MMA News: Who is retired? Who isn’t? Griffin vs. Silva, UFC 98 Predictions
By Matthew Degonzaque, DoghouseBoxing (May 22, 2009)
Welcome to the latest edition of the MMA news feed. In this edition we’ll play catch up and go over the results of the previous Strikeforce and UFC cards. We’ll also talk about the future of Chuck Liddell’s career as well as the latest performance from Anderson Silva and what the UFC is trying to do about it. I’ll also give my upcoming predictions to the UFC 98: Evans versus Machida card this weekend.

Strikeforce: Diaz destroys Shamrock

In Strikeforce’s 1st major show of 2009, Nick Diaz, 19-7, picked up the biggest win of his career since his 2004 knockout victory over Robbie Lawler when he man handled Frank Shamrock and finished him by TKO at 3:57 of round 2. Shamrock, 23-10-2, looked slower and a step behind Diaz during their entire bout. Frank was unable to keep up with Diaz on the ground and was completely out classed in the stand up. The end came in the 2nd round when Frank was hit with a right hook to the body and fell to the ground; Diaz mounted him and began reigning down strikes. A bloodied Shamrock was unable to defend himself and the fight was stopped.

On the undercard: Scott Smith came back from the brink of defeat to knock out Benji Radach in the 3rd round. Cristiane Santos missed weight by 5lbs and then defeated Hitomi Akano by TKO in the 3rd round. Brett Rogers defeated Ron Humphrey by TKO in the 2nd round and Gilbert Melendez defeated Rodrigo Damm by KO in the 2nd to win the Strikeforce interim championship when champion Josh Thompson fell out of their bout with an injury.

The win over Shamrock is a major boost to Diaz career, which had been suffering the last couple of years due to mediocre performances, failing the drug test for the Gomi fight and a one sided loss to KJ Noons. Diaz, who made an estimated $40,000 for the fight, has his name back in head lines for all the right reasons and is in line for hopefully some big fights in the future. Right now he is scheduled to fight on the Lawler-Shields undercard on June 6th against Scott Smith in another 180lb catch weight. If Diaz wins that, then a fight against the Lawler-Shields winner or a Strikeforce 185lb title shot against Cung Le should not be out of the question.

Frank Shamrock, who made an estimated $370,000, appears to be in the final stages of his career. He looked slow, uncoordinated and completely outclassed against Diaz. Considered the 1st real modern MMA fighter, Frank has now lost back to back fights and has yet to defeat a true elite fighter since his comeback in 2006 and it is hard to see him doing so in the future after his performance against Diaz. If he still wants to keep fighting, Frank needs to show people that he can still compete against relevant fighters. He also should be inactive as he has only fought 5 times in the last 4 years. Maybe if Frank is matched up against good opposition, but not elite, then maybe Frank can still be competitive but I think his days of fighting top 10-15 opposition, and having a chance of winning, are over at this point.

Note: Strikeforce: Shamrock versus Diaz had 15,211 in attendance and did approximately $750,000 at the gate (source: mmajunkie.com)

UFC 97: Rua TKO’s Liddell, Silva retains in Snoozer

UFC 97 may have possibly showcased the last fight in the career of Chuck Liddell. Going 1-3 in his last 4 fights, it was said by Liddell that his fight with Rua was his last chance to prove that he should still be fighting. Liddell changed up his training, working with American Top Team, in preparation for the bout in order to try and get the edge on Rua. But it didn’t matter and Liddell was stopped for the 3rd time in his last 5 fights by TKO 4:28 of the 1st round by Rua. Liddell never really had a chance to get into the fight. Afterwards, UFC President Dana White was adamant that this was Liddell’s last fight and he was retired.

We’ll go over the controversy surrounding Liddell’s future further in this article in depth, but Liddell was never in this fight. Like Frank Shamrock, he appeared slow and a step behind his younger opponent. Rua finally has his first impressive victory since 2007 after his career was hampered by injuries and poor performances. There are a lot of depth at 205lbs and its time for Rua to get into the mix. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go against the winner of Evans-Machida, rematch Quinton Jackson or fight the winner of Vera-Hamill next to see where Rua stands at 205lbs.

In the main event, Anderson Silva retained his championship against Thales Leites like most expected. But the actual fight itself went a lot more different than most expected. Most expected Silva to come out and make a statement after his dull performance against Patrick Cote at UFC 90 last October. But instead fans were treated to another lackluster fight from the champion. Most of the fight was spent with Silva standing around trying to fight while his challenger tried unsuccessfully to take the fight to the ground, including ridiculously flopping to his back several times in the latter half of the fight. Silva wouldn’t go the ground with Leites so the fight got dull very quickly. Silva would clearly dominate whenever their was action, but neither man was willing to attempt to finish the fight or show any kind of aggression. The end result was Silva winning a one sided decision victory.

Afterwards the fight underwent a lot of criticism and Dana White went as far as to say he was “embarrassed” by the fight. It’s a stark contrast from the dominating performances Silva showed in his 1st 7 fights in the Octagon. Why Silva has showed appeared lackadaisical in his past 2 is uncertain. In my opinion Silva needs to be challenged more. Cote and Leites did not deserve title shots and it showed during the fight. Silva may not have tried to finish them, but they did not act at all like they wanted to become UFC Middleweight Champion of the world and instead just looked interested in lasting as long as possible. Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin and Nate Marquardt tried to actually fight Silva. I think if UFC gives Silva better opposition, regardless of which division he is in, then they won’t have to worry about him having good fights. Its just if they keep feeding him lackluster opponents, expect lackluster fights in return. The UFC aren’t taking any chances and are moving Silva up to Light Heavyweight again to fight Forrest Griffin at 205lbs at UFC 101, which will also be discussed further on in the article.

On the undercard: Cheick Kongo defeated Antonio Hardonk by TKO in the 2nd, Luiz Cane defeated Steve Cantwell by unanimous decision, Krzysztof Soszynski defeated Brian Stann by 3rd round submission, Sam Stout defeated Matt Wiman by unanimous decision, Denis Kang defeated Xavier Foupa-Pokam by unanimous decision, Nate Quarry defeated Jason MacDonald by TKO in the 1st round, Ed Herman defeated Dave Loiseau by unanimous decision, Mark Bocek defeated David Bielkheden by 1st round submission, TJ Grand defeated Ryo Chonan by unanimous decision and Eliot Marshall defeated Vinny Magalhães by unanimous decision.

Note: UFC 97 had 21,451 in attendance for a $4,900,000 gate. PPV numbers haven’t been revealed yet.

What is Chuck Liddell’s future?

After suffering his 3rd knockout loss, 4 defeats total, in his last 5 fights many have said that it is time for the 39 year old former Light Heavyweight Champion to retire. At the head of this politicking to get Liddell to retire; UFC President Dana White. The UFC President has been the most vocal that it is time for Liddell to retire and has even basically announced Liddell as retiring from the very moment Liddell was knocked out by Shogun at UFC 97.

"I care about him. I care about his health, and it's over, man. It's over."-Dana White, UFC 97 post fight press conference

But in the meantime, most people are a little irked due to the fact that Liddell himself has not announced that he is retired. Liddell has not commented on the subject yet, leading many to believe that the UFC President is trying to force their biggest draw into retirement. Liddell’s trainer, John Hackleman, has come out and said that White’s attempt to try and bull him into retiring is unprofessional and uncalled for and believes that the choice to retire should be squarely up to Liddell. Hackleman’s statements have started a war of worlds between Hackleman and Dana White:

(In regards to White trying to force Liddell to retire) “I think he says that out of concern for Chuck, but he wants to be the bully, the big shot, ‘there will be a war.’ F--k. You don’t have to say that. But it’s Dana’s playground and he can take his ball and say, ‘You can’t play anymore.’ Could he talk that way if he didn’t have what he had behind him?”-John Hackleman (sherdog.com)

“Chuck’s wits are about him. He’s not punchy. So it’s up to him. Whatever is in his heart.”-John Hackleman (sherdog.com)

“Obviously, John Hackleman didn’t pay his house off yet. John Hackleman needs some money, because anybody who claims they care about Chuck Liddell even a little bit would not be making these f--king statements”-Dana White (sherdog.com)

“How many great, talented guys do you see coming out of John Hackleman’s place? He’s no Greg Jackson. He’s no Mark DellaGrotte. He’s no American Top Team. He’s not one of the great camps. Chuck Liddell made him.”-Dana White (sherdog.com)

“I’m not going to have any trouble making my house payments,” Hackleman said. “I don’t live an extravagant life. I don’t have a big house. I have a storefront karate studio.”-John Hackleman (Yahoo Sports).

“You can never find my quote that says I want Chuck to fight again. My quote says he does have another fight on his contract, and I don’t think Dana should be the one telling him when to quit; I think Chuck will tell us when he’s going to retire. I never once said ‘I want Chuck to fight.’ All I wanted was for Chuck to do what’s in Chuck’s heart, whether that’s fight or retire.”-John Hackleman (MMAweekly.com).

Liddell himself has joined into the discussion, although he hasn’t given an indication of whether or not he will actually fight on or retire

“I need some time off anyway, and when everyone stops worrying about it, I’ll make my decision on my own”-Chuck Liddell (mmanews.com)

“They’ve never liked each other. But they’ve always kept it quiet out of respect for me. Now that it’s going back and forth, it’s been blown way out of proportion.”
-Chuck Liddell, on Hackleman and White’s relationship (Yahoo Sports).

Personally while I do think that Liddell should retire, I agree with John Hackleman in that it is not Dana White’s choice to force a fighter to give up his livelihood. Fighting is Liddell’s job and it’s his passion, it should be his decision when he wants to fight. Plus, it isn’t like Liddell has been defeated by journeyman. Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and Keith Jardine are four of the best Light Heavyweights in the world right now. There is no shame in losing to any of them.

In the end, regardless of what Dana White says, the only person who is going to stop Chuck Liddell from fighting is Chuck Liddell. Dana White says he wants to avoid this same problem in MMA that plagues boxing; past their prime fighter fighting on. But White has no control over what Liddell does. Liddell may be under contract to the UFC for one more fight, but when the time limit for that contract is up Liddell is free to do what ever he wants to do whether or not he has fulfilled that final obligation for another UFC fight (I believe).

Liddell and Dana White have friends for a long time, but this is the kind of thing that could end their friendship. We’ve seen in boxing in the past when fighters and managers/promoters have split up due to a damaged relationship over what the fighter should do with their career. Evander Holyfield dumped his long time trainers and managers for not agreeing with his desire to continue fighting. Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather Jr. both fired their fathers as managers for trying to control what they did. So who is to say that Chuck Liddell and Dana White will remain friends over this decision, especially if White tries to make things difficult if Liddell decides to come back?

Of course this war of words between Hackleman and White could all be for nothing if Liddell decides to actually retire. But what if Liddell does decide to fight again? How will their relationship go then? In my opinion, Liddell will likely fight again. He may announce his retirement, but he will comeback. 99% of fighters do, especially when any MMA promotion would sign Liddell in a second. Liddell might retire in the short term, but the desire to fight again and knowing that there is still a lot money that he could make will bring him back at some point. The only question is whether or not Liddell will be fighting underneath the UFC banner or not.

If White gets this uptight over the idea of Liddell, who doesn’t need the money, fighting again then he is going to be having a lot of head aches over the next several years as other fighters end start to go down hill. But unlike Liddell, most of MMA fighters out there do not have millions to fall back on. The majorities of MMA fighters today haven’t made big money and likely only a dozen or so have made million dollar purses in the sport. So older fighters are going to have to keep going, not because they have to want to, but because they need to find a way to pay the bills. The UFC already has 44 year old Mark Coleman fighting at UFC 100 and he doesn’t have anywhere near the money that Liddell has. Neither does Jens Pulver, who has lost 4 out of his last 5 fights like Liddell, has. Pulver, who may not be as old as Liddell or Coleman but has the mileage, has already admitted that paying his bills are part of the reason of what keep him in the sport. While Liddell has made high six figure amounts and a PPV % for several years, Pulver only made $33,000 in his last fight and he’s a former UFC lightweight champion and hosted The Ultimate Fighter. The pay level just is not high enough for even most of the elite and champions to retire comfortably right now so this problem is only going to keep popping up more and more in the next few years.

Anderson Silva wants a bigger challenge: Enter Forrest Griffin

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has been heavily criticized for his most recent performances, lackluster affairs against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. He and his camp have become vocal about wanting bigger challenges.

It appears that his boss has been listening. UFC president Dana White on Tuesday informed Yahoo! Sports that the champion will take part in the co-main event of UFC 101 when the promotion lands in Philadelphia on Aug. 2. His opponent will be inaugural Ultimate Fighter winner and former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.

With the recent criticism of Silva putting a damper on his draw as a headliner, the bout with Griffin will give him a chance to win back fans and headline pay-per-view fight cards
(MMAweekly.com)

This is going to be a very interesting fight. I already said if the UFC brass keeps giving Silva lackluster fights then they can expect lackluster fights in return. UFC finally decided to throw give up on looking through the middleweight division with a magnifying glass in order to find a deserving title contender. Give the fighters a chance to earn it while Silva goes up to the Middleweight division to fight Griffin. This will revitalize the apparently bored Silva and with their two styles, it will not doubt be exciting. Plus, being that this is an undercard fight to BJ Penn-Kenny Florian the fight won’t have to worry about carrying the bulk of the promotion on Silva and Griffin’s back after their previous performances. Right now, I tend to lean toward Silva defeating Griffin, but it won’t be easy and it definitely won’t be boring. Forrest Griffin is the last guy who will flop to his back to try and snare Silva in guard. He’ll take the fight to Silva, on the feet or on the ground.

Plus, not having to worry about who Silva defends his title against next gives the UFC a chance to bolster the division more. The winner of Henderson-Bisping in July will no doubt be a legitimate contender for a title shot or UFC could go the other way and bring in outside Middleweights into the promotion to challenge the champion.

Will Cung Le ever fight again?

Cung Le may be on his way to movie stardom, but he still wants to get in the cage.

The shape of Le’s return is the question on everyone’s mind.Since the acquisition of EliteXC fighters, Strikeforce’s 185-pound division has changed immeasurably. There’s enough top-tier talent for two years of middleweight challengers.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker assures his return by the fourth quarter of the year. Le doesn’t offer a timetable. His other gig is going full steam.“I definitely plan on returning to the cage as soon as possible, but right now I have a couple of things in the works,” he said.

This year, the Strikeforce middleweight champion will have four movies in the can. Fighting, with Channing Tatum, was released last month. Pandorum, with co-star Dennis Quaid, is due Sept. 4. Video game adaptation Tekken is undergoing final touches. True Legend, with legendary fight coordinator Woo Ping, is in production
(MMAweekly.com).

Cung Le (6-0) was originally appeared to be one of the sport’s brightest stars. He had an impressive background in kickboxing and had even gone undefeated in K1 before making the movie to MMA. He was signed by Strikeforce and quickly turned into one of their signature stars. He was making strides with his ground game and was defeating respectable opponents in his first few fights. Then he actually defeated Frank Shamrock in a passing of the torch moment for the Strikeforce Middleweight Title.

While the moment wasn’t as big as most imagined, with Cung Le struggling in the stand up against Shamrock more than he probably should of and spending a good portion of the fight posing and winning only by injury, breaking Frank’s arm with a kick, instead of knocking him out took some of the luster off of his victory. But still, Strikeforce looked invested in Cung Le and if he kept working on his skills then he definitely appeared to have the potential to have a dominant run in the promotion.

Then Cung Le took a year off from fighting to make movies and Strikeforce absorbed the majority of EliteXC’s roster making the division big and added much more impressive talent than the division had before. Now things are much bleaker for Cung Le. He’s the champion, but he’s inexperienced, hasn’t fought in a year and there are some legitimate challengers waiting for him whenever he does comeback. He can say that he has been doing training while shooting movies, but chances are whatever training he is doing is minimal because the day to day business of shooting a movie is a very timely process. You work 12 to 14 days, sometimes more, and its doubtful that Cung Le has been able to work that schedule and still improve like he needs to in order to keep ahead of the pack of guys waiting for a shot at him when he returns.

Whenever Cung Le does comeback, whether it’s this year or next year; unless Strikeforce gives him a few easy opponents-which I don’t think their above doing-I’m guessing success Le has will be short lived. There are too many challengers in the division like Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields (if he stays at 185) and Joey Villasenor who will be able to give Le more problems than Frank Shamrock could.

UFC 98 Predictions

UFC 98 is this Saturday and here are my predictions for the upcoming PPV card.

Light Heavyweight Championship: Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida: Both men are undefeated, so someone’s “0” must go. I’m going with Machida. He’s got an elusive style that has yet to be figured out yet and hasn’t lost a round in his UFC career. He’s defeated Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz, Stephan Bonnar, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Thiago Silva all in a one sided manner. Evans is a good fighter, who is coming into his own, but he still struggled and got a lucky draw against the same Ortiz that Machida dominated and he was getting beaten by Liddell and Griffin until they both made mistakes. Machida is the all around better fighter and we will see this during the fight. Machida wins by decision.

Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra: The grudge match, which after more than a year is finally coming here. Hughes is way past his best and has all but sent out a press release confirming that this is his last fight. Hughes has lost 3 out of his last 4 fights, all in a one sided manner but most pick him as the favorite to win this one. I’m going with the underdog, Serra, to win this fight. Hughes takedown skills have slowed and I’m banking on that Serra will be able to use that to his advantage to avoid going to the ground. Serra has the better boxing skills by a mile and if he can keep the fight standing, I’m very certain that he can defeat Hughes. Matt Serra wins by decision.

Sean Sherk vs. Frank Edgar: Sherk is still one of the best light weights in the world. His wrestling can make him competitive against everyone but BJ Penn apparently. Edgar has already shown that he can be defeated by a superior wrestler when he lost to Grey Maynard last year. Sherk by decision.

Dan Miller vs. Chael Sonnen: Neither fighter is anywhere close to being a contender, but Sonnen has already proven to be an ordinary fighter. Miller by submission in the 2nd.

Drew McFredries vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam: Foupa-Pokam says he suffered from Octagon nerves in his first fight, a loss to Denis Kang at UFC 97 last month. I believe him. He’ll get the win this time. Xavier Foupa-Pokam by submission in the 1st round.

Questions or comments,
e-mail
Matthew at: mdegonzaque@hotmail.com

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