The Week in Review
The Spider bites back
It’s on. Promotion for the long-awaited rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen has been lopsided. Sonnen has taken every opportunity offered to him to disrespect the belt holder, even poking fun at his homeland in an attempt to shatter the cool demeanor of a fighter widely recognized as the greatest of all time.
Up until now, Silva has remained very much the dignified champion, keeping his counsel and refusing to respond to the constant goading from his arch-nemesis.
That all changed on Monday.
A question from British journalist Gareth Davies about Silva’s occasional unwillingness to promote fights prompted a furious tirade from the Brazilian. The calm exterior was gone. Silva snarled and unleashed a prolonged, vicious, verbal assault on Sonnen, promising to break almost every bone in the Oregon man’s body. It was raw, visceral stuff unlike anything we’ve heard from Silva before.
Whilst those in attendance gasped, Dana White smiled with glee. This was promotion at its very best. Within hours Silva’s explosive comments had made headline news on mainstream sites that would usually grant MMA very little coverage.
After some very lackluster PPV sales of late, this kind of excitement is exactly what the UFC top brass are looking for – Anderson Silva’s talking about smashing limbs. Whether that happens is doubtful, but he may just have helped smash some viewing figures.
July 7th can’t come soon enough.
Fedor retires – for now
It’s over. The golden goose of much-maligned Russian promotion M-1 has finally hung up his gloves. In some ways, it was a fitting end for Fedor Emelianenko as he iced former UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo in a mere 43 seconds.
Even the most ardent followers of Emelianenko have been disappointed by the caliber of his opponents of late. Certainly Rizzo, aged 38 and without a fight since July 2010, looked totally out of his depth as Fedor’s fast hands made fast work of his resistance.
Unfortunately, the only genuine opponents for Emelianenko are on the ZUFFA payroll and the wounds between the Russian legend’s advisors and the UFC are so cavernous that a rapprochement is out of the question.
So fans will always be left to wonder what might have been. What if he had fought Randy Couture in his prime? What if he had accepted that deal in 2009 to fight Brock Lesnar? These questions will remain unanswered.
Or will they?
Within hours of Emelianenko’s retirement speech, some scurrilous cyber-villains had hacked the M-1 website and planted a story about Lesnar fighting Fedor in one last megabucks meeting. It was immediately removed and dismissed as a hoax.
Yet this is “The Last Emperor” we’re talking about. Rumour and hearsay have long been part of his reign. There will be more to come.
Perhaps it’s not over after all.
Wanderlei avoids the Axe
It’s not over. After his unanimous decision loss to Rich Franklin in Belo Horizonte, there were predictable calls for Wanderlei Silva to retire from Octagon duty. But the “Axe Murderer” seems destined to continue – with the support of Dana White. The UFC supremo resisted all talk of cutting Silva and went on record to insist the Brazilian warrior still has a future with the organization.
He’s right to do so. Silva was more than competitive in his defeat to Franklin, almost stealing a win with some brutal ground and pound. Question marks about his chin, exposed in recent losses, were momentarily answered. Though the same could perhaps not be said of his engine. After his furious assault on Franklin in the second, Silva seemed to be running on fumes for the duration of the contest.
Then again this is not the Wanderlei Silva of the past, and five-round title fights will likely not be part of his future. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva knows that when he books Wanderlei Silva, he’s guaranteed entertainment. At a time when the UFC is beset by injuries and the roster is stretched to its very limit, that’s more than enough to keep him on board.
Besides which, there’s the small matter of a rematch 13 years in the making versus old rival and countryman Vitor Belfort, to keep him focussed.
The Axe will keep swinging.
Sapp wins one at last
Check-mates. Serial loser Bob Sapp has had his fair share of negative press lately. The one-time K-1 heavyweight megastar has made no apology for his “minimal damage” approach to prizefighting of recent years; an approach that commonly results with Dear Bob in the fetal position, while his opponent rains down blows.
It’s a policy that has brought Bob plenty of flak and plenty of dollars, as eager promoters across the globe try to extricate every last bit of value out of Sapp’s ailing brand.
Sapp regularly cites the struggles of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge as justification for his “Turtle n Tap” strategy. Goodridge, a warrior who went toe-to-toe with every big name in the books, now suffers the horrific consequences of absorbing too many knockout blows, tackling dementia pugilistica on a daily basis.
That’s not a future Bob wants for himself. Hence his low-risk, high reward approach to combat.
So it was nice to hear Goodridge confirm that he’d received $500 this week from a promoter as part of a stipulation that Bob Sapp had specifically written into a contract. It’s a donation appreciated by Goodridge who, criminally, is still owed many thousands of dollars from unscrupulous promoters who cashed in on him during his latter years.
This was a generous, laudable gesture. Sapp, of course, lost the fight but he won back some fans at least.
For now anyway.
The Running Man
The Gameplan. Speaking of tactics, there’s arguably no more polarizing a strategist in MMA than Greg Jackson. Depending on who you listen to, the Albuquerque coach – who lists Carlos Condit, Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Clay Guida amongst his stable – is either a low-risk damage limitationist, or an MMA mastermind of the highest order.
Prevailing opinion after the Clay Guida’s curiously cautious showing against Gray Maynard, was that Jackson’s tactics had backfired spectacularly; the normally marauding style of Guida was sacrificed for a more sedate strategy; one that ultimately didn’t curry favour with the judges. Guida’s version of Hit n Run probably included too much of the latter and not enough of the former. It frustrated Maynard, the archetypal phone booth fighter, to the point where “The Bully” openly goaded his fleet-footed foe into some kind of action. It was the most memorable moment of a desperately disappointing contest. Indeed, the ill-feeling spilled into the locker room as Dana White’s video blog revealed a nasty exchange between the pair afterwards.
Guida will feel aggrieved. Maynard will be relieved.
And so should we.
No one’s talking about a rematch.
The Talking Man. My own highlight of the week was the stellar performance of the UK’s Gareth A Davies on the aforementioned Sonnen-Silva conference call. Davies has been at the forefront of MMA journalism in the UK for a number of years, bringing us news via the Daily Telegraph whilst other newspapers grant MMA precious few column inches. His passionate and informative ESPN podcast remains essential listening for fans on the British isles.
That passion was never more in evidence than when the wild-haired wordsmith commandeered the UFC 148 conference call. After a soliloquy that would have made Shakespeare proud, he finally relented; Anderson Silva exploded. Then hung up.
There’s an old saying in the fight game about “walking the walk”. This week, Gareth Davies certainly talked the talk – resulting in the most interesting conference call in recent memory.
Well done, sir.