Dana White can not be happy. In building up the UFC as its president, White said he learned a lot from boxing on what not to do. Too many times, he’s said in interviews, viewers paid $60 for a boxing event, then turned off the TV at the end of the night and said, “Damn. They did it to me again. They didn’t fight.” That’s exactly what happened at UFC 97 in Montreal.
The supposed pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva was coming off a crowd-displeasing win over Patrick Cote in 2008 in which there was very little fighting before Cote blew out a knee in round three. At least someone got hurt in that fight. His UFC 97 fight against Thales Leites was worse – five full championship rounds of patty-cake.
“I personally apologize for what happened tonight,” White said. “You guys know this is not what the UFC was built on. This is not the way fights usually go.”
“I’m personally unhappy with the whole fight. I did not like the fight at all, period, on either side.”
Credit to White for maintaining his brutal honesty even when it puts his business in a bad light. And he’s right, both fighters were to blame. Leites’ game plan, apparently, was to draw Silva in close and then fall onto his back, hoping to draw the champion down with him. Silva instead chose to stare at his opponent, kick his leg, then put his hands on his hips and walk away.
I can understand not wanting to go to the ground with an opponent who could beat you there, but Silva should have backed up sooner if he wanted Leites on his feet, rather than wasting 10 to 15 seconds deciding which leg to kick. And Leites should have realized his falling over strategy wasn’t working (and was truly pathetic). At some point in a fight, an attack needs to be launched, and neither fighter did that. Leites won round two with a take-down, while Silva won three or four rounds by throwing a leg kick or leg punch (yes) every 15 seconds or so. Quite simply, they didn’t fight.
The Canadian crowd, booing for much of the 25 minutes, broke out into two chants of G-S-P for their hometown hero, welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, and one chant of BULL-SHIT. An embarrassed White wasn’t smiling when he put the championship belt around Silva’s waist.
“We run a fight company, and when guys don’t fight, we sit down (with them) and have a conversation on why they’re not fighting,” White said. “This is what I do. It’s like having any other business and the guy doesn’t come out and perform at work.”
“I’m in the business of selling fights, and I think I’m pretty good at it. But I’m going to have a hard time letting people know that, ‘I promise, his next one is going to be good.’ I need to talk to him and figure out what’s going on and why this is happening.”
Silva said afterward that he was unable to finish Leites, I say he never tried. Silva said he showed he was in good shape and could go five rounds, I say I could’ve lasted those five rounds and I’m in terrible shape.
“I don’t know if it’s that people don’t understand my style of fighting, but I go out there to train to try and be efficient and have a perfect fight,” Silva said through his manager and interpreter, Ed Soares, at the conference. “Not every fight is going to be a knockout, and not every fight is going to be some spectacular finish.”
White said that Silva is still the pound-for-pound best, I say it’s St. Pierre. Why is it a given that Silva is the best? Their skills are comparable, but Silva has now gone 7 1/2 rounds without fighting. GSP has never done that.
In the co-main event, Chuck Liddell received more cheers in another knockout loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua than Silva did in his win. Liddell may have lost, but he came to fight and put it all on the line. This fight was almost identical to the Rashad Evans loss. Liddell looked good, although a step slower at almost 40 years old, and was narrowly winning the fight before suffering his third knockout in the four recent losses.
He’s taken too much punishment, and no longer has the chin to hang with the best anymore. I was rooting for Chuck to begin his comeback tour, but even I’m hoping for retirement this time. As of today, I have him as the best light heavyweight fighter of all time.