UFC 97 'Redemption' Preview

UFC 97 will come to us all live on April 18, 2009, from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. Oftentimes, MMA events only give you one fight worthy of main event status. In this case, however, the main event of Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites will be only part of the story. The other part?

How about a long awaited dream match up between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell?

Here goes.

Anderson Silva (23-4) vs. Thales Leites (14-1): Anderson Silva is one of the greatest stand up fighters to ever grace an MMA Octagon, cage, or ring. Along with this, he demonstrates pinpoint perfect punches, is an absolute dynamo in the clinch, and kicks in an amazingly accurate and powerful manner. Add in the fact that he has ridiculous reach and you realize that his stand up game is missing nothing. On the ground, Silva also owns a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Along with this, he boasts excellent submission skills and an amazing guard (in part due to those long limbs of his).

Silva is not a great wrestler (takedowns, takedown defense, ground control). That said, he's above average in terms of takedown defense.

Thales Leites is an outstanding submission fighter with good wrestling. His stand up is also solid. Together, this has netted him five straight UFC victories, with his lone UFC defeat coming at the hands of Martin Kampmann by decision. Leites has managed nine submission victories throughout his career.

That said, his UFC victory over Nate Marquardt resulted because of fouls called on his opponent, not because Leites actually beat him in the fight. Still, that encounter did show that Leites is a very tough guy with a great jaw.

Prediction: If Leites is able to get this fight to the ground for a significant length of time, things could get interesting. But at this point, it's kind of hard to go against Silva. He's just been on such a ridiculous streak.

Anderson Silva wins via first round knockout. As tough as Leites is, when Silva hits you with everything he has, fighters tend to go down.

Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell (21-6) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (17-3): Liddell has lost three of his last four fights, including suffering two brutal knockouts at the hands of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans. That said, he's still as good at two things as anybody in the game today.

Liddell has the best takedown defense that the light heavyweight division has ever seen. What's more, he hits like a truck.

Recently, "The Iceman" has found that his technical striking skills, particularly his defense, have hurt him. Along with this, he's been working on his boxing extensively for this bout. In terms of ground skills, Liddell is an outstanding wrestler that hardly ever chooses to take people down. His Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills are a mystery, mostly because of this fact.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has also been on a downward turn. In his last two fights, Rua was dominated by Forrest Griffin, losing by submission, and barely defeated Mark "The Hammer" Coleman by via third-round TKO. When he was at his best while with PRIDE (before injuries and the UFC), Rua looked like the next MMA superstar. Along with this, he was missing nothing- submission skills, wrestling, kickboxing, cardio- they were all there.

But will they ever be there again?

Prediction: This fight will end up wherever Chuck Liddell wants it to go, and here's the thing: Chuck Liddell just doesn't take fights to the ground. Given this, expect a stand up fight. Rua should be able to keep Liddell at bay with low kicks in spots. Liddell would seemingly have the better hands. In the end, Liddell still appears to have the power and takedown defense he always has demonstrated. His recent downward turn has been more about stand up defense than anything else. Rua, on the other hand, just hasn't looked anything like the guy that once destroyed Rampage in the first round of a fight on his feet.

Chuck Liddell wins by way of second round knockout.

THE REST OF UFC 97

Krzysztof Soszynski (17-9-1) vs. Brian Stann (6-1): In Stann's last fight, we learned that he was fallible, watching him lose by TKO to Steve Cantwell. Still, he's an excellent athlete with lots of striking offense. Soszynski is also very good offensively, but is seemingly slower than his adversary here. Will Stann come back strong from a loss in his first UFC bout? Or will Soszynski's experience win out?

Brian Stann wins by way of decision in a very good fight.

Cheick Kongo (23-4-1) vs. Antoni Hardonk (8-4): This is a very interesting fight. If Kongo decides to stand with Hardonk, this one is a toss up. But if he decides to go for ground and pound, guess is that his athleticism could bring it home.

Cheick Kongo wins by way of a second round TKO.

Steve Cantwell (7-1) vs. Luis Cane (10-1-1): Both of these guys are very good strikers, making this a highly interesting bout. But Cane may be too proficient on his feet.

Luis Cane wins by way of second round TKO.

Eliot Marshall (6-2) vs. Vinicius Magalhaes (3-3-1): Magalhaes is just amazing on the ground.

Vinicius Magalhaes wins by way of second round submission.

Denis Kang (31-11-1) vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam (20-9): Both of these guys are very well-rounded. Give Kang one more chance to not fall short of expectations here.

Denis Kang wins by way of first round submission.

Jason MacDonald (22-11) vs. Nate Quarry (16-3): This could be an outstanding encounter. If it stays on the ground for any length of time, it should go MacDonald's way. If not, Quarry should win out.

Jason MacDonald wins by way of second round submission.

David Loiseau (18-8) vs. Ed Herman (16-6): Loiseau is the better striker. Herman is the better grappler. Tough call.

David Loiseau wins by way of decision.

Mark Bocek (6-2) vs. David Bielkheden (13-6): Could go either way.

David Bielkheden wins by way of decision.

Ryo Chonan (15-9) vs. TJ Grant (13-2): Grant has never fought on this kind of stage before, but he's got great submission skills. Still...

Ryo Chonan wins by way of decision.

Sam Stout (14-5-1) vs. Matt Wiman (10-4): Wiman is the better grappler.

Matt Wiman wins by way of second round submission.

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