UFC 97 Review: Silva dominates, but also disappoints

UFC 97 came to us all live from the Bell Centre in Montreal. That's right: Georges St. Pierre country. Of course, Canada's native son was not on the card. But this guy by the name of Anderson Silva was, taking on Thales Leites for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Also set to get it on in Montreal were Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Chuck "Iceman" Liddell in a bout with former PRIDE vs. UFC dream match up implications.

"I want to show the world who I am," said Luiz Cane before his fight against Steve Cantwell. The thing about fighting in the Octagon is that fighters always get to do a little bit of that, no?

Early on, Cantwell looked to connect with leg kicks, while Cane came forward and connected with strikes. Cantwell hit home with a decent high kick. Cane, however, kept coming forward connecting with punches, some hard. He then landed a nice uppercut before the two clinched. Cane turned his opponent into the cage and landed some hard strikes on the break. Then came some knees in the clinch. Lots of straight lefts and uppercuts from Cane. Cantwell's throwing back but most of his kicks and punches are being blocked or missing. And that's how the whole round seemed to go: Cane moved forward and connected with jabs, straight lefts, and uppercuts, while Cantwell threw low kicks, high kicks, and punches that often missed and were somewhat ineffective.

The first round definitely went to Cane.

Cane started the second connecting with hard jabs and straight rights. After a couple of minutes of this and a Cantwell right hand to the face, Cane landed a nice body kick. Then he went back to the same effective punches. Around the middle of the round Cantwell landed a nice right. Then a combination. All of a sudden, Cantwell seemed back in the fight. Along with this, he consecutively landed a hard high kick, a knee, and punch. But Cane came forward and connected. For the rest of the stanza the two traded with Cantwell getting the better of things.

That was a close round. It could've gone either way. Give it to Cantwell, though, based on the power strikes he landed in the second half of the round.

A low kick by Cantwell kicked off the final stanza. Then Cane connected with a straight left and a huge flurry of punches moments later that netted him big points. He followed that up with kicks intermixed in there as well, before another set of big strikes. Cantwell landed a high kick. Cane connected with a knee. Soon after, Cane landed a big uppercut. Cane is just more aggressive and is connecting far more than his adversary through three minutes. At the two minute mark, Cantwell landed a nice combination. Cane then returned the favor.

This is a good stand up fight.

A couple of big Cantwell head kicks were blocked by Cane. That said, they still looked like they hurt. Cane landed a very hard right hand in the midst of a flurry. The two then traded with Cane landing and Cantwell missing. Then two traded just before the bell again.

Luiz Cane should definitely win.

The judges agree. Luiz Cane wins via unanimous decision.

"You can dream, but your dream's gonna be a nightmare," said Cheick Kongo before taking on Antoni Hardonk in the next fight of the night. Big stakes in this one, as Kongo might just get a title shot if he wins.

Kongo started things off by landing a couple of low kicks. Then Hardonk returned the favor. Kongo then landed a right on a stalking Hardonk. After several minutes, the two trade low kicks. Kongo came forward aggressively and clinched with his adversary. Looking for the takedown to no avail, the referee split the two up. Hardonk then threw a kick that Kongo grabbed, taking him to the canvas. While standing over him, Kongo landed kicks to his legs though he didn't follow him to the ground (allowing Hardonk up). While on their feet, Kongo connected with some nice punches and then clinched again. At the 1:00 mark, Kongo finally took him down. By the bell, Kongo was landing some hard punches on the ground.

The first round clearly went to Kongo.

A hard body kick by Kongo started the second. He then connected with a punch during a Hardonk kick and ended up on top raining down punches because of it. For a moment, Hardonk tied him up. But eventually those hammerfists and hard strikes from Kongo started up again. It was enough to cause the referee to step in.

Cheick Kong wins by way of TKO at 2:29 of round two.

Next up was a highly anticipated bout between Krzysztof Soszynski and Brian Stann. The question? Would the fact that the fight was taking place in Soszynski's adoptive country of Canada help him or make him nervous?

An early clinch saw Stann connect on the break. Stann then hit home with some nice punches in a flurry. Soszynski hit home with a low kick. Stann returned the favor, then connected with a straight right. In the clinch, not much happened. Then came a hard takedown by Soszynski. Stann tried to get up and instead was mounted along the Octagon wall for his efforts. But Stann bucked himself to a near leglock. However, Soszynski took side control. Stann got up, but was put right back into his opponent's side control again. Then came a Kimura attempt by Soszynski. The first try didn't work. But the second did.

Krzysztof Soszynski wins by way of submission at 3:53 of round one.

"At this point, this is the most important fight of my career," said Chuck Liddell, coming into his fight with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. The thing is, it was also a do or die kind of situation for his opponent. Which fighter would do? Which one would die in the figurative sense? That's what this bout was all about.

Early on, Rua landed a low kick and later a hard right. Then Liddell connected with a nice combination. Then a hard right by Shogun. Shogun is moving in and out effectively with his strikes. Then Rua did the unthinkable.

Rua took Liddell down. From there, he almost netted a leglock on the "Iceman" before Liddell got back up, getting kneed in the leg for his efforts. Upon the break, Liddell landed a nice elbow to the face.

Nice aggressiveness by Liddell in the middle of a takedown attempt by Rua followed. Then the two traded some shots. Liddell then took Rua down but let him back up. Perhaps that was a mistake as an aggressive Rua came in with a hard left that dropped Liddell. Moments later, and it was all over.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is back, winning by TKO at 4:28 of round one. Afterwards, Liddell didn't say one way or the other whether he would be retiring. Regardless, he got a deserved loud ovation from the crowd for his career.

Next up was a fight between Sam Stout and Matt Wiman. Lots of action early, with Wiman being very aggressive with strikes and takedown attempts. Early on, Wiman did manage to take Stout down. However, Stout got back up along the cage wall. Lots of trading so far but nothing really connecting with force. Then Stout started hitting home with punches. A Superman punch by Wiman connected. A nice low kick by Stout was followed by a right hand by Wiman. Wiman came forward, grabbed Stout's neck and fell to his back looking for the guillotine. But Stout got right out, landed some ground and pound, and got to his feet. Up until about the 30 second mark, Stout began to dominate on his feet with far superior striking. However, Wiman got a takedown but fell off of his opponent's back and ended up on his own back.

Soon after, came the bell. That was a close round. Stout was more technical on his feet, but Wiman was the aggressor.

In the second, Stout landed some hard low kicks and nice punches. But Wiman rushed forward and took his back on the ground. Then Stout turned him over. While on top, Stout connected with some ground and pound and then got up. On his feet, Stout began to take over, picking his adversary apart. Then came a huge left to the body that floored Wiman (along with a body kick). Stout followed him to the ground where he almost got armbarred. But then he got up and proceeded to pick Wiman apart again before the bell.

This one is either tied or Wiman needs a stoppage. The second round went to Stout.

With Stout clearly the better striker, Wiman went for a takedown hard in the third stanza. However, it was tough going for him for awhile. But then Wiman took his opponent's back again. After looking for the choke and connecting with some mild shots, Stout took the top position, escaping from trouble. Then came some ground and pound before the two came to their feet. Soon after, Wiman took Stout down again, hard this time. Ground and pound led to a cut over Stout's eye. When Stout finally did get up near the bell, Wiman ended with a strong flurry.

The third round was Wiman's. The second round was Stout's. The first round?

Sam Stout wins via unanimous decision.

"He's a human, and no human is unbeatable," said Thales Leites coming into his main event fight with Anderson "The Spider" Silva. Of course, many had come into fights with Silva believing that he was human. But did they leave those fights feeling the same way?

The first round started off with almost no action through several minutes. Around the 2:00 minute mark Leites connected with a low kick and followed up with a takedown attempt that was easily shirked. Soon after, a nice body punch by Silva landed. At the 1:00 mark, Silva threw a low right kick that tripped his opponent to the ground before letting him back up. During a Leites takedown attempt, Silva connected with a hard right to the face. For the rest of the round, Silva defended the takedown.

Terrible round with no action. But Silva connected with some strikes, which should net him the stanza.

Leites landed a nice low kick to start round two. Then Leites took him down hard. Silva managed to net the half guard against his opponent. Then Silva got to full guard, with a body triangle to boot. Silva started landing elbows from his back. Then Leites stood up. When he tried to regain his position, Silva got to his feet.

After almost no action for a period of time, Silva connected with a right hand. Leites netted a mild low kick. Then another low kick, this one by Silva. Another low kick by Silva connected. Then the bell.

Hard to call a winner on these rounds, as nothing is going on. Give the stanza to Leites based on ground control. Twice early in the third, Leites fell on the canvas to his back. The second time may have come after an eye poke. Silva connected with some low kicks on the bicycle.

Then it happened again after another Leites takedown attempt failed. The two traded low kicks when Silva let him back up. Silva is starting to land low kicks with ease. Silva then came inside and looked for the clinch, only to see Leites fall to his back again. When they got back up, Silva hit home with a nice body kick. Later, when Silva tried to come inside with strikes, Leites fell to the canvas again. When he got up again, Silva connected with some nice sidekicks to the legs (not usually seen), a high kick, and then began to pick him part on all levels with strikes in spots.

Amazingly, Leites actually seemed to try to slide into his opponent's legs to no avail. This round is Silva's. Boos began raining down at the bell. Leites just isn't fighting anymore.

Silva connected with a few sidekicks to Leites's legs early on in the fourth. These are going to hurt the knees soon, if they haven't already. Moments later, with Silva taunting, The Spider connected with some nice low kicks. Then a hard right hand by Silva and a head kick followed. Then another couple of sidekicks.

Leites looks done.

Silva is picking him apart. In the middle of the round, he shirked another takedown attempt. Toward the end of the round, Leites fell to his back again.

Then the bell. Finally. Silva is not being aggressive enough, as he isn't throwing enough combinations. Leites is hardly even fighting at this point, seeming happy with survival alone.

Silva shirked a couple of takedown attempts early in the final stanza. After escaping a leglock attempt, Silva hit home with some nice rights on the ground. The fight ended up in the same spot after a moment on their feet, where Silva connected with rights again. Chants of "Bullsh?," emanated from the crowd. Then came shouts of "GSP." Some more dominance in striking in spots came from Silva without much else.

Then the end came. Anderson Silva will clearly win this fight by unanimous decision. Once Thales Leites realized that he couldn't bring his opponent to the ground and control him there, he in essence stopped going for it aggressively and instead seemed content to survive. On the flip side, Silva, though good in spots, was not aggressive enough to make for an exciting fight. The bottom line is that the next guy that fights Silva has to be the kind that brings the fight to him very aggressively.

Georges St. Pierre or Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, anyone?

In the end, UFC 97 was a disappointing night because of the Silva- Leites encounter. It just wasn't exciting enough, even if Silva's striking was clearly dominant in spots. That said, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua proved himself in a big way, knocking out Liddell. Further, the Cantwell- Cane fight was entertaining, as was the Wiman- Stout encounter.

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