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UFC Rio Parting Shots

By on August 29, 2011

Whether or not you think that Anderson Silva has reached a previously unseen plateau with his most recent performance, you’re still likely to agree that the UFC delivered plenty of entertaining moments in their long-awaited return to Brazil. From Rousimar Palhares losing his mind and celebrating a victory that wasn’t to Silva toying with yet another top-notch challenger, UFC Rio was a great card. Well, unless you’re not a fan of Brazilian fighters.

Okami sold himself short

You know, it’s hard to take a guy to task for not looking his best against a talent the likes of Anderson Silva, but that’s kind of my job, isn’t it? If I’m Yushin Okami right now, I’m probably thinking that yeah, I’m not ashamed at being outstruck by The Spider. However, I’m also thinking that I lost a title fight that I worked for years to earn without truly fighting my type of fight.

How could he not feel any regret after only making one half-hearted takedown attempt in seven minutes of competition? Besides a quick attempt to clinch in what was a nightmare of a second round, that was it in terms of Okami trying to do what new-BFF Chael Sonnen was able to do a year ago.

Of course, taking down Silva isn’t exactly easy, and it isn’t exactly safe, either. Diving in desperation at Silva’s dangerous lower limbs is a sketchy proposition, but so is standing with him for several minutes at a stretch, knowing that you can’t offer him anything in the standup.

Whenever I see someone like Okami go down without truly committing to a takedown attempt, it reminds me of the opposite scenario, when a great striker is so worried about inevitable takedown attempts that he never really plants his feet and throws a good shot. As a fighter, you’d have to regret knowing that your cautious approach still yielded a loss, and you never even tried to do what got you to that point in the first place.

Viva Minotauro!

You know who isn’t disappointed with his approach? Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, that’s who. I’m not afraid to admit that my jaw dropped when Big Nog, well, dropped Brendan Schaub in their heavyweight tilt on Saturday night.

Sure, Cynical Guy, Schaub’s chin isn’t the sturdiest in the division, and he’s still a young’n to the sport. However, it’s not as if Nogueira has made a habit of knocking mofos out in his long and distinguished career, right? Combine that with an 18-month layoff and a return at 35 years of age, and I think we’ve all earned the right to be impressed by Minotauro’s performance.

It’s hard to say what his ceiling is at this point in his career, especially because age is becoming a bigger factor and one more loss may leave him without enough time to put together a last title run, anyway. I think he matches up well against a good portion of the UFC’s heavyweight division, although I don’t know that he’d fare any better against the likes of Cain Velasquez in a rematch. I think both Nog and I would like to see a rematch with Frank Mir, however.

One last thing- you can imagine how pleased I was to see that Dana White is once again throwing around retirement talk on a great fighter’s behalf. Look, I get that White doesn’t want this sport to be like boxing. However, perhaps he could, just in these situations, be a little less candid with the media? If he thought Liddell needed to retire, or thinks that Nogueira needs to, talk to them in private. Even if he insists that they be done, let them make their own announcement and at least have the appearance of going out on their own terms. Sure, going out several fights too late and absorbing a few beatings is not a graceful way to go out. But neither is having the car keys taken out of your hand by your boss in front of the world. Liddell deserved better, and so does Minotauro.

Quick Shots

–Call me convinced that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is back to at least a close approximation of where he used to be. If anything, his demolition of Forrest Griffin makes Jon Jones look even better in retrospect. I don’t know if working with his former Chute Boxe trainer has been the difference, or if he just had a great night, but Shogun was back to his old scary self on Saturday night.

–Stanislav Nedkov beat Luiz Cane, but I was not all that impressed with his performance, nonetheless. He almost instantly looked out of his element, as you would expect when an 11-0 fighter who has been able to dispatch all of his previous competition finally meets a little resistance. I don’t believe in “lucky” punches, but he sure was fortunate that he landed on the button and turned the tide in what was looking to be a rather dreadful first UFC appearance.

–Whenever Rousimar Palhares fights, you know something crazy’s going to happen. Whether he’s questioning the ref in the middle of the fight and getting KO’ed for his inattentiveness or holding on to an absolutely brutal heel hook several seconds longer than needed, nobody should be visiting the restroom when Palhares is on the tube. When he debuted, I loved that he had Lego hair (seriously, look at a picture of him with hair), and now, I just look forward to his antics. He didn’t let me down on Saturday, raucously celebrating a win that he hadn’t yet earned, and then nearly getting put away himself right afterward. Classic stuff.

Say What?!

“My clone.”– Anderson Silva, when asked by Kenny Florian who he would like to fight next, having already decimated Yushin Okami.

Why You Don’t Bet on MMA

Coming into Saturday night’s fight with Schaub, Nogueira had KO’ed exactly one opponent in over 30 wins: Sanae Kikuta back in 2002. Wouldn’t you know it? He comes in off of the longest layoff of his twelve year career and knocks Schaub out.

The Bob Seger “Beautiful Loser” Award

Ross Pearson is the unlucky winner of this award, having put together a strong effort in what was truly a razor-thin decision that could have gone either way without any grumbling on my part. He looked much better than I thought he would against Edson Barboza, even controlling much of the bout with good movement and a consistent level of output. Honorably mention goes to Luiz Cane, who looked well on his way to a one-sided win over newcomer Stanislav Nedkov before getting caught with some vicious punches that flipped the fight all the way in the other direction, leading to a stunning and disappointing loss.

Movin’ On Up Award

Erick Silva showed no signs of the fabled “Octagon jitters” in his UFC debut, absolutely steamrolling Luis Ramos after catching him with a brutal overhand right that Ramos simply couldn’t recover from.

Holy Crap Award

If there was a real statue for this award, it would have a tiny gold Anderson Silva sitting on the top of it, as most of his career has been full of “holy crap” moments. No matter how many times I see him do it, though, watching him toy with an elite challenger and throw absolutely pinpoint strikes that not only put his opponent down, but completely break his spirit is absolutely remarkable.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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