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Afterthoughts on UFC 97 and more

Sunday, 9 a.m. ET -- Maynard, 1; critics, 0

An able-bodied but ineffective Kyle Maynard impressed critics but not judges Saturday when he met Bryan Fry in an Auburn Fight Night mixed martial arts competition held in Auburn, Ala.

Maynard, who fights at 135 pounds and was carried into the ring on piggyback, slipped punches with ease but was unable to close the distance and spent the majority of the nine-minute bout running sprints at Fry's legs. Fry earned 30-27 scores for the decision, but appeared unwilling or unable to mount any sustained offense against Maynard, landing less than a half-dozen strikes to his head and torso during the fight.

(Prior to the opening bell, it was announced that Maynard couldn't secure his gloves, possibly due to arena humidity, and was therefore not allowed to strike.)

It's worth noting that Maynard, by virtue of his missing limbs, is likely substantially stronger than slimmer peers in the 135-pound class, and that his upper arms are calloused blunt-force instruments that appear to pack some power in training footage. It's also worth noting that Maynard makes me feel like an inadequate, lazy slob.

The extent of Maynard's exile -- to Alabama, a state with no athletic commission to veto his goal -- was on ready display during the morbid $14.95 Internet broadcast, which resembled a snuff film thanks to the grainy stationary camera pointed at a square cage. The action was halted early on for an opponent to retrieve a missing tooth; "Big Willie's Hot Dogs" was thanked during commentary; the commentators grew increasingly inebriated as the night wore on. Carnegie Hall it wasn't.

I would hope and expect Maynard has had his fill of MMA: Not getting seriously hurt seems to be a point well proven. No one climbs Everest twice.

Well, some people do, but those people are insane.

Achievement recorded, Kyle. Now don't go giving your mother another anxiety attack.


Saturday, 9 a.m. ET -- The mailbag: Going postal

Silva's Oil Change

We all saw it Saturday: Anderson Silva transferring grease from his face to his chest and arms. The mainstream media have a duty to mention it, no? After the ire of many that Georges St. Pierre caught for his corner's (alleged) stupidity, here you have a man about to face a top jiu-jitsu practitioner and he's rubbing grease from his face over his arms and chest like it's sunscreen. --Tony V

Well, "all" might be a bit of a misnomer: I didn't catch this during the initial broadcast -- I might've been busy asphyxiating on a Baked Dorito -- but observers had animated GIFs of the incident up within hours.

It was a little odd, granted, and God knows if Thales Leites had lost an armbar or triangle that we'd never hear the end of it, but I think St. Pierre's recent mini-scandal has made us more than a little paranoid. Vaseline smeared on faces is going to leave residue elsewhere, and fighters are a sweaty, slippery mess minutes into the fight regardless.

Couture's last run

The prospect of Randy Couture defeating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would do nothing but add to the already established legacy of the UFC Hall of Famer. If Nogueira's fight with Frank Mir was truly affected by the rumored staph infection, this in itself shows just what kind of professional the former UFC heavyweight champion truly is. While most fighters would have pulled out, Nogueira did not let his fans down.

Was Nogueira's fight with Frank Mir truly a fluke, or is there something to the fears of his many fans who believe he may have taken too many shots to the head in his career? --Jesse D

If I may abuse pro wrestling terminology, Couture-Nogueira might be a "loser leaves town" match, especially if one looks particularly plodding.

I have no clue what affliction Nogueira might be suffering from, but spending two and a half fights with Fedor Emelianenko stuffed in your guard probably doesn't contribute to a sustainable career. It's like getting run over by the same truck three times.

Silva Lining

Anderson Silva should not be apologizing to anyone for any of his performance. Leites wanted nothing to do with him. He tried for a takedown, which was rejected. I don't blame Anderson for fighting the fight that he did. It's his belt and it's up to the challengers to take that away. By no means at all should he risk his streak and title because of the fans and Dana White. The guy has put on showcases before …This is a business … I thought that Anderson fought amazingly [well]. He didn't have an opponent that could hang with him. Fighters are not only as good as their last fights. It's called a career for a reason. -- Seth L

I was surprised at how hard White came down on Silva. There was little latitude granted for the things you describe. If Silva meets Demian Maia in the summer and drops more Octagon Ambien on the crowd, I would expect there to be some kind of serious repercussion. Cutting or stripping him is not as outlandish an idea as some might think.

White is a tastemaker among casual fans in this industry. If he tells them Silva is the pound-for-pound great, many will believe it. If he tells them Silva is a head case who has combat paralysis and didn't deserve his standing, they'll buy that, too.

Do not underestimate the power of the spin.

Wrestling with Respect

I'm surprised you hate pro wrestling so much. Even though I wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near an event, and try not to discuss non-Japanese pro wrestling in polite company, most MMA fans have at least a soft spot for wrestling, as a reminder of a misspent youth. -- Alex C


I enjoyed pro wrestling when I was 14. As an adult, I feel embarrassed for its participants. I cringe at the bad acting, and I feel depressed that so many are dying before age 50 because their hearts can't take the painkiller/steroid/uppers cocktail they funnel down their throats to keep a road schedule. It seems to be so much sacrifice for such a big barrel of nothing.

I freely admit I just don't get it. And while I may have been a little harsh in an earlier evaluation of wrestling fans, I maintain that I have yet to meet any Nobel laureates wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirt.

All Bobby Lashley did at TNA Lockdown was stand at the entrance ramp and look at the ring. That's it. They played a Lashley video and some music. No one knows what he's going to do. That's what keeps Pro wrestling interesting … speculation. We don't know if Lashley is going to team with the evil Kurt Angle or oppose the former 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist. -- Leslie D

The suspense is killing me.


Friday, 6:20 p.m. ET -- Jones set to blend boxing and MMA a second time

The Los Angeles Times reports -- dare I say threatens -- that fading boxing Hall of Famer Roy Jones is plotting another hybrid MMA/boxing program for the summer.

Jones, who would likely fight Jeff Lacy in the main event, used a similar Frankenstein approach for "March Badness," a March pay-per-view that was warmly received by purists and dismissed as a bit of a hot mess by most everyone else. Despite the commonality of punching someone in the nose, boxing and MMA seem to appeal to very different demographics: asking one segment to remain patient while the other sits amused is a tough sell in an already congested premium event schedule.

It's an even riskier gamble considering July's UFC 100, a multi-main event card that's likely to gobble up much of the disposable cash in fight fans' pockets that month.


Friday, 6:15 p.m. ET -- Lashley signs to fight Sapp; world not interested

In the kind of fight only their mothers could love, Bobby Lashley and Bob Sapp have agreed to face one another June 27th in Biloxi, Miss.

Despite an admitted weakness for nonsensical fights with no real stakes involved, I can't stir up much interest in this one. Sapp has been irrelevant in MMA for years, having neither the time nor inclination to train at the level needed to evolve beyond his huff-'n-puff haymaker style. Lashley, meanwhile, looked turgid in a win over Jason Guida in March.

A technique clinic this isn't; Lashley really needs to get in some rounds against more threatening opposition. He was criticized for the Guida victory, but he was up against a veteran with nearly 40 bouts to Lashley's one. It's an easily excused performance. But this would appear to be regressing.

Prize Fight Promotions is said to be the brain trust here, and while they have experience in boxing, their apparent non-issue with Lashley fighting for the MFC on May 15 doesn't bode well. Building a pay-per-view event around an athlete who could easily get injured, even in a win, a little over a month prior isn't exactly strategizing at its finest.


Friday, 3:40 p.m. ET -- No arms? No legs? No problem. Maynard fights tomorrow

Mike Chiappetta provides one of many feature snapshots of Kyle Maynard in the final 48 hours leading up to Maynard's MMA debut in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday.

Maynard, for the uninitiated, made waves several years ago with his amateur wrestling prowess despite being limbless from the elbows and knees down. He had unsuccessfully petitioned the Georgia State Athletic Commission for a license to fight in 2007; Alabama is apparently way more into the whole personal-responsibility thing.

Media and editorial reaction to Maynard's ambitions has delivered a heavy dose of speculation that it could signal the end of Western civilization. For some observers, the sight of a physically restricted athlete getting punched is on the same sadistic level as an old-fashioned puppy-kicking.

"This could do a lot of damage to the sport and hurt a lot of people," Casca-Grossa's J.J. Cornell told the Montgomery Advertiser. "I hate it for Kyle, because I respect … him and what he's accomplished, but this [fight] looks like a scheme to sell tickets. There are a lot of people who are [ticked off] about this going down."

Much of the venom appears to be spit in the general direction of fight promoter David Oblas, accused of being a remorseless sadist and opportunist.

In Oblas' defense, Maynard is clearly a willing participant who would choose to compete in MMA with or without Oblas' assist. The real issue is the growing penchant for Maynard and others to flee to a state like Alabama, which has no regulatory athletic body, to circumvent the policies intended to safeguard athletes' health.

Putting on the devil's advocate horns: If Maynard is as passionate about MMA as he indicates, why defy the structure that's helped give it a measure of acceptance?


Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET -- MMA promotion: So easy, even your kid could do it

Students at Milford High School in Milford, N.H., were recently invited to design a promotional campaign for a local cage-fighting event as part of their curriculum.

Two things.

1. The UFC might have made good use of these kids circa 2001 -- at the nadir of their Carmen Electra/Zuffa record label advertising delirium.

2. I clearly went to the wrong high school.


Thursday, 8:45 p.m. ET -- Carano's dueling suitors

Gina Carano spoke to FanHouse this week and expressed wishy-washy sentiment over the question of signing with Strikeforce.

On possibly signing with the UFC instead: "I would have to go and fight [the contract that Strikeforce bought from EliteXC] in court and that would just seem like it would put more months in between me fighting, staying active and staying sane."

Carano also indicated the decision wasn't about money … which means it's clearly about money. It's also about the ability of Strikeforce or the UFC to have a self-propelled women's division once Carano and rival Cristiane Santos finally duke it out.

Female MMA has matured exponentially in the past two years, but whether there's life in it after Carano has filled her quota remains to be seen. At the moment, it's a one-woman show.


Thursday, 8:40 p.m. ET -- Is Mir looking at Kongo and through Lesnar?

In this week's edition of "MMA Live," Frank Mir -- who owns a 50 percent equity stake in the UFC's heavyweight championship -- speculates that Cheick Kongo might be next in line for a title shot after Mir's appointment to stand in front of runaway train Brock Lesnar is over in July. (Is 18 months enough time to have enough submission awareness to stay out of Mir's bear-trap ground game? My guess is -- nah.)

Equally likely, though, is Randy Couture's being squeezed for one last title bid should he get past Antonio Nogueira in August. Kongo and Shane Carwin are relatively fresh, but Couture, who is about to turn 46 this summer, is rapidly approaching his expiration date.

If Couture trumps Nogueira -- and it's a solid possibility, considering Nogueira's abrupt career tailspin -- I'd expect Kongo and Carwin to warm the bench until the new year.


Thursday, 4:11 p.m. ET -- "Bully Beatdown" gets whacked

Trouper that I am, I still lasted only five minutes during an attempted viewing of "Bully Beatdown," the hyper MTV series that abuses sneering "bullies" allegedly recruited from central casting. Acquired taste Jason "Mayhem" Miller acts as proxy to the bully's victims, helping them garner some form of justice when their tormenters are abused in a homogenized, lawyer-friendly MMA contest. The whole thing is about as spontaneous as a prom night groping. It might be God's greatest mistake.

Could be. "My Bodyguard" is still a great movie, though.

Despite the show's dubious claims to being nonfiction, the CBC reports that anti-harassment group BullyingCanada still wants it taken off the air. Hiring a trained mercenary to beat up an antagonist, the group argues, is sending the wrong message to kids.


Thursday, 3:30 p.m. ET -- Mir on bad behavior

RawVegas.tv quotes partial UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir's growing concern over tongues getting too much of a workout in the UFC.

"Junie Browning was highlighted on the show and didn't even win," Mir said. "Efrain Escudero won the reality show and … do most people know who Efrain is?"

Mir makes a valid point, but you can point to just as many athletes who draw with humility (Randy Couture, Georges St. Pierre) as with hubris (Brock Lesnar, Tito Ortiz). And if it's any consolation, the novelty of seeing Browning getting punched in the face is likely to wear off any day now.


Thursday, 2:25 p.m. ET -- Pound-for-pound: Submitting to subjectivity

Let's be realistic: There will never be a consensus "pound-for-pound" great in MMA. Everyone has their own idea of the attributes necessary for that kind of inflated title, and it's difficult to sway anyone from their beliefs. (And God help any contender who happens to suffer a loss -- you'd have a better chance of remaining in the sport's good graces if you had contracted leprosy. And scabies. At the same time.)

Sherdog.com makes an honest effort to crystallize the situation: The site's latest rankings anoint Anderson Silva the world's current alpha fighter, with Georges St. Pierre a close No. 2.

(For the record: I do not contribute to rankings. I also don't attend the annual picnic.)

There's little dysfunction here, though I'd swap Silva and St. Pierre in a heartbeat. Timidity, showboating and apathy aren't traits I'd consider valuable in a fighter sitting on top of the pile. Can anyone imagine St. Pierre having a staring contest with an opponent, as Silva essentially did with Thales Leites on Saturday? Or having such contempt for the match that he'd bother punching Leites in the foot?

Yes, St. Pierre had a nice streak broken by losing to an otherwise underwhelming Matt Serra in 2007. But he avenged the loss, and he has established a level of dominance in all ranges of fighting. He is the sport's most complete fighter, and unlike third-place finisher Fedor Emelianenko, he displays those abilities in a deeply talented weight division. (Emelianenko has been stepping it up of late, but the ghosts of Zulus past continue to tarnish his rep.)

The list -- which somewhat dubiously includes Forrest Griffin and Mike Brown -- might also have benefited from the presence of Lyoto Machida, who remains the owner of an undefeated record despite escalating competition.


Thursday, 2:15 p.m. ET -- Is Ricardo Arona too boring for the UFC?

The excellent Brazilian fight sheet Tatame reports that former PRIDE standout Ricardo Arona has yet to be contacted by the UFC.

If you're stateside and haven't yet decided to blow a paycheck on a complete library of Pride events -- and you really should -- Arona might be best described as an aggressive wet blanket. He'll jump on you, control you, stifle you, but won't necessarily bring the violence of a carjacking. (Of his 18 fights, 10 went the distance.)

Is that a good enough reason to exclude him? What if the best fighter in the world happens to be a complete and total bore? If he's clipped from the circuit, doesn't that diminish the value of a championship?

Signing Arona to a 10-fight guarantee is perhaps not the wisest use of resources, but a standard deal with the expected provisions for an early cut would seem to be a low-risk means for determining his value. Arona has had his rough patches -- his last fight was a KO loss two years ago -- but he's certainly enough of a curiosity to warrant a prelim bout.

Whether he's receptive to prelim money is another matter.


Thursday, 2:05 p.m. ET -- Fedor vs. Aoki: Words fail me!

From BloodyElbow.com comes news guaranteed to furrow your brow: Fedor Emelianenko is set to face Shinya Aoki in DEEP/M-1 Challenge on April 29.

A lightweight submission machine, Aoki is roughly as muscular as Zac Efron; Emelianenko is built like a retaining wall. We assume this will be some kind of grappling contest, but it would not surprise us to see promoters mandate Emelianenko wear a blindfold while arming Aoki with a slingshot. Things get very weird very quickly over there.

Update: M-1 Global has announced that Emelianenko-Aoki will be a "five-minute sparring exhibition," which sounds vague and ominous. Never try to figure out the logic of a country that's produced an MP3-compatible toilet.


Wednesday, 6:44 p.m. ET -- Lombard lands haymaker in first fight in States

One more item: Cuban judoka Hector Lombard made his much-anticipated U.S. debut Friday in Norman, Okla., at Bellator Fighting Championships III. He did not disappoint.

It took Lombard just 70 seconds to dispatch Virgil Lozano. The 2000 Olympian registered the knockout with a vicious uppercut, a punch that was essentially thrown off his back foot. Lombard's feet were barely set, his body weight back, yet the blast still knocked Lozano out cold.

Lombard is unbeaten in his last 13 fights, and he just may be inching his way toward top-10 middleweight status. Certainly a name to monitor in 2009. …

-- Jon Anik


Wednesday, 6:31 p.m. ET -- "MMA Live" approaches a milestone

Fifty shows already. Seems like yesterday when "MMA Live" first got going here at ESPN. Our one-year anniversary is in two weeks, and we plan to look back at some of the more memorable moments from our first 52 episodes.

This week, Kenny Florian, Franklin McNeil and I are joined by UFC interim heavyweight champion Frank Mir to examine the fallout from UFC 97. Should Anderson Silva shoulder the bulk of the criticism after a dud of a main event in Montreal? How about directing some venom at the challenger, Thales Leites? We also look back at another forgettable performance for Chuck Liddell. Is this the end for The Iceman?

Plus, WAMMA vice president of fighter and promoter relations and MMA legend Pat Miletich stops by for the unveiling of April's WAMMA rankings. Also: Could the Octagon touch down in Boston before the end of 2009?

It's all ahead on Thursday, when episode No. 50 of "MMA Live" airs at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.com.

Jon Anik is the host of "MMA Live." He can be reached at jon.a.anik@espn.com.


Monday, 6:10 p.m. ET -- Liddell's one bright spot

Saturday's UFC 97 wasn't the evening Chuck Liddell had hoped for -- unless one counts the inevitable postfight parade of tanned, plasticine flesh that probably was waiting to comfort him -- but there was one margin note that might raise his spirits.

With his loss to Mauricio Rua, Liddell claimed the record for the most UFC bouts ever. It was his 22nd appearance in the Octagon. Prior to the Rua fight, Liddell and Tito Ortiz were tied with 21 contests apiece.

Paul Herrera, conversely, spent exactly 13 seconds in the Octagon. Thank Gary Goodridge.


Monday, 5:30 p.m. ET -- How did Anderson Silva and Thales Leites somehow make Demian Maia look bad?

Anderson Silva apologists have officially gone off the reservation: According to scuttle, it's actually matchmaker Joe Silva who is at fault for delivering a bad matchup of styles for the UFC's middleweight champion.

This would imply that the UFC should begin ignoring achievements in the cage and focus exclusively on challengers who make TV-friendly sense. Leites earned his shot, but because he won't come in and Silva won't move forward, it's a bad fight. … So we just junk it and call Ross Pointon?

A follow-up surge of dissent says Demian Maia -- another jiu-jitsu practitioner unlikely to get into a firefight with Silva -- should be avoided so that we don't get a repeat (actually, a three-peat) of Saturday's hot mess. What a shame it is to even consider. Maia is the most deserving of contenders at the moment, and he has a tangible chance of doing things to Silva on the floor that would very quickly put The Spider's pound-for-pound status in doubt.

It shouldn't be anyone's coal for Christmas, either: Silva has made it clear he wants to fight more often, and in his last two performances, he went out of his way to guarantee he suffered no derailing damage. Maia-Silva should be an easy August affair -- and perhaps by way of slight penalization for those performances, it might play second banana to a Randy Couture-Antonio Nogueira main event.


Monday, 1:35 p.m. ET -- Silva gets an "earful" from White -- by proxy

Yahoo's Kevin Iole reports that during Saturday's fan-bumming bout between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites, Dana White walked over to Silva's manager Ed Soares and expressed undisclosed sentiments. (Audio is unavailable and almost certainly would constitute not-safe-for-work content.)

White's specific comments haven't been shared, but it's safe to assume they weren't congratulatory. They have sparked discussion about the role of the promoter and whether he potentially could influence how an athlete competes. We know the UFC's participants have gotten the rah-rah speech before events in the past, but to address Silva's management in mid-competition is flirting with impropriety.

At UFC 5, SEG's Art Davie ordered John McCarthy to stand up a deadly-dull bout between rivals Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock after roughly 30 minutes of demoralizing guard play.

McCarthy obeyed -- this was in 1995, prior to the formation of any real organization -- and Shamrock immediately cracked Gracie with a punch that puffed his face. Royce's brother, Rorion, blamed Davie for the injury and sold his share of the UFC not long after. More recently, EliteXC's Jared Shaw was seen screaming at the cage official when paper tiger Kimbo Slice was at a disadvantage.

It's an ugly precedent to set. Rhetorical question: If White charged Silva's management, why not run over to Leites' and demand that he stop flopping to his back? (Rhetorical answer: because White has no authority over a fighter's decisions in the ring.)

White's frustration is understandable, particularly considering the corner he painted himself into with ceaseless talk about Silva representing the evolution of the fighting species. But doing laps around the Octagon and railing at management invites the wrong kind of attention.


Monday, 1:25 p.m. ET -- Lashley wrestles with respect

Barely a day or two after I lauded former WWE acrobat Bobby Lashley for arriving in MMA with the proper humility -- he had been content to enter the sport through the service entrance, fighting in smaller shows against lower-tier competition -- he has to go and ruin it.

Lashley popped up during something called "TNA Lockdown" Sunday night, which appears to be professional wrestling slang for "embarrassment to the human race." Lashley greeted former WWE pal Kurt Angle in the ring. I assume some poorly performed theater for the hygiene-challenged ensued.

Lashley obviously can do as he pleases to earn a buck, but I don't think his hybrid career will do the sport of MMA any favors in the States. It's a deranged spectacle, full of drug-addled performers taxing their adrenal glands in a poorly scripted imitation of athletics.

Max von Sydow had the quote in a Woody Allen film: "Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?" I really don't want to try.

Jake Rossen is the editor of Real Fighter magazine and a contributor to Sherdog.com. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.