Archive for May, 2012

Wanderlei Silva gets new foe (Rich Franklin), attacks old one (Vitor Belfort)

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Bye-bye, Brazil. (And hello, Plan C.)

Just five weeks ago, UFC president Dana White and mouthy middleweight Chael Sonnen, slated to challenge champion Anderson Silva for the belt, flew all the way to Rio de Janeiro to appear at a press conference with Silva and announce that the much-anticipated rematch would not take place in Brazil, as scheduled, but was being moved to Las Vegas.

Because Rio was playing host to a United Nations sustainability conference the week of June 23, it wasn’t feasible to hold a stadium-sized event in the city that night. So Silva-Sonnen II was shifted to the States, and UFC 147 was moved 200 miles north to an arena in Belo Horizonte, to be headlined by a clash of a couple of other national MMA treasures, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort.

Well, so much for Plan B.

On Saturday night, talking to reporters after still another Brazilian dynamo, Junior dos Santos, had successfully defended his heavyweight belt, White revealed that he’d just been informed Belfort had broke his left hand in training. The fight was off. (Sort of.)

Silva got a new opponent Wednesday, as the UFC announced that Rich Franklin will step in to face “The Axe Murderer” in a 190-pound catchweight fight on the June 23 card. Franklin had been scheduled to fight Cung Le two weeks later at UFC 148.

Perhaps this new Plan C will shift Silva’s focus away from attacking Belfort, his opposing coach on the first Brazilian edition of The Ultimate Fighter reality-TV show. In the days following the news reports that Belfort had to pull out of their fight because of injury, Silva continued to unleash his fury.

“I guess you got scared of me,” Silva raged via Twitter on Tuesday. (He was writing in Portuguese, but the Brazilian magazine Tatame provided a translation.) “Nobody trains so hard that [he] breaks his hand. We use the best equipments, gloves, bandages. If you were scared, you shouldn’t have accepted [the fight]. If you really got it broken, it’s amateurism. And if you didn’t, you’re scared. In both scenarios, it was irresponsible of you towards the fans.”

Those are some curious accusations from Silva, who as recently as two years ago injured himself during training and had to pull out of a fight. How “irresponsible” for him to have forgotten that. And Silva’s memory clearly does not extend back 14 years, when Belfort was so “scared” of being in the cage with him that he knocked out Silva in 44 seconds. That was when Wanderlei was Wanderlei, too. In recent years he’s been a shell of his fearsome old self, losing six of his nine bouts since 2006. One of those defeats was a 2009 unanimous-decision loss to Franklin, who apparently was not too scared to step up on short notice for a rematch.

– Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On May 30, 2012
  • Post-fighting words: UFC 146 edition

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    Junior dos Santos

    Junior dos Santos beat Frank Mir via second-round TKO in his first title defense. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

    The main event was scheduled for five rounds, the other bouts for three rounds. But three of the five fights on the UFC 146 main card Saturday night in Las Vegas did not make it out of the first round, with two of them lasting only a minute or so. In all, we saw four KOs. Why? Because it was the mammoth fight organization’s first all-heavyweight main card. And you know what Jimmy Cliff says about heavyweights: The harder they come, the harder they fall. One and all.

    So, since the most we got from the big guys was the 8:14 that, after a Stipe Miocic TKO, left Shane del Rosario as wobbly as a late-night tourist on The Strip, let’s go a full five championship rounds here.

    Not with fisticuffs, though, but philosophy.

    OK, maybe that’s too lofty a description of the words that were spoken inside the octagon in Sin City over the weekend. But it’s always refreshing to be reminded that — belying their fierce looks, sculpted physiques, abundant tattoos and the occasional red Mohawk — many of these men have depth, compassion and a childlike sense of humor.

    Read More…


  • Published On May 28, 2012
  • Report: Paul Williams likely paralyzed after motorcycle accident

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    Paul Williams (left), a world champion at 147 and 154 pounds, celebrates after his masterful points victory over Winky Wright in 2009. (AP)

    Paul Williams, the former two-division world champion, is likely paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident Sunday near Atlanta, Augusta’s WRDW-TV reported on Monday.

    Williams’ manager George Peterson said the 30-year-old native of Augusta, Ga., will undergo surgery Wednesday to stablilize the healthy upper half of his spine by putting a protective wall around it.

    A powerful 6-foot-1 southpaw, Williams had signed a contract last week to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a pay-per-view headliner on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas.

    Williams (41-2, 27 KOs), who spent more than two years in SI.com’s pound-for-pound top 10, is a former two-time welterweight titleholder and former interim junior middleweight titlist.

    He also won a majority decision over Sergio Martinez, who went on to win the middleweight championship, and owns victories over Winky Wright and a prime Antonio Margarito.

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On May 28, 2012
  • Three thoughts on Froch’s TKO of Bute

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    Carl Froch solidifed his status as an elite super middleweight fighter. (ZUMAPRESS.com)

    NOTTINGHAM, England — Here are three thoughts on Carl Froch’s spectacular fifth-round knockout win over Lucian Bute:

    1. Carl Froch is the second-best super middleweight in the world. Throw out the loss to Andre Ward. Toss it. Trash it. Ward is elite, and odds are if he fights Froch 10 times he will get smoked 10 times. Ward is No. 1 in the division, but Froch should be ranked right behind him. Bute was widely considered the 1A 168-pounder, and Froch destroyed him. After an even first round, Froch turned on the pressure and pounded Bute into submission. Before the fight Bute said he didn’t want to spend the night on the end of Froch’s long jab. Froch didn’t give him the chance; he turned a prizefight into a street fight and had Bute out on his feet in the fifth round when his corner jumped into the ring to stop the fight. That was as impressive a win as anyone could ask for.

    2. What happened to Bute? Bute’s plan coming was to put pressure on Froch, to make him fight the full three minutes every round. Instead, he couldn’t keep Froch off him. No excuses, either: Bute said before the fight he was in top shape, and looked it in the ring. He brought seven different sparring partners to camp, including a heavyweight, to simulate Froch’s aggressiveness and spoke confidently that his aggressiveness would be the key to the fight. But he was completely overmatched. Bute showed a great chin, absorbing shot after shot, haymaker after haymaker, refusing to go down. But his counterpunches didn’t faze Froch; he simply walked right through them.

    To Bute’s credit, he marched into enemy territory and took less money than he could have made in Canada to prove that he could win outside of his adopted home country. But that fight could have been in Bute’s living room with his siblings as judges and he would not have had a shot.

    3. So … Bute-Froch II? Bute has a rematch option, in Canada, and there will be plenty of money in it if he picks it up. A rematch would draw close to 20,000 fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal, or some other venue. Bute, however, may not be up for it. He took a pretty savage beating against Froch and may want a confidence boosting bout before he takes another shot. Froch will have options — he says a rematch with Ward is not one of them — including Mikkel Kessler, who beat Froch in 2010. Or Froch could opt for an easier title defense; his promoters were interested in Librado Andrade before Bute accepted the offer to come to England.

    Suddenly, Froch has a bright future. He says he would have retired had he lost to Bute. Now, he is arguably the most appealing super middleweight in the division.

    –Chris Mannix


  • Published On May 26, 2012
  • Peek inside ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ offers dose of reality

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    LAS VEGAS — Out of nowhere, as if a mirage here in the Nevada desert, it suddenly appears in front of my eyes: the huge garage door bearing a UFC logo, an iconic scene-setting symbol for so many seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. And when I say “out of nowhere,” I mean it. My cabbie probably thought he was being set up for a mugging when I directed him to turn into this desolate industrial complex a half-mile west of the neon glow of The Strip.

    Back when I flagged down the cab and climbed in, I’d told the driver I was headed to the UFC gym. “Which one?” he asked. “There’s the Wanderlei Silva gym. There’s the Randy Couture gym.” He clearly was reasonably versed in MMA, which I suppose is par for the course if you’re taxiing people around the fight capital of the world. But the TUF gym was a new one for him. He’s found his way, though, and when we pull up in front of the familiar garage door and he notices a security crew milling around next to a satellite-equipped TV truck, he turns to me for his fare and says, “Don’t get beat up.”

    Good plan. So as I walk past the security guys I refrain from any wisecracks, although I really want to ask someone why a building full of high-level mixed martial artists needs a security detail. Can’t these guys in black T-shirts go protect Penn and Gillette from the Blue Man Group or something?

    I’ve come here to witness Friday night’s two semifinals of the The Ultimate Fighter: Live. I’m in town for Saturday’s UFC 146 anyway, so I thought it would be an interesting way to spend the evening before the big heavyweight card. It turns out I’m not alone in thinking that way. Between a few other members of the MMA media and a bunch of TV folks, fighters’ friends and assorted hangers-on, about 30 of us are led into the gym and seated octagon-side. As the production crew prepares for lights, camera, action, we sit sipping our complementary bottles of UFC label bottled water — talk about drinking the Kool-Aid — and gazing around at the vast walls adorned with larger-than-life portraits of UFC royalty from Royce Gracie to Randy Couture to Anderson Silva.

    So what’s it like behind the scenes? I’ve signed a release form, so I can’t reveal any of the darkly scandalous stuff. But I do see Jon Anik, the FX show’s consummate professional of a host, being asked to record a retake of a voice-over at his Spalding Gray desk at cageside after a producer decides the script uses the word “also” one too many times. Also, also, also, I see Herb Dean walk in the gym, wearing his familiar all-black referee garb, and do something I’ve never seen him do in the octagon: reach into his pocket for his cellphone and answer a call. (I’m sure he’ll turn off the cell before the fights begin, and that reminds me to do the same with mine.)

    Just before the show goes live, UFC president Dana White comes over to our little section of visitor seating, shakes a few hands and welcomes us all by saying, “Don’t be shy. You can clap, you can cheer, you can scream.” Toto, we’re not in the press box anymore.

    I don’t do any cheering once the fighting begins, and most of those seated near me, even the non-media types, are pretty quiet as well. That puts this experience in stark contrast to the usual setting for a UFC fight. Rather than a 20,000-seat arena with a blood-thirsty crowd drowning out the ear-splitting hardcore house music, we’re in a quiet gym. Quiet, that is, all but for the cacophony of encouragement/instruction/cautions/cheers that are incessantly flying at the fighters from their coaches and teammates. Michael Chiesa’s corner is right in front of us, and here’s what we hear from his coach, Urijah Faber, from his other cornermen and from the blue-shirted bleachers of Team Faber. Moveyourhead!throwakick!twomoreminutes! It’s impossible to make sense of any of it.

    But after a slow start against James Vick, Chiesa gets a thunderous takedown in the second round, ends up in full mount and explodes on Vick with a swarm of fists until Herb Dean (no cellphone in sight) jumps in and ends it. Or should we say he continues it. By winning the fight, Chiesa extends the most emotionally gripping feel-good/feel-sad story of the reality show’s season. The 24-year-old out of Spokane, Wa., lost his father during the first week of the show, but encouraged by his family back home, he continued on. And now he’s in the final.

    Against a teammate.

    Al Iaquinta makes it a sweep over Dominick Cruz’s team by taking a clear decision from Vinc Pichel, sending the Faber gang into wild celebration complete with an “ole! ole ole ole!” cheer.

    The celebration is mostly for the fight they’ve just witnessed, no doubt, but some measure of these young men’s joint excitement has to be for the fact that they’re all finally moving out of the TUF house. With no phones, no TV, no nothing for weeks, this has been their sensory depravation chamber. Now they’re free to catch up on all the episodes of The Bachelorette that they missed. Or perhaps find some mischief — knowing full well, of course, that not only Chiessa and Iaquinta but every guy from the show who’s not medically suspended will be fighting Friday night in The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale (10 p.m. ET, FX).

    With that in mind, Dana White plays dad, sending the fighters out of the nest with a few words of advice. “Have fun tonight,” he says. “Do what you have to do. But be smart.”

    –Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On May 26, 2012
  • UFC 146 not to be taken lightly, literally

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    UFC 146

    Main event fighters Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir are contributing 500 pounds to UFC 146′s main card total of 2,845. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS — The world’s tallest Belgian draft horse. A cubic yard of well-packed topsoil. My 1998 Honda Civic with 197,000 hard miles on it.

    These are things that weigh around 2,500 pounds.

    Here’s one more: UFC 146.

    Actually, we exaggerate. The combined bulk of the 10 fighters on the event’s main card is actually only 2,485 pounds, according to the groans emanating from the poor scale that had to weigh them all Friday afternoon.

    You can add a few pounds to that total, though, once the big guys hydrate and hit the buffets along The Strip. And by the time Saturday night’s fights at MGM Grand Garden Arena all have been fought, don’t be surprised to see an eight-sided crater denting the desert floor here in southern Nevada.

    The main event inside the hopefully-well-reinforced UFC octagon pits 239-pound heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos against 261-pound Frank Mir, himself a two-time former belt holder. The rest of the tonnage on the five-bout main card ranges from Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and his one-big-toe-from-being over-the-line 264 meaty pounds to the appropriately nicknamed Dave “Pee-Wee” Herman and his paltry 233.

    This is no doubt a UFC record. FightMetric, which keeps official stats for the behemoth MMA organization, does not have numbers to back that up, but considering that this is the first all-heavyweight main card in UFC history, I feel comfortable going out on a limb. A very sturdy limb, I hope.

    Friday afternoon’s weigh-ins were lacking in the usual drama, in fact, because heavyweights seldom have much difficulty making the 265-pound limit. None of them even had to strip down to their skivvies, as did the every-ounce-conscious competitors in the evening’s seven other bouts. Everyone made weight, right down to the featherweights.

    Saturday’s first three prelims can be seen on the UFC’s Facebook page (starting at approximately 6:45 p.m. ET), and the other four will air on FX (8 p.m. ET).

    “I am so excited to defend my belt on such a huge show,” dos Santos said in a statement released by the UFC.

    Huge show. Heh-heh, Junior.

    Not to be out-punned, Mir added, “This is the biggest fight of my career.”

    OK, guys, quit it.

    – Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On May 25, 2012
  • Lucian Bute bucks recent boxing trend, downplays injury before Froch fight

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    Lucian Bute

    Lucian Bute is hoping to prove he can win away from home with a victory over Carl Froch in England on Saturday. (Scott Deveay/Getty Images)

    NOTTINGHAM, England — How many times have we heard a fighter blame a lackluster performance on an injury? David Haye blamed a broken pinky toe for his loss to Wladimir Klitschko. Audley Harrison blamed a torn pectoral muscle for his lopsided loss to Haye. Zab Judah claimed he was exhausted in his loss to Carlos Baldomir because Don King forced him to do too many interviews before the fight.

    Excuses have become part of the fiber of the sport. So you can imagine when I received a press release from IBF super middleweight Lucian Bute’s camp earlier this month about an infection Bute suffered in his right big toe, I wondered if this was Bute’s team floating an early excuse for a potential loss to Carl Froch on Saturday night (6 p.m. ET, Epix, EpixHD.com).

    Bute says that could not be further from the truth. First, some facts: Late last month, Bute decided to try on a new pair of shoes to train with. During that first training session, Bute began to develop blisters on both of his toes. The blister on a right toe became infected, making it painful to walk on and, worse, causing a shooting pain to run up his right leg. The infection also led to a fever and weakened him for days.

    Ultimately, Bute went and saw a doctor, who diagnosed the infection and put him on a ten-day regiment of antibiotics. The injury forced him out of two days of training — and even had his trainer, Stephan Larouche, contemplating canceling the fight — but Bute was able to recover quickly enough to resume a normal schedule.

    Bute says his team had no intention of releasing the information until an Internet report appeared exposing the injury. To settle uneasiness in the Froch camp, Bute issued a statement making it clear he would move forward with the fight.

    Give Bute credit: These days many fighters who experience an injury that significantly disrupts training will postpone the fight. But Bute was determined to move forward. After speaking with him on Friday, I get the sense that this fight means a lot to him. He understands the rap on him is that he always fights close to home. He thinks (correctly, in my opinion) that a win over Froch on his home turf will end all that talk, which is why he is taking a paycut to do it. He says he is approaching this fight like the title is vacant and that he has to win it all over again if he is going to bring it back to Canada.

    Whatever happens, however, Bute won’t be blaming his toe.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On May 25, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for Lucian Bute-Carl Froch

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    Lucian Bute (right) defends his IBF super middleweight title against Carl Froch (left) on Saturday. (Andrew Couldridge/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s super middleweight title fight between Lucian Bute and Carl Froch (6 p.m. ET, Epix/EpixHD.com). Share your prediction in the comments below.

    CHRIS MANNIX

    Here’s my biggest question coming into this fight: Can Lucian Bute win a decision in Carl Froch’s backyard? Maybe I’m a cynic, or maybe I have seen one too many abominable decisions in boxing. The three judges are from Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain — but if Froch keeps the fight close, he may have a chance to steal it, literally.

    The advantage Bute has is that I think he has a big edge in the skills department. Bute has a stinging jab, is a savage body puncher and has a crisp uppercut that I think the aggressive Froch will walk into a few too many times. Froch belittles Bute’s competition but in his last fight Bute wiped out Glen Johnson more impressively than Froch did one fight earlier.

    If Bute is on his game, I think he wins handily. Froch is a good fighter but he’s hittable and he takes a lot of shots. Froch dismissed Bute’s uppercut when I asked him about it on Wednesday but there is no question it will be a formidable weapon in this fight. Bute has shown a wobbily chin the past but if he can keep Froch off of him early with the jab he can control this fight, perhaps even position himself for a knockout in the later rounds. Bute by split decision.

    RICHARD O’BRIEN

    Froch clearly wants to make some noise in this fight. He has said that fans should expect “fireworks,” and that he’ll be coming in “with all guns blazing.” The ballistic strategy is probably the right one for Froch, who at 34 and coming off the loss to Andre Ward is nonetheless in a good place in his career. A win against the unbeaten Bute, in front of Froch’s home fans, would raise his stock right back up and give him the inside track on a bout with the winner of the proposed Sept. 8 Andre Ward-Chad Dawson fight.

    Bute’s a southpaw. He’s fast and a very polished boxer, all elements that could make him a handful for Froch. The Canadian hero is also undefeated, but he has faced nowhere near the caliber of opposition that Froch has. Plus, his chin has to be in question (having capped off his decision win over Librado Andrade by getting more or less knocked out). If Froch does indeed pull the trigger from the start and can keep the pressure on, forcing Bute into a shootout, he should prevail. Froch by unanimous decision.

    BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM

    Here’s a rare case of the burden of proof falling on the champion. Yes, Bute holds the IBF super middleweight title, sits at No. 11 in our pound-for-pound ratings and is undefeated after 30 fights, but the caliber of his opposition pales in comparison to Froch (whose resume includes fights with Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson and Andre Ward) and he’s fought just one bout outside of Canada.

    An excellent puncher with great legs and above-average defense, Bute is well aware of the perils of a hometown decision. He passed up easy money to test himself in his opponent’s backyard, and I see him rising to the challenge. Bute is the naturally bigger and more mobile fighter, and he should be able to press those advantages against an opponent who’s looked a tad mechanical at times. Expect a disciplined body attack that breaks Froch down by the middle rounds, setting up an uncontroversial finish. Bute by late-round stoppage.


  • Published On May 25, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 146

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    Frank Mir (right) guns for the UFC heavyweight title held by Junior dos Santos (left) on Saturday night in Las Vegas. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

    SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 146 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

    Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir

    FOWLKES: For all his skills and success and experience, Mir still has a suspect chin and an underwhelming takedown ability. The latter has improved in recent years, but the former only tends to get worse with age. JDS has faced better wrestlers than Mir and managed to stay on his feet. There’s no reason to think he won’t do it again here, which is bad news for the former champ. Dos Santos by TKO.

    HUNT: Mir has made a career out of stepping into big-time fights, and he’s had mixed success. However, Dos Santos, a striker with power and technique, is Mir’s kryptonite. Dos Santos by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: If Mir can take this fight to the ground, watch out. But how is he supposed to get Dos Santos off his feet? A more likely scenario: Mir goes to the mat all by himself, involuntarily. Dos Santos by KO.

    WERTHEIM: JDS has been a tornado to everyone else’s trailer park lately. Mir will seek to take the fight to the ground and grab a limb. That’s not his best chance; it’s his only chance. Dos Santos by TKO.

    Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

    FOWLKES: Velasquez has a lot in common with the last man to beat Silva, not the least of which are the coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. AKA teammate Daniel Cormier had little trouble putting his quickness to use against Silva’s size back in September, and I doubt Velasquez will either. Velasquez by decision.

    HUNT: Former UFC champ Velasquez has to be the favorite, even though he’s been nursing his knee back since last November’s loss to Dos Santos. Word out of Silva’s camp is he’s down to a svelte (for him) 270 pounds coming out of one of his best camps ever. Will Silva’s physicality be too much for Velasquez? I’m not so sure. Velasquez by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: One punch last November transformed Velasquez from champion to under-the-radar second fiddle. A sure way for him to get noticed … and get a shot at his old belt: End this fight just as swiftly and suddenly. Velasquez by KO.

    WERTHEIM: Silva’s size is the X-factor (XXXL factor) that has enabled him to beat Fedor and succeed in Elite XC. Look for Velasquez, quicker to the punch and the better wrestler, to get back to winning. Velasquez by decision.
    Read More…


  • Published On May 25, 2012
  • Juan Manuel Marquez delays scheduled return to ring until November

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    Juan Manuel Marquez was slated to fight in July. (Reuters)

    Interim junior welterweight titleholder Juan Manuel Marquez, who had been planning to return to the ring in July at Cowboys Stadium, will not fight again until November, multiple sources told SI.com, when he could be in line for a fourth fight with Manny Pacquiao.

    Marquez, 38, has been penciled into the July date since April, when he defeated Sergey Fedchenko to win the interim WBO title. The original plan was for Marquez to face former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios, who was the co-feature on Marquez’s card and would move up to 140-pounds.

    However Rios’s issues making weight — he failed to make the 135-pound limit in each of his last two fights — concerned Marquez, who ruled him out as an opponent. Negotiations between Marquez and Zab Judah stalled recently, and Marquez decided there was not enough money in a fight with undefeated Filipino prospect Mercito Gesta.

    Instead, Marquez (54-6-1) will wait until November, when he hopes he will get one more chance against Pacquiao. Marquez lost a closely contested decision last November, his second straight narrow defeat to the Filipino star. If a fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather cannot be made for the fall, Marquez, who helped generate 1.25 million pay per view buys with Pacquiao in their last fight, is expected to be at the top of his list.

    -Chris Mannix


  • Published On May 21, 2012


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