His slow start against Chael Sonnen. His fast finish. His next step. His lasting legacy.
The venue for Saturday night's UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, is the 20,000-seat Saddledome. It might as well be Foothills Medical Centre, the Canadian city's 1,000-bed hospital.
A rematch is about making adjustments. If it weren't, we wouldn't bother putting the fighters through the toil and anguish of another training camp, another weight cut, another choice of walkout music. We'd just buy a DVD of their first fight and watch it again.
And Jon Jones cannot do a thing about it.
Three summers ago, when Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin met in the main event of UFC 99, the fight was promoted under the title "Comeback."
It's five weeks out from the biggest fight of the summer and you can almost see Chael Sonnen pacing his Oregon living room, scribbling down snarky one-liners about UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Don't ever underestimate Dan Henderson.
It's tough to argue against Anderson Silva. The man has not lost a fight in over seven years, and in all the time since then he has decimated opponent after opponent with his lethal fluidity. He won the UFC middleweight championship way back in October 2006 and has successfully defended it a record nine times. He also owns UFC bests in consecutive wins (14), longest title reign (six years and six months, and counting) and most gasps of disbelief from awestruck fans.
Alistair Overeem had fought 47 times as a mixed martial artist before he stepped into the octagon last Friday night. He had not lost since 2007, and all but two of his 11 bouts over that stretch had stretched no farther than the first round. But the main event of UFC 141 was the Dutchman's debut in the eight-sided cage that's home to the sport's crème de la crème. So there were questions.
1. Big-stage backlash. Now that the UFC is on network TV, with so many more viewers able to see the fights, it's inevitable that the wrong eyes will catch a glimpse. A curious football fan or let's-see-what's-on channel surfer will click over to Fox at the precise moment when a fighter suffers a broken limb, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria did at UFC 140, or when one drops to the mat lifelessly after being choked unconscious, as Lyoto Machida did that same night. Or maybe the cringe-worthy moment will be a bloodbath like the first Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight, a bout legendary for MMA diehards but probably too brutal for the uninitiated to bear.
Some call this the most wonderful time of the year, and fans of mixed martial arts have quite a bit to be thankful for.
Mark Muñoz sure knows how to get himself noticed.
Fifty-eight minutes and 54 seconds. That's how long it took Frankie Edgar to defeat Gray Maynard.
Anderson Silva might as well have put on a feathery outfit and ridden to the Octagon aboard an ornately decorated float borrowed from a local samba school.
He's nicknamed "The Dominator," but Dominick Cruz didn't exactly overwhelm Urijah Faber in the main event of UFC 132 Saturday night in Las Vegas. Still, Cruz was speedy and forceful enough to retain his bantamweight championship.
The other day, I was watching a ballgame on television and saw an advertisement for UFC 132. It promised violence.
These mixed martial artists sure don't move around like they used to.
I don't know how you feel about the matter, but I've always thought that ranking the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world was a slightly ridiculous thing to do.
If you're one of those fans who live for the TV sportscast highlight reels -- reverse dunks and upper-deck homers and 60-yard bombs to in-stride receivers -- Georges St-Pierre is not the mixed martial artist for you. You'll find much more satisfaction in watching Anderson Silva, who has put exclamation points on three of his past four fights with sudden and spectacular finishes.
SAN DIEGO -- Anderson Silva says he's perfectly happy to close out his current UFC contract and, perhaps, his fighting career in the division he's ruled going on four years.
Now you know why SI.com had Jon "Bones" Jones ranked at No. 1 among light heavyweights last month, above a bunch of fighters with more sparkly resumes, including then-UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
If you haven't seen it by now, you ought to make it a high priority to do so: Jon Jones made Mauricio "Shogun" Rua look like a relic on Saturday. There were a great many unknowns going into the title fight at UFC 128. No one really knew how mentally tough Jones was; no one knew how he would handle leg kicks or serious submission attempts, and no one knew how he would deal with an opponent he couldn't break. We still don't know. Shogun broke, and the one fighter who should have been able to never did crack Jones' legs, or tie them up. It was a mauling.
Four months ago, at UFC 123, Phil Davis, a 26-year-old light heavyweight prospect who is two good wins away from serious title contention, cinched the veteran Tim Boetsch in the sort of hold that makes you squint, on the off chance that you didn't actually see what you thought you saw.
This is not the Bowl Championship Series. No competitor is going to miss out on a shot at the title or a trip to Pasadena because he is ranked No. 3 instead of No. 2 in the monthly SI.com mixed-martial-arts fighter rankings.
Dana White has always nurtured the vigorous growth of the UFC as if he were the manager of a rising rock band loath to rush the act from nightclubs to theaters to arenas to stadiums for fear of muddying its hit sound.
Now I know what Vitor Belfort feels like. In the days after Anderson Silva stopped him with a devastating attack that was as spectacular as it was sudden, I took a few kicks to the face myself from readers for my February fighter rankings. The biggest point of contention was my flip-flopping the consensus opinion among media rankings and putting UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at No. 1 ahead of Silva, the middleweight champ. But that was not my only ranking that rankled readers. I took some heat for putting a division champion below a guy who's fought at that weight only once. And slotting Alistair Overeem at No. 2 among heavyweights made me the heavy for several readers who apparently don't put much weight in his Strikeforce title belt.
The Heavyweight Grand Prix is lying flat on the mat, stunned and fully mounted, punches raining down, the referee keeping a close eye on things, ready to jump in if need be. Now it's time to see if Strikeforce's ambitious tournament has some fight left.
So, the Packers won the Super Bowl, but fans of mixed martial arts can't stop talking about how Anderson Silva took down Vitor Belfort in an Ultimate Fighting Championship title match with a single kick.
It's almost a foregone conclusion.
It's not rocket science to figure out the big winners from Saturday's UFC 126 in Las Vegas. Jon Jones emerged as a light heavyweight title contender with a victory against Ryan Bader. Anderson Silva, on the strength of a stunning front kick, was devastating in a first-round knockout of Vitor Belfort. A rusty Forrest Griffin won a unanimous decision over Rich Franklin after a long layoff, and the former light heavyweight champion should continue to progress when he hits the road to work with new trainers, as he says he'll do for his next fight.
Who does Anderson Silva think he is, Jon "Bones" Jones?
There are two types of fuel that fire fights -- competitive or personal. The competitive juice is the stuff that makes fighters want be the best. The personal type attaches memory and feeling to that goal. That fuel can sustain fighters at the point of burnout, and it can also rob them of energy when they most need it.
For the first three or four minutes of any fight, there aren't a whole lot of guys scarier than Vitor Belfort. Fists a-blazing, the Brazilian comes charging out of the gates like an angry bull with dinner reservations.
Power rankings on the sports pages have always seemed a little silly to me. Yet I eagerly pore over them with the colossal seriousness that someone more educated than I might devote to a Kierkegaard treatise. When the experts rank my favorite NFL team at No. 21, say, I scan the list and invariably find a team ranked above us that we beat. (Us? We? No, I don't play pro football, but my unbridled, even unbalanced passion for the game has bred in me the righteousness to invoke such we're-all-in-this-together language.) Seemingly glaring indignities like my Giants being underrated by as little as one or two spots never fail to get me riled up, though not so much when we're ranked above a team we lost to.
Chael Sonnen is smarter than you. It doesn't matter if you're a Nobel laureate, the brightest light in Mensa or even Yogi Bear. The self-satisfied UFC middleweight is smarter than the average bear, too, and he's certain he is brainier than you as well. That is what gets the man in trouble.
So UFC 125 didn't exactly end with a "Resolution" as promised. Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar fought five hard rounds with Gray Maynard only to draw on final scorecards in the event's headliner. No matter, there were still plenty of good finishes this past Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and with a third match between Edgar and Maynard now in the works, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from the supporting cast.
1. WEC makes its mark on TUF. Although the UFC's seminal reality show has maintained an impressive watermark of about 1 million viewers per episode going into its 13th season, the show could use a jump-start. And who better to give that then the Tasmanian devils of World Extreme Cagefighting, who are set to cross over to big-brother UFC as 2011 gets underway. Newly minted UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and recent 135-pound transplant Urijah Faber get my vote to coach TUF 13. They've got history (Faber handed Cruz his only professional loss early in his 145-pound title reign), beef (Cruz rubs the normally hang-loose Faber the wrong way), and good support squads (Faber with Team Alpha Male and Cruz with Lloyd Irvin and Alliance MMA). That's all the makings of good reality TV. (Now if only Spike producers could shoot the show higher than 30 frames per second.)
With the last few days of the year blowing by like the gusty snowfall that's piled up in the whiteout Northeast, it's time to clean out the mailbag in preparation for 2011. The new year will waste no time in bringing the action, as Saturday night's UFC 125 has a bunch of promising matchups. But if my e-mail in box is any indication, fans aren't quite ready to move on from the deeds and misdeeds of 2010.
This is the time of year when lots of folks are wrapping and unwrapping presents, so here are some suggested recipients in the mixed martial arts world whose gifts would keep on giving, all through 2011:
New Year's is a time for fresh starts, new beginnings. It's a time to look disdainfully at the person you have been, and look longingly into the idealistic future at the person you will become.
Fight people work in a constant now, so that if you ask a lot of them what the stories of the coming year are likely to be you get a lot of dead silence, followed by hasty improvisations on the angles they happen to have interests in. Once you get past the angles, all the talk is of growth and expansion. Mixed martial arts has attained a state like that of the American economy. It needs constant growth just to meet its obligations.
1. UFC sells 10 percent share to Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment. Despite several offers to go public or take on additional investors, the Ultimate Fighting Championship remained a private outfit since Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta purchased it in 2001. Amid explosive growth in the decade's second half, UFC president Dana White repeatedly said the promotion's parent company, Zuffa LLC, would never dilute its ownership. But in January, that's exactly what it did when it sold a 10 percent stake in the UFC to the Abu Dhabi-owned entertainment company Flash Entertainment. Fertitta said the sale would benefit the UFC's strategic goals in the Middle East and other developing countries while keeping intact its management structure. One month later, the promotion announced its entry into the Middle Eastern market with UFC 112, held an arena to be constructed specifically for the event. The first event would later prove challenging -- to put it charitably.
Five observations from UFC 122, where Yushin Okami beat Nate Marquardt to become the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division:
Japanese middleweight Yushin Okami is the kind of guy who no one really wants to fight, and I mean that in the best possible way. In the end, it boils down to risk and reward.
SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim to talk about Saturday's UFC 122 card at the König Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany.
Two fight cards this week speak to the reasons Zuffa decided it was time to fold WEC into the UFC.
Jose Aldo is good. Very, very good. The 24-year-old Brazilian affirmed his status as mixed martial arts' best featherweight Thursday night by throttling Manny Gamburyan midway through the second round.
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: There is no such thing as a lucky submission. Locking on a triangle choke or an armbar isn't like throwing up a half-court shot at the buzzer or launching a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not a lottery ticket.
How did Anderson Silva submit Chael Sonnen?
Chael Sonnen accomplished everything he told the world he would against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Everything, that is, except the most important thing.
Though he wouldn't admit it, UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva came strolling into the UFC 117 pre-fight press conference on Thursday afternoon in San Francisco looking like a man who had intentionally made himself into everything Chael Sonnen claims to hate. He wore a pink sweater and a smile, his baseball cap was flipped backward on his head. Two diamond earrings flashed in his ears.
If July felt like a slow fight month, that's because it was. Especially when compared to what's in store through the remainder of 2010. In August alone, 19 of the mixed martial artists ranked among the Top 10 of their weight class will step into a cage -- highlighted by three fights pitting the top two fighters in their respective divisions. Two already have, as Jon Jones and Yushin Okami earned victories Sunday in San Diego.
Sometime Saturday night, likely not much past midnight in the East, Chael Sonnen will step into a cage with Anderson Silva. Doors locked behind them, a referee will offer his final instructions. The middleweights -- one a respected champion, the other similar in his deluded mind -- will square off in what is destined to be remembered as a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace moment. And it will be real and undeniable.
All too quietly Yushin Okami has established himself as the most successful Japanese mixed martial artist inside the UFC.
@JosPear Keep hearing Chael Sonnen has a tough chin. Isn't Chris Leben's chin tougher and Anderson Silva put him down? Are we sold on this bout being for real?
When current WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby and I established the now-buried MMA Media Top 10 in 2001, it became a goal of mine to see mixed martial artists ranked in a real way. Yes, there were periods when I soured on the idea -- e.g. confusion among weight classes in different regions of the world and the likelihood that top fighters in competing promotions would never fight -- but for the most part I hung in there, convinced the exercise was worthwhile because it put fighters' accomplishments into context, assigned them value on the open market, and held promoters accountable when it came to matching title fights.
Long gone is the Chuck Liddell-inspired Ice Age, when a successful defense of the UFC light heavyweight title was the norm and not the exception. With his win over Lyoto Machida on Saturday, Mauricio Rua became the sixth light heavyweight to hold the UFC title since 2007.
With six of SI.com's 10 best mixed martial artists in action this April, it's no wonder the latest divisional and pound-for-pound rankings underwent their own springtime renewal.
Leonard Garcia-Chan Sung Jung was like a KFC Double Down. I know we're all supposed to love healthy, clean, well-prepared food but I'll be damned if two pieces of fried chicken with cheese and bacon in between them isn't just amazing sometimes. Just like how we're all supposed to love highly technical bouts, but sometimes seeing two guys go out and just wing it is fun as hell. --Brian Alleman, Tulsa, Okla.
Well, we won't have a hard time remembering the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first effort in Abu Dhabi. In the shadows of all things red, fast and Italian, Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta came to the Arabian Peninsula touting two high-performance machines of their own.
It wasn't so long ago, you'll remember, that everyone outside of a certain Russian heavyweight grasped championship belts like they'd just been plucked out of the Pacific.
You know there's something strange going on when three UFC champions put their respective titles on the line within a two-week span, and the most pressing questions they face revolve around when they're going to gain or lose weight so they can fight one another.
Commuter battle lines in one of Brazil's biggest cities are drawn on the ground, underground and also, in the air.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, known as the world's capital of traffic, people try to find solutions to their problem.
Start small. End big. March, capped by a hyperactive 10-day stretch, registered a real impact on SI.com's latest mixed martial arts rankings.
In his autobiography penned with Sherdog.com news editor Loretta Hunt, Randy Couture revealed that he received an offer from the UFC in 2006 to fight two-division champion boxer James Toney. Four years later, Toney has finally signed with the UFC, reigniting the possibility of a bout with Couture.
For Chael Sonnen, winning never hurt so much.
Chael Sonnen has a gift for soundbytes. It helps that he's willing to say absolutely anything, from the cringe-inducingly honest to the comedically implausible, all with an air of absolute sincerity.
Updated to include 2009's closing cards and the first month of 2010, SI.com's latest mixed martial arts rankings feature changes to the middle and bottom of most weight divisions. While consistency reigns among the top three in all classes, there is expected to be considerable movement as the calendar shifts from winter to spring.
For the final mixed martial arts rankings of 2009, it makes sense to look back to where things stood at the start of the year.
FIGHTER OF THE DECADE: Fedor Emelianenko Emelianenko isn't the only fighter to ply his trade exclusively during the first decade of the 2000s, but he is the best. Competing in a wholly unforgiving sport, the 33-year-old Russian boasts -- not that he would -- an unparalleled resume featuring 31 victories in 33 fights. The other two? A dismissed loss in 2000 (that he violently avenged) and a no-contest against the second best heavyweight in MMA history, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Emelianenko has beaten twice.
A busy month of November left its mark on SI.com's latest mixed martial arts rankings. Outside of the lightweight division, which gets the spotlight in December, each class experienced some shuffling.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 30. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. You love mixed martial arts. No, you hate mixed martial arts. It's the hottest, rawest, awesomest sport going, a video game come to life, the main cause of boxing's death spiral. No, it's legalized assault and battery, an affront to civilization, the Church of the Lowest Common Denominator. As mixed martial arts -- and the UFC in particular -- continue to grow, it also continues to polarize. And both sides are, of course, entitled to their opinion.
November is shaping up to be the most important month of fights this year.
It's all about turnover in mixed martial arts rankings. With aging fighters leaving the sport, established contenders pursuing options away from the cage and young challengers clawing their way to the top, job security reads like an oxymoron for the men atop SI.com's MMA rankings.
On Saturday in Dallas, Texas, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre hoped to learn the name of his next challenger.
Randy Couture said it simply enough after dropping a competitive decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: The Brazilian great is who the former two-division UFC champion thought he was.
Zuffa isn't promoting a UFC championship fight tonight in Portland, Ore., but one could certainly make the case that titles are on the line.
Demian Maia doesn't bother keeping his game plan a secret. He knows there's no use. No matter what the unbeaten middleweight might say in advance of his bout with Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 this Saturday, everyone already knows that the longest Maia (10-0) likes to stay on his feet is the time it takes him to walk from the dressing room to the Octagon.
With a little more than a week remaining in what has been a wild month in mixed martial arts -- both in and out of the cage -- SI.com readers aren't short on opinions or questions. From the heavyweight legends and 185-pound contenders on the UFC's upcoming card in Portland, Ore., to the thought of Anderson Silva moving up two weight divisions has readers curious, perplexed and somewhat annoyed. After Cris "Cyborg" Santos demolished Gina Carano at Strikeforce, several SI.com loyalists were left wondering whether the new champ deserved to be ranked among the 10 best fighters in the world, regardless of weight -- and gender.
Anderson Silva wants big-money event fights. And he's willing to work at heavyweight to make sure they happen.
It's been a while since SI.com's last set of rankings, and the volatility of mixed martial arts has taken its toll on each division's top 10. A chemically enhanced Josh Barnett caused movement among heavyweights, while Anderson Silva and Gegard Mousasi forced light heavyweights to shuffle. At middleweight, Dan Henderson has re-emerged as a force, and the welterweights find new order in their bottom five.
You can see it out the window of the rickety SEPTA car, as you rumble down the R7 line past Joe Frazier's gym and through the hardscrabble neighborhoods of North Philly, where alternating blocks of pristine brownstones and bombed-out vacants make the brick-and-mortar landscape.
Any time UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva steps in the cage, the line between fighting and playing always gets a little blurry. But against former light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in Philadelphia on Saturday, Silva managed to do both at the same time, dwarfing his larger opponent with an awe-inspiring striking display and brilliant defensive maneuvers.
A blow-by-blow recap of Saturday's co-main event fights at UFC 101 in Philadelphia:
UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva isn't simply in search of a new challenge when he moves up in weight to fight Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in Philadelphia this weekend. What he needs is someone who will give him an actual fight. He needs an opponent who can knock him out of his current holding pattern and force him to be the exciting finisher he used to be. He needs a Rocky Balboa to his Apollo Creed, to put it in terms that Philly can understand, and he needs it now.
It's a tough time to be a legend of MMA. The hungry crop of next-generation fighters is always nipping at your heels, the threat of a Dana White-imposed retirement might be only one or two losses away, and all while the money is just starting to get good. Wanderlei Silva -- a legend who was doing this back when bare fists were the order of the day -- summed up the difficulties perfectly when I spoke to him about what might be at stake in his clash with Rich Franklin at UFC 99 in Germany this weekend.
As Lyoto Machida walked through the corridors of the MGM Grand Garden Arena back to the locker room after knocking out previously undefeated Rashad Evans in the second round of their main-event fight Saturday, tears welled up in his eyes as he looked down at the new UFC light heavyweight championship belt wrapped around his waist.
You really don't need to look further than the style matchup generated by Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin to get excited by their August fight. But if you did, it's not difficult to find scenarios that make Silva-Griffin meaningful beyond the mere potential of a great fight.
To football, wrestling and weightlifting, Kyle Maynard can add mixed martial arts to his arsenal of feats.
UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva isn't bored. Nor is he frustrated. About his decision win over Thales Leites at UFC 97 on Saturday, Silva is said to be satisfied. And criticism following the contest, in which Leites refused to engage while trying anything he could to avoid the champion's infrequent attacks, has fallen on deaf ears.
SI.com's Josh Gross provides first-rate analysis from the UFC 97 showdowns in Montreal featuring light heavyweights Chuck Liddell and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and, in the main event, Thales Leites and Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title.
Win or lose Saturday in Montreal, Thales Leites finds himself a partner to history.
With so many stories unfolding in the last 10 days, it felt appropriate to hit on a bunch of topics. Judging from the emails in my inbox, fight fans aren't sure where to focus. There's plenty of clutter from St. Pierre-Penn 2, some positive and negative reaction to my latest rankings, and a sense of excitement following news that MMA would return to CBS and Showtime.
When Anderson Silva puts on a show with his hands and feet, it generally makes for a short night. Saturday evening at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., however, the "show" featured more dancing and showboating than punching and kicking.
You almost have to feel bad for the fighters on Saturday's UFC 88 card in Atlanta. With the announcement of Randy Couture's return dominating MMA headlines, the weekend fights in Georgia seem like an afterthought. The blame can be split, though: part Couture's legal media show, part UFC 88's lineup.
In the midst of mixed martial arts' most crucial stretch of the year, readers react to Anderson Silva's victory over James Irvin at UFC Fight Night 14, Fedor Emelianenko's dismantling of Tim Sylvia at Affliction: Banned and a host of other issues. We'll also look forward to this coming Saturday, when MMA returns to primetime on CBS.
Evan Tanner came to mixed martial arts looking for adventure. He found fame, success and a UFC championship.
While celebrating Father's Day at a friend's barbecue in Redondo Beach, Calif., watching the sun descend in a pristine western sky, Ed Soares' phone lit up with a text message.
It's rare to find an athlete who makes even the most exaggerated descriptions of his or her accomplishments seem unjust. Basketball had Michael Jordan. Football had Jerry Rice. And now Mixed Martial Arts has Anderson Silva.
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