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Sky Report: UFC 97 Edition

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Picture this, mid-day Friday and I take off work to take my wife and daughter to the zoo.  So we head out to Asheboro and have a good time and a crazy idea pops up into my head, let's go to Myrtle Beach.  Mind you, we have no clothes, no anything, just the three of us.  So my wife said, yeah, let's do that...and we did.  Had a great weekend, albeit expensive and now I'm wishing I hadn't but it's all good.  So that explains my whereabouts over the weekend, but the wife and I were still able to see UFC 97 and ohh boy, I got 2, 3, 4 cents to drop on this one.

  • Told You So:  While UFC 97 wasn't the worst UFC PPV I've ever seen, it's very close.  I said here that I thought this event wasn't going to be worthy of my $44.95 and luckily, I saved about $35 as I went to a sports bar in Myrtle Beach, which had a $5 cover charge, but hey losing $10 is better than $45 in this economy.  I even saw a fanpost saying that the Scott Smith/Benji Radach fight from Strikeforce's Showtime debut was better than all of UFC 97.  While I won't go that far, I will say last weekend's Strikeforce was much more exciting.
  • Luiz Cane - Not Yet:  I know my good buddy Kelvin has been talking him up something serious the past few months and I do think he's going to be a big time player in the LHW division, not yet.  Steve Cantwell, while no slouch, gave him everything he could handle for three rounds.  While Cane clearly was able to pick apart Cantwell early, his cardio proved to not be as fine tuned as it may need be and he began to huff and puff allowing Cantwell to land some solid shots in return.  With that said, Zuffa should most definitely not throw him into the wolves that is the upper echelon of the LHW division just yet, as I think a few more fights against guys 'just on the cusp' would be much more fitting to build him up.  Props to Cantwell because I, crazily, gave him very little chance in this fight and for a few glimpses he looked to possibly steal a round or two. 
  • Contender Kongo?  I knew he'd win, but seeing Cheick Kongo improve on a fight to fight basis makes me think the French kickboxer just might be able to make one title run before he calls it quits.  Against a strong striker like Hardonk, Kongo was able to use his improving grappling to take Hardonk down and punish him with ground and pound, much like he did with Al-Turk.  While many people harp on the heavyweight division, it's becoming more and more exciting now that guys are improving and newer, younger stars are emerging.  What's next for Kongo, that's a good question as pretty much everyone that's a who's who of the heavyweight division is tied up in the next few months, I would love to see Kongo against Junior Dos Santos down the line as I feel that would be another stern test for the both of them.  Here's a small prediction, Kongo will not lose in 2009.
  • Welcome to the UFC:  Brian Stann got an unfortunate welcome to the UFC against Krzysztof Soszynski.  Pretty much went exactly how I imagined, but I didn't expect it to be over so quick.  Seems that Greg Jackson's going to have to put some major work in on Stann's ground game if he hopes to be a main player and not another Houston Alexander type on a UFC card.  Soszynski is a guy I could see having the Jardine type career, in that he'll win some fights he's not supposed to but never quite get the big one.  As far as Stann, he'll probably get the Fight Night treatment for a little while until he can string together something impressive.
  • What a Pace!  I must say, maybe the guys at Zuffa were watching Strikeforce and taking note.  I thought the pacing to UFC 97 and even 96 was great.  While it did take 'em some time to get to the main event, we were on the co-main event just an hour and some change into the broadcast.  I thought skipping post-fight interviews with guys like Cane & Kongo yet allowing Soszynski mic time was a little...disrespectful, but I liked the fact that they smoothly moved from fight to fight with little lag time. 
  • End of An Era:  That's what we keep reading when talking about Chuck, but for some reason, I have a good eye when I look at fighters body language and overall appearance when they come into the octagon.  It happened the night Penn fought GSP at UFC 94 and I saw Penn not looking like his usual self and his performance showed that.  Saturday night, I looked at Chuck and he didn't look like the usual 'Iceman'.  Sure, Chuck has one of those stone cold looks with little expression but on this night he seemed...nervous and not there.  Listening to a bar full of drunken rednecks...and my wife...scream at the top of their lungs for Chuck showed how much he had done to make a name for himself, but looking at Shogun and then looking over at a lethargic Chuck made me realize this was going to be a short night.  Shogun looked WAY better than he has since coming back from the broken arm suffered against Mark Coleman.  His defense was good, his movement was good, and instead of a blitzkrieg of punches, he picked and chose the right time to hit Chuck.  On the other hand, Chuck looked like...same old Chuck...slow defense, chin out, and arms low.  While I think it's somewhat premature to declare the Middleweight Grand Prix Shogun back, I think it's safe to say his future looks a lot brighter than it did earlier in the year.  As far as Chuck, I'm a huge fan of his and I appreciate his 'fight anyone' mentality, but I'm glad that he's seeing what everyone else is and that it looks like he'll graciously bow out and end a stellar career.  Thanks Chuck!  And also, thanks for making the nickname Chuck seem like a tough name, because hey...that's my nickname!
  • Shut Up Already:  After watching UFC 97, I really wanted to find a computer (internet connected) because I knew there would be an influx of criticism, hell even Rogan and Goldberg eluded to that.  This is what I think is happening with guys in the middleweight division.  Due to all of the hype given to Anderson, fighters are putting together gameplans to survive rather than to win.  Maybe they feel a moral victory outweighs an outright win, I don't know.  Maybe guys like Leites and Patrick Cote think that the less they engage, the more they frustrate 'The Spider', the more likely he'll make a mistake that they can capitalize on.  Well, throughout five rounds and 25 minutes, Anderson Silva made very few mistakes...other than not finishing Thales Leites.  With that said, Anderson comes under scrutiny for not dazzling the crowd or highlighting the night with a KO or impressive submission.  The fact is, Anderson Silva is a technical, methodical, and tactical fighter.  Sure, he does his little dancing to goad his opponents into coming forward for him to reroute their jaw but he does it in a manner that he doesn't put himself in danger but rather sets his opponent up.  The same Anderson Silva that dismantled Chris Leben and Rich Franklin was in the octagon Saturday night.  Unfortunately for him, a fighter with a style like Chris Leben/Rich Franklin/or even a Travis Lutter was not across from him.  Leites had one spark of offense in the 2nd round and when Silva quickly negated it, leaving him with one option and one option only, to try and pull guard and hope Anderson follows.  He didn't...and thus we watched Thales flop onto his back whenever convenient and Anderson get a quick breather until his opponent was forced back up.  Be upset, be angry, jump off the Anderson Silva wagon...doesn't matter, a guy that Zuffa thought would pose a threat, did not and was soundly beaten albeit by decision and not knockout.  I think Kelvin said it best here, a fighter like Anderson can only show so much enthusiasm when he's fighting guys that are among his caliber.  Just look at the other weight divisions and the names of contenders (past & present) that they get to fight:  Heavyweight - Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nougeira...Light Heavyweight - Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua...Welterweight - BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck....Lightweight - BJ Penn, Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, etc.  Then you look at the Middleweight division and right now the only names are Demian Maia, Yushin Okami, Dan Henderson (who he beat soundly), and Michael Bisping.  Silva's so ahead of his cast and crew that he gets criticized on how he wins rather than him losing.  That, although understandable, isn't fair when a guy isn't only beating all of his opponents, he's doing it with little opposition!
  • Miscellaneous:  The Fantasy League will be updated today or tomorrow morning, just got to get back in the swing of things as I've been gone all weekend.  It's sad to see David Loiseau go out like that as well, but the guy just hasn't upped his game to the current level of MMA and thus, will probably go the Liddell route soon.  I'm glad Denis Kang was able to pull out a win, although I felt he Professor X was a guy he could/should have stopped, a win is a win and he'll move on to bigger and better things.  Sam Stout/Matt Wiman was a war and one of the best parts of UFC 97...thank you guys! 

Well that does for the returning edition of the Sky Report, hope you guys enjoyed my 2 cents and feel free to comment or discuss anything I wrote.