by allowing a champion to get knocked around in a boxing ring. We know this peeved Silva to some extent. The perfect way to passively-aggressively “get back” at brass? Show up to a fight and not fight, leading to your eventual dismissal.

In addition to any non-compete clauses that may or may not be inserted into Silva’s contract, this theory ignores the legal jiu-jitsu Zuffa has bought a black belt in. There’s no end of mayhem to create in accusing a champion of not meeting his responsibilities, acting in collusion with rival promotions and a dozen other real or artificial charges that would keep things tied up in court until Jones is well into middle age.

The UFC would sooner regulate Silva’s title defenses to the undercard than release him; worse, successive poor performances by Silva in the Octagon would only dilute the fan interest in seeing him box.

There’s no grand plot -- just fantasy to help escape the boredom of the fight’s reality. Leites did not attack, and Silva was content to sit back and wait for a moment that never came. Against Michael Bisping or Cung Le, he probably won’t get that luxury.

But the UFC has a real problem in Demian Maia, the next middleweight in line for a shot and a man who shares Leites’ preference to take the fight to the mat. If he refuses to come into Silva’s range, and Silva refuses to come out of his shell, there’s real potential for “The Spider” to become the most unlikely heel in the sport’s short history.


UFC 97 post-mortem: Liddell-Rua
By Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 2:05 p.m. ET: In his prime, Chuck Liddell had a “tell” that was probably used to profitable effect by gamblers. If Liddell was relaxed, fit and confident, he would smile broadly both during the weigh-in and on his way to the ring. Each time he fought Tito Ortiz, you could not get him to stop beaming.

Liddell had that look Saturday; had he fought anyone but a resurrected Mauricio Rua, it would’ve been a likely tip-off that things were about to shift in his favor.

But this was a pushing-40 Liddell, with a chin softened by two fairly severe knockouts in two years. And this was Rua, displaying a return to form that had him threatening with eight different blunt objects (elbows, knees, etc.), mixed up and served with the ambition of a 27-year-old with a lot to prove to his employers.

A sharp Rua is often too much to handle for athletes in their prime. Liddell, a veteran of the 1998 fighting season, was just a half-step behind. In MMA, that might as well be a mile.

What’s Next: Rua will have to oblige the Lyoto Machida/Rashad Evans/Quinton Jackson dance card before his title opportunity snaps into focus. Considering that situation won’t be resolved before the end of the year -- and that fighters who sit on the shelf tend to rust -- a fight with Luis Arthur Cane would be welcome.

For Liddell, all signs point toward retirement. But this is a sport that offers opportunity for reinvention, and it’s worth pointing out that Liddell himself delivered knockouts to Randy Couture that forced him into heavyweight contention. Liddell is a large light heavyweight with power to spare. It gets the wheels turning.

If only the heavyweight scene in 2009 didn’t resemble a Toho monster movie, with 250-pound maniacs the size of buildings colliding into one another. Liddell would make for an intriguing fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira; against Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez, it’s likely asking too much.

The UFC is notorious for not allowing its marquee attractions the option of leaving on a high note; you typically get beat up by someone a decade younger, raked over in the post-fight presser and then deposited at the nearest seminar.

If I’m the boss, I give Liddell a last lap against Mark Coleman, guaranteeing that at least one pillar of the Octagon gets a graceful exit. It’s the least they deserve.


UFC 97 roundtable results
By Jordan Breen (jbreen@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 6:15 a.m. ET: I have been informed that the Sherdog Radio Network roundtables are, in some form or fashion, both intriguing and important to some piece of the MMA population. While I can vouch for neither, I nonetheless am here to submit the latest results of our pre-fight prognostications for UFC 97.

As always, records are tabulated based on picking straight winners and losers, while points are awarded for picking correct winners, worth two points, and if a correct winner is chosen, an additional single point awarded for each the proper round and method.

UFC 97: Redemption Roundtable Results:
Jordan Breen: 8-4 (19 points)
TJ DeSantis: 7-5 (20 points)
Jack Encarnacao: 7-5 (16 points)
Lotfi Sariahmed: 7-5 (16 points)
Greg Savage: 7-5 (14 points)
Jeff Sherwood: 6-6 (16 points)

Also, curses to the evening's judges for snatching victory from the deserving Matt Wiman, who was righteously tabbed as a victory by all of our boffins save for the lowly Greg Savage, who now benefits from their malfeasance.


UFC 97 post-fight headlines
By Mike Fridley (mike@sherdog.com)
Sunday, 4:30 a.m. ET: The fights may be over in Montreal, but the headlines are still rolling in. Here are a few to start off your Sunday morning.

Stout-Wiman gets UFC “Fight of the Night” honors -- What about T.J. Grant vs. Ryo Chonan? I wasn’t too impressed with the Stout-Wiman bout, which was pushed to the main card after the preliminary fights dragged well into the danger zone of 9:50 p.m. ET. MMA Mania also reports Mauricio Rua netted the KO of the night award and Krzysztof Soszynski took home submission of the evening.

Liddell to retire? -- Dana White declares that Chuck Liddell is done. MMAJunkie.com reports that Liddell will remain with the organization in a yet-to-be-determined role. What duties would be best for Liddell to perform? Is he cut out for the booth?

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