By Thomas Gerbasi
MONTREAL, April 18 – With a confident sneer and a dose of Slayer leading him into the Octagon Saturday night at the Bell Centre, 39-year old UFC superstar Chuck Liddell had all the pieces in place for a triumphant return after a knockout loss to Rashad Evans last September. But four minutes and 28 seconds later, it was his opponent, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who broke back into the ranks of the winning as he knocked Liddell out and resurrected his own ailing career.
“I’m disappointed,” said Liddell, who has lost four of his last five bouts. “I had a great camp, I was great shape.”
“The Iceman” was non-committal about his fighting future, leaving the spotlight to rightfully shine on the triumphant Rua, a former PRIDE star who was coming off a loss to Forrest Griffin, two knee surgeries, and a lackluster win over Mark Coleman.
But tonight, the real “Shogun” was back.
With flashbulbs lighting up the Bell Centre, Liddell and Rua circled, poking each other with kicks to find their range. Twice in the opening minute, Liddell fired off his lethal right hand, but Rua’s defense was solid. In a subsequent exchange, Rua left with a cut high on his forehead, but it did not deter the Brazilian from trading with the former UFC light heavyweight boss. At the midway point of the round, Rua took Liddell to the mat and looked for a submission, but Liddell broke loose, got back to his feet, and looked to reset his offense. When Liddell would attack, Rua would counter effectively, and suddenly with less than a minute remaining, a left hook to the head dropped Liddell hard to the canvas. Liddell, stunned, tried to clear his head, but Rua wouldn’t let him, and a series of right hands brought in Mario Yamasaki to stop the fight at the 4:28 mark of the round.
With the win, Rua improves to 18-3; Liddell falls to 21-7.
London, Ontario’s Sam Stout showed an improved all-around game and thrilled his home country fans with a close three round unanimous decision win over Matt Wiman in a fast-paced and entertaining lightweight scrap.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Stout, who improves to 15-5-1; Wiman falls to 10-5.
Wiman came out fast, and after some heated exchanges, he took Stout down to the canvas. With nothing open on the mat, the two stood and resumed hostilities, with both fighters landing some hard shots before going back to the ground for a spell. Once standing, the two didn’t spend more than a couple of seconds apart before landing with some punch or kick, and not surprisingly, the first round ended in a flurry of activity.
Little changed in terms of action in round two, and that was a good thing. Impressively, Stout continued to show new wrinkles to his game as he fought off Wiman’s ground attack by reversing position and working his way back to his feet. Wiman kept coming forward, but it was clear that he was not going to hurt the battle-hardened striker. Stout sensed this and apparently dropped Wiman with a kick, but Wiman looked to be playing possum as he went for a submission as Stout moved in. After a scramble, the two rose and Stout kept pressing, with Wiman looking at the clock, hoping the round would end.
Wiman rushed out of his corner at the bell to start the final round, and he made a concerted effort to get Stout to the ground, finally settling for Stout’s back with under four minutes left. Once on the mat, Wiman fought to get Stout’s neck, but the Canadian wasn’t having it, and he was able to turn around and get into Wiman’s guard. Then it was Stout on the offensive as he landed his share of ground strikes, and with two minutes left, the two stood. Wiman took Stout back down immediately, cutting him over the eye with his ground attack just before the two stood and traded until the final bell.
The Ultimate Fighter season eight’s Krzysztof Soszynski scored his most impressive UFC win to date as he submitted Brian Stann in the first round. It was a victory made even sweeter for the Winnipeg fighter due to it coming in Canada.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Soszynski. “This is unbelievable.”
Clearly enjoying the home country advantage, Soszynski (18-9-1) went right at Stann at the opening bell and looked to earn his respect early. After some good inside work by Soszynski, Stann (6-2) broke loose but was quickly taken to the canvas. Soszynski quickly worked his way into the mount, but Stann powered his way out. Soszynski still found himself in a favorable spot though, and he eventually started working on the former WEC champion’s arm. The tap out by Stann due to the kimura came moments later at the 3:53 mark.
Cheick Kongo moved further up the heavyweight ranks in his battle with fellow striker Antoni Hardonk, using an effective ground and pound attack to halt his foe in the second round.
There was no feeling out process between the two heavyweight giants as they each tried to finish things with their trademark kicks. After some good early work by Hardonk (8-5), by the 1:30 mark, Kongo (24-4-1) turned into the aggressor, eventually pinning his opponent to the fence. After a stalemate, referee Yves Lavigne separated the two. Kongo went on to trip Hardonk to the mat, and following another stalemate, Kongo moved in to look for a takedown. Eventually, Hardonk was taken to the mat, and Kongo landed with thudding ground strikes until the bell intervened.
The fight went back to the mat early in round two, with Kongo resuming his ground and pound attack with little resistance. By now, Hardonk was bleeding from the nose and trying to hold on in order to force a standup. It wouldn’t come though, and after an unanswered barrage of flush shots by Kongo, Lavigne rescued Hardonk at the 2:29 mark.
Light heavyweight up and comers Luiz Cane and Steve Cantwell opened up the main card with a bruising three round battle that saw Brazil’s Cane emerge victorious via a three round unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 and 30-27 twice for Cane.
Both fighters began throwing at each other from the opening bell, with Cane drawing blood from Cantwell’s nose. Cantwell moved in for a takedown, but Can stalled him and broke free before unleashing combinations that drove the Las Vegan across the ring. Cantwell fired right back, punctuating his own combinations with kicks, and as the round progressed, the two took turns showing off their techniques to each other and the crowd, with the more experienced Cane holding the edge thanks to some thudding uppercuts which eventually put Cantwell on the defensive.
Cane took the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to his second round offense, but unfortunately for the Brazilian, Cantwell decided to switch things up a bit, and his striking offense varied, leading to the landing of flush shots to the head and body which allowed him to pull even in the bout.
The pace quickened in the final round, with Cane going back on the attack and Cantwell – who was now showing swelling above the right eye - answering right back with his own power shots. Cane’s flurries were coming more frequently though, and more importantly, they were hitting the mark. Of course, just when you thought Cane – whose face showed the marks of battle as well - was ready to finish things, Cantwell would roar back.
With the win, Cane improves to 8-1; Cantwell falls to 10-2 with 1 NC.
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KO of Liddell Signals the Resurrection of Rua
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - With a confident sneer and a dose of Slayer leading him into the Octagon Saturday night at the Bell Centre, 39-year old UFC superstar Chuck Liddell had all the pieces in place for a triumphant return after a knockout loss to Rashad Evans last September. But four minutes and 28 seconds later, it was his opponent, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who broke back into the ranks of the winning as he knocked Liddell out and resurrected his own ailing career.