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UFC 148 Parting Shots

By on July 9, 2012

Just like that, the Silva-Sonnen rivalry appears to be over.

Sure, it may seem hasty to say that Chael P. Sonnen will never reignite the trash talking feud that he, let’s face it, pretty much started and sustained all by himself. After all, when he lost the last time against Silva, he was initially contrite, saying that he “won the silver medal” and making no excuses for the loss.

Not long after, though, he was back to his old form. In fact, he was even worse, wearing a championship belt around, insisting that he was undefeated, saying the loss was invalid, and fantasizing aloud about slapping Silva’s wife’s posterior and having her make him a medium-rare steak.

This time seems different, though.

For one thing, Sonnen knows as well as all of us do that he isn’t going to be getting a rematch anytime soon. With Silva being 37 years old, he likely never will. In their first meeting, Sonnen was mere minutes away from winning the title, so a rematch was a no-brainer. This time, Sonnen won one round before an ill-advised spinning back-…something air-balled and left him looking silly and vulnerable. Silva finished brutally, and that’s that.

What’s next for both men? On a main card that featured more than its share of fighters that appear to have very little left in the tank (Cung Le and Forrest Griffin), Sonnen clearly showed that he’s still an elite middleweight by dominating Silva in the first round. However, as I said in my preview, he had to throw a no-hitter to beat Silva, and he couldn’t stake mistake-free for long enough.

The point is that Sonnen still wants to fight and clearly has the ability to do so. The question is: what will the UFC do with him? You can make very compelling fights between him and someone like the winner of Mark Munoz or Chris Weidman, but why have him potentially eliminating title contenders if he won’t get another shot himself for winning?

Perhaps in the short run, special attraction-style fights against fighters like Wanderlei Silva or Lyoto Machida (at a catch weight) would work better. He could even fight “the math teacher from Ohio,” Rich Franklin. There’d be a decent back story thanks to Sonnen’s trash talk, and the result wouldn’t affect the rankings. Sonnen would stay in the spotlight and be ready to capitalize if Silva runs out of opponents or (more likely) retires and the UFC needs two fighters to vie for the vacant strap.

Silva should really just beat a few more challengers and call it a day. Barring the Silva-Sonnen rematch (which Sonnen unnecessarily had to win two fights to earn, despite being the only person to ever really threaten Silva in the UFC), the UFC has not shown an inclination toward middleweight title rematches that they have in other divisions, but fresh matchups remain for Silva against the winner of Weidman/Munoz as well as other potential contenders like Michael Bisping and the resurgent Alan Belcher.

Would Silva be in serious danger against any of these challengers? Besides possibly Munoz, not really. That’s not the point, though. Give a few new guys their title shots, watch Anderson do what he does best and then let him ride into the sunset. This talk of a nearly 40-year-old Silva taking on a young guy like Jon Jones who has a massive size advantage is ridiculous.

Silva’s Tactics Not So Honorable

It has to be said that for a guy who makes a great show of bowing to opponents and respecting them in interviews (well, usually), Anderson Silva was not on his best behavior on Saturday night.

Silva has been noted several times, going back to UFC 97, as having rubbed the Vaseline that was initially put on his face over his arms, chest, and body directly before his fights. Now, the athletic commissions has not been too worried about this, with the NSAC in particular not thinking it’s a big deal that Silva has such a bizarre pre-fight routine.

To be honest, a tiny amount of Vaseline (spread on your chest, no less) isn’t going to make a huge difference, but it certainly doesn’t look good to the fans, who have heard dozens of “greasing” allegations in other MMA fights over the last several years. Why even do it?

Then, there was the shorts-grabbing. Silva was obviously incensed during the fight, and showed a kind of savagery that usually is replaced with cool, calm, technical execution. However, just as with the Vaseline-rubbing, grabbing shorts, the cage, or anything else is just going to give people the impression that you need an extra edge, even if you don’t. Let’s not forget the shoulder strike at the weigh-ins, either, which I think should have resulted in a fine to discourage further behavior like this at weigh-ins. It’s only a matter of time before somebody headbutts somebody and cuts them or shoves them off the stage entirely, leading to a canceled fight.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I wish the world’s greatest fighter would stop pulling these antics and simply fight.

Lethargy Rules the Day in Griffin-Ortiz, Cote-Le

Two fights that were fairly highly-anticipated failed to live up to the hype at UFC 148, largely because the fighters involved simply ran out of gas.

“I pressed the gas pedal, and nothing happened,” Forrest Griffin said while explaining his rather lackluster performance against the similarly-gassed Tito Ortiz to UFC.com. “He had nothing at the end of the second and third rounds, and I didn’t have enough to take advantage of it. It was pretty pathetic.”

Nor did Griffin have the energy to get out of the way of Ortiz’s horrendously-slow incoming punches, which clipped him at a high rate despite the fact that they were coming in like slow pitch softball pitches. The most surprising thing about the fight (other than Ortiz visibly hurting Griffin, who has always had a sturdy chin, multiple times with punches) was that Griffin was able to energetically stride so quickly from the cage when the bout finally concluded.

In Cote-Le, Cung Le looked predictably slowed after one round, as the 40-year old fighter who has had cardio issues in the past that many attribute to a lack of motivation to train properly. Similarly to Griffin, though, Cote didn’t appear to have the will, the gas, or a combination of both to put the pressure on Le and either put him away or steal enough rounds for the victory.

In the first round, the fight started as I imagined it would in my preview, with Cote looking strangely content to stand outside of punching range and absorb Le’s kicks. However, in the second round it appeared that Cote had figured out that he needs to pressure such a finesse striker, especially since the several right hooks that Le landed to Cote’s jaw throughout the fight did little to affect him.

Did Cote pressure Le? Force the fight into a proverbial phone booth? No, he largely moved around and occasionally lobbed big right hands at Le instead.

Neither fight was a satisfying representation of the fighters that were participating, all of whom have been known at one point or another to have either good or outstanding (in the case of Ortiz) cardio. For Ortiz, who has called it a day, the lackluster performance means little now. For the others, including Le, who shows no intention to quit fighting, the diagnosis is much more troublesome.

Quick Shots

–What’s there to say about Chad Mendes’ laser-like punch to the solar plexus against Cody McKenzie? Not a lot. It was a nicely-placed punch, with the slow-mo replay showing Mendes eyeing his target the whole way. But come on, Mendes is the #2 featherweight in the world, while McKenzie is a fringe guy who will likely struggle to stay on the roster, as likeable and dangerous as he may be. It’s what we should have expected to happen, and the fight really never should have been booked.

–Similarly, you can’t take much away from Demian Maia’s “TKO” victory over Dong Hyun Kim. Is Maia going to blaze a trail through the welterweight division, slamming undersized fighters to the mat and capitalizing on awkward injuries? Likely not.

–Why do fighters like Ivan Menjivar continue to give rounds away, all while knowing that they are losing the fight and seemingly not caring to do anything about it? Menjivar immediately said that he was controlled and beaten after his uneventful fight with Mike Easton. Why not do something about it, then? Like, you know, fight back?

Say What?!?

Chael, if you’d like to have a barbecue over at my house, I would love to have you over for a barbecue.”

-Silva, speaking through translator Ed Soares to adversary Chael Sonnen after the fight. The significance, of course, is that this invitation is a play on Sonnen’s famous quote about slapping Silva’s wife on the rear and telling her to make him a steak. I’ve heard from Portuguese-speaking viewers that Soares left out an emphasis on Silva’s wife doing the cooking when he translated the quote, which would make it even more obvious that Silva was playing off of Sonnen’s pre-fight talk.

You Stay Classy Award

I’ve always been somewhat fond of Forrest Griffin, despite his propensity to sore loser-style antics over the years. It’s hard to defend what he did on Saturday night though, even if it hasn’t stopped people from trying to.

No, I do not buy that Griffin ran out of the cage to let Ortiz have all of the post-fight attention. He ran out of there because he put up a crappy effort and he was embarrassed. If he was so worried about letting Ortiz have his moment, why would he come back in, grab the mic from a horrified Joe Rogan, and proceed to highjack the man’s retirement speech?

It was awkward for Tito, awkward for Rogan, and awkward for the fans. Griffin decided not once, but twice, to take attention away from a guy that (love him or hate him) has been a huge part of MMA’s short history. And then, when Ortiz gave him his shirt, he wiped his sweat off onto it. You stay classy, Forrest Griffin.

Beautiful Loser Award

This goes to Sonnen, although there was nothing beautiful about his standup technique. He still won a possible 10-8 round against the greatest fighter MMA has ever seen, and that has to count for something. Plus, there’s the fact that most of the other fighters who lost at UFC 148 looked awful. That helps, too.

Movin’ On Up Award

Melvin Guillard wasn’t able to knock out Fabricio Camoes, but he got the win and even survived some tense moments on the mat along the way. It’s a quality win and a good step forward for someone who was only a win or two away from title contention in the crowded lightweight division not too long ago.

Holy $#!% Award

This was an event full of “WTF” moments instead of “Holy Shit!” moments, but Silva’s precisely-aimed knee to Sonnen’s sternum at the conclusion of their fight certainly qualifies. Like just about everyone who was viewing the knee from the live angle that the television broadcast showed, I initially thought the knee was an illegal one and that Silva had just completely lost his mind with anger. Still, it was a “Holy Shit” moment either way; in fact, it was two: at first, “Holy shit, Silva just flipped out and kneed Sonnen right in the face!”, and afterward, “Holy shit, I can’t believe he had the balls to throw a knee like that and risk disqualification!”

Either way, it was a moment worthy of the often-perplexing, always-memorable career of Anderson Silva.

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