Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva once again, this time by TKO after Silva’s leg snapped in the second round.
Weidman’s UFC 168 victory means he retains his UFC middleweight title.
Imagine if Adrian Peterson were to step into a cage for a mixed martial arts fight. Then imagine the collective gasps of the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff, players, front office and ownership — not to mention the fan base — if an opponent were to start kicking or grabbing for a submission hold on the surgically repaired left knee of the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
Well, if you’re Canadian and a football fan, you need not make much of a leap of the imagination. Last Saturday night, Toronto Argonauts receiver and kick returner Chad Owens — who as the CFL’s 2012 Most Outstanding Player is to that league what Peterson is to the NFL — took to a cage in Honolulu for his MMA debut. In a bout contested over two three-minute rounds under amateur rules, Owens beat up Junyah Tefaga on the way to a decision victory.
That the former University of Hawaii star, an Oahu native, emerged unscathed no doubt brought relief to the Argonauts, who rolled to a Grey Cup championship last fall largely on the strength of Owens’ record-breaking season. The 31-year-old finished the season with 3,863 all-purpose yards — 2,510 on returns, 1,328 receiving and 25 rushing — more than anyone before him not just in the CFL but in all of pro football.
For that reason, Argonauts general manager Jim Barker had expressed his displeasure with his star in the lead-up to the bout. “I think he’s making a bad decision. Our organization thinks he’s making a bad decision,” Barker told the Canadian Press. “But we don’t have control of what players choose to do and not do in the offseason.”
Barker and the Toronto coaching staff will have a say in how Owens passes his time once training camp begins in June. Between now and then, though, maybe another MMA fight?
“If all the dots align and it makes sense, then yeah, I’d definitely love to experience it again and see where it goes,” Owens told the Canadian Press after Saturday’s fight. “But for right now, I’m not looking towards that. I’m focused on June 1, which is when [I] have to report to training camp. That’s the next fight, and once I conquer that, then we’ll go into the season and it’s a new fight each week.”
It was Friday evening, a little over 24 hours before a featherweight championship bout in Las Vegas that the UFC was hyping as a superfight. But the chatter in the various online meeting places of mixed martial arts fans was about a different fight, one that took place nearly two weeks earlier and 6,000 miles away.
The circulating rumor that Vitor Belfort had failed a drug test following a Jan. 19 victory eventually reached Michael Bisping, who had a vested interest in the matter because he was Belfort’s opponent in that middleweight bout in Sao Paolo, Brazil. In fact, had Bisping won that night, he’d have earned a shot at the division’s champion, Anderson Silva. But the Brit had his hopes doused and his senses scrambled by a second-round head kick that led to a Belfort TKO.
Now Bisping was wondering if he’d been in a fair fight. “About a certain someone who I fought recently failing his drug test,” he wrote on Twitter. “I hope it’s not true.”
Well, it’s not.
UFC president Dana White insisted over the weekend that while there had been an “irregular” test result, it did not involve Belfort. And on Wednesday the fight promotion issued a press release announcing that the failed drug test belonged to lightweight Thiago Tavares, whose results showed the presence of the anabolic steroid Drostanolone. The substance did not exactly enhance the 28-year-old Brazilian’s performance, as he was knocked out in less than two minutes by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Tavares was handed a nine-month suspension by the UFC, which assisted the new Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA, or Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission, in overseeing regulatory aspects of the event.
However, that’s not the end of the story. In the same press release, the UFC revealed that Belfort competed while undergoing an approved regimen of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Vitor has been evasive whenever questions about TRT have been raised. And when he met with reporters prior to Saturday night’s fights in Las Vegas, and Bisping’s accusatory tweet was mentioned, the 37-year-old implied that what you see is all natural. “I think people get jealous,” he said with a smile, “when a guy at my age is destroying these people getting title shots.”
Jealous, perhaps, or maybe just uncomfortable. Belfort has broken no rules. Neither has Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, Frank Mir or anyone on the growing list of MMA fighters who’ve received athletic commission exemptions to use TRT to maintain their testosterone levels. But make no mistake: Legal or not, that’s a performance enhancing substance, allowing an aging veteran to punch and kick like a younger man. And when you see a KO like the one Belfort put on Bisping, you’ve got to wonder when this sport will take a stand. What’s at risk in MMA, after all, is much greater than in other sports. The worst thing a baseball player on a PED can do is wreck some pitcher’s ERA. An enhanced fighter poses a far scarier threat.
“Oh, my GOD!”
That was the gasping, horrified reaction of the woman sitting a row behind me during a screening of Here Comes the Boom the other night. The comic film, which stars Kevin James as a teacher who in an effort to save his school from financial ruin puts himself on a sure path to bodily ruin by turning to professional mixed martial arts as a fundraising endeavor, had barely begun and we were getting our very first glimpse of what goes on in the cage. It likely was this woman’s first glimpse ever at cage fighting, judging by her reaction. She was aghast.
This got me to wondering what the reaction will be once Boom opens in theaters nationwide on Friday. Surely a lot of MMA fans will flock to their local megaplexes, but sitting right alongside them will be unsuspecting folks who’ve simply seen James on the marquee — and Salma Hayek and Henry Winkler, too — and bought a ticket. Are these moviegoers going to end up choking on their popcorn?
This was the lens through which I was watching the movie until, nearly an hour in, James’ character — a former collegiate wrestler who was taking his lumps on the minor-league MMA circuit — suddenly changed his luck with a wild haymaker that floored a fighter he had no business being in the cage with. It was a totally unrealistic moment (unless you happened to have seen a woozy Cheick Kongo do much the same thing in a UFC fight last year as Pat Barry was moving in for the kill), but that didn’t stop the theater from erupting in cheers. This crowd was unabashedly invested in the moment, and that included Ms. Oh My God behind me. She no longer was aghast. She was into the fighting. Here Come the Boom had won.
It had won me over, too, by then. Early on, I’d been as horrified as the woman behind me, though for a different reason. What reason? Well, let’s just say this film is no Citizen Kane. Its launching point is bogged down by all of the vacuous trappings of Hollywood drivel in plot and character development. Or should I say caricature development? From evil school administrators to bored students and even more blasé faculty, there’s so much broad-brush painting here that the movie could have been written and directed by Benjamin Moore.
But Boom never stops fighting until it’s closed in on you and has you in tears. At times it’s from the poignancy of a film built around an uplifting commitment to what’s valuable in life. More than anything, though, the tears shed are from laughter. This is a funny movie, thanks in large part to James but also to Winkler, who’s not your father’s Arthur Fonzarelli here. Once this docile music teacher becomes a cornerman in the MMA scheme, he transforms into something approximating the Grand Wizard of Wrestling.
The true revelation in the cast, however, is Bas Rutten. The former MMA star, a UFC heavyweight champion more than a decade ago, takes his portrayal of a fighter-turned-trainer to its comic extreme without going over the top. His disco street fighting class — “Knee to the face! Victory dance!” — is an aerobic classic. If Kevin James could shift from actor to fighter as convincingly as Bas Rutten goes the other way, the former King of Queens star would be wearing a UFC crown.
MMA fans are treated to lots of fight scenes, which are exhilarating despite being no more plausible than Rocky. There also are cameos by UFC figures such as Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Mark Muñoz and Joe Rogan. Chael Sonnen meets an appropriate fate. Herb Dean would never referee again if he let a fight go on like he does in the climactic scene. But that scene had our theater riveted, including my 9-year-old son.
Afterward, in fact, my boy called his mom during our drive home and reported that Here Comes the Boom was one of the greatest movies he’d ever seen. When he got off the phone, I was curious to know what had so captivated him, other than staying out late with Dad and a trip to his favorite burrito joint.
Me: Did you like the movie because you’re a UFC fan?
Aaron: Yeah, and they had lots of UFC fights and they looked real. Dad, do you think when they made the movie they just had the guys fight for real?
Me: No, I don’t think they’d do that in making a movie, buddy, but it’s good that it looked real to you. Did anything not look realistic?
Aaron: Bruce Buffer’s hair.
Aaron: It was pushed down more than usual. Usually it’s more puffy when he’s introducing the fighters.
Me: Anything else?
Aaron: And there was no Dana White. He’s always there when the UFC is on TV, but in the movie they had two guys with hair talking.
Me: Yeah, but people who don’t know the UFC probably won’t notice. Do you think those people — non-MMA fans — will like the movie?
Aaron: Well, if people want to go to the movie theater on a rainy day, they’re going to ask, “Hmm, what are the new movies?” And maybe they don’t want to see Hotel Transylvania or Frankenweenie or something like that. So they can watch Here Comes the Boom and get a lot of laughs.
– Jeff Wagenheim
Here Comes the Boom opens in theaters nationwide on Friday. Rated PG. Runs 1:45. Directed by Frank Coraci.
Nice 1-2 punch by Chris Weidman.
The “1” was not actually a punch but an elbow, which connected to the head of Mark Muñoz and crumbled him in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 4 on Wednesday night in San Jose, Calif. What a knockout blow. It knocked Muñoz out of the fight (at 1:37 of the second round, after Weidman had followed his fallen opponent to the mat and unleashed a finishing flurry that really wasn’t needed), out of the No. 1 contender position in the middleweight division and out of a presumed matchup with champion Anderson Silva.
That brings us to the “2,” which also was not a punch. It was a verbal challenge. “I want Anderson Silva,” Weidman (9-0) said afterward in the cage. “Every single time I’ve had a full training camp, I’ve gotten a finish. Give me a full training camp, and I’d love a shot at the man.”
Talk about seizing the moment. Weidman seized Muñoz’s — Mark was expected to be next in line for Silva, since he had been slated for a No. 1 contender’s showdown with Chael Sonnen back in January before injuring an elbow — and then the unbeaten New Yorker seized his own with the respectful but no-nonsense challenge.
It wasn’t merely the victory that allowed Weidman to step to the front of the line. It was the way he won. He came into this fight as an underdog — although no one with any sense was counting him out because, well, we’d never seen him lose. But the thinking was that the title shot was Muñoz’s for the taking, and if he didn’t snatch it up, then guys like Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher would lay claim to it. But Bisping is coming off a loss and Belcher is no more high-profile a fighter than Weidman, and he doesn’t have the kind of signature win that Weidman authored on Wednesday night.
How’d it happen? Once again, we were taught the enduring lesson of the octagon: Wrestling is different from MMA wrestling. Weidman was an All-American at Hofstra but his singlet credentials don’t measure up to those of Muñoz, who was the 2001 NCAA Division I champion at 197 pounds. On those wrestling mats, however, you can go for a takedown without worrying about a punch, knee or kick to the face. And it was within that context that Weidman seized control, getting a takedown in the bout’s first minute, then threatening Muñoz with submissions and punishing him with fists while the fighters were on the ground. Weidman also began the second round with a quick takedown. And when Muñoz got the fight back to standing and tried to change the momentum with a looping overhand right, Weidman was quicker to the punch. I mean, the elbow.
It was Weidman’s moment to shine. And to think about the shiny brass-and-leather belt that’s long been in the possession of Anderson Silva. “My takedowns are pretty good,” he said. “I’ll get him down, and I think, I really do believe, that I can submit him.”
That’s the kind of confidence you can pull off convincingly when you’ve never lost.
On the same night that King James began his reign in professional basketball, The Last Emperor abdicated his mixed martial arts throne.
Just as LeBron James’ first NBA title was much anticipated and a long time coming, so was the retirement of Fedor Emelianenko. In terms of performance inside the cage or ring, Emelianenko has been MMA royalty in nothing but nickname the last few years. However, in the big picture — even one tarnished by an undistinguished end game — his name will forever remain majestic in the annals of his sport.
Fedor. Like Arnold and Jack and Tiger, Kareem and Michael and, yes, LeBron, there’s no last name needed. Even though it’s a pretty regal last name at that.
Emelianenko will not be remembered for the 1:24 knockout of Pedro Rizzo on Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Russia, or for the two other empty victories he added to his resume after leaving Strikeforce a year ago following a three-fight losing streak. He’ll instead be called to mind as a luminary who, even at age 35 and coming off a string of performances that were more “Fader” than Fedor, still had the star power to sell out the Ice Palace, with Russian President Vladimir Putin among the 12,000 in attendance.
While his management, M-1 Global, seemed content to squeeze a few more paychecks out of its aging cash cow by removing him from the MMA mainstream and pitting him against barely breathing opposition, Fedor finally said enough is enough. “I think it’s time I quit,” he said after Thursday’s bout, according to a report by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “My family influenced my decision. My daughters are growing without me. That’s why it’s time for me to leave.”
A more fitting time for him to leave might have been last July, after he was stopped in the first round by Dan Henderson, a guy who usually competes down at light heavyweight, even middleweight. That loss came on the heels of two even more disheartening defeats: a nasty beatdown five months earlier by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and a 1:09 submission loss to Fabricio Werdum back in June 2010. As inglorious as it might have seemed for him to have gone out on three straight losses, there was no genuine consolation prize for Emelianenko in his post-Strikeforce wins over 40-year-old Jeff Monson, Olympic judo gold medalist but MMA neophyte Satoshi Ishii and an out-of-mothballs Pedro Rizzo, a once-stout fighter who at age 38 hadn’t competed in a relevant bout in years.
Seen in the most generous light, those three career-closing victories represented a victory lap of sorts, as Fedor twice got to perform in front of his countrymen (the Monson bout was in Moscow) and also gave the fans in Japan, where long ago he created his greatest glory, one last peek.
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.
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