Octagon observations: What now for Kimbo?
You can follow Dave Doyle on Twitter at @yahoodoyle.
MONTREAL – An octagon’s worth of observations after an eventful UFC 113 at the Bell Centre:
1. End of The Kimbo Show: The legendary street brawler’s stint in the UFC did about as well as could be expected. UFC got what it wanted in using Kimbo to breathe ratings life back into “The Ultimate Fighter,” and Slice earned respect in the community by making a real commitment to become a legitimate mixed martial artist. Ultimately, he didn’t make it, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. UFC president Dana White summed it up on Saturday night: “He deserved another fight in the UFC and he lost. I’ve got nothing but respect for Kimbo and I like him as a person. And I think he’s carried himself really well.”
Slice will make another big payday somewhere if he still feels like fighting. He’s tailor-made for Japan’s matchmaking style, which often values showmanship ahead of pure skills. In the United States, some promoter somewhere will throw money at him in order to get some attention. And it will probably work.
2. “Shogun’s” tale: Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was all but written off in many circles – including here – as just another ex-PRIDE washout. But Rua never complained in public about his plight, took the time to heal his injuries, and mounted a serious effort to get back to the top. Whoever wasn’t already on the “Shogun” bandwagon hopped aboard after he was on the wrong end of a highway robbery in his first attempt at Lyoto Machida’s title. Saturday night, Rua became the fifth fighter to hold the light heavyweight title in just under three years. If he can return stability to the 205-pound weight class, the “all-time great” status expected of him when he competed in PRIDE will be his after all.
3. What’s next? Let’s slow down on the Rua-Anderson Silva talk for the time being. Silva has to defend his title at middleweight again and prove he won’t spit on the fans who shell out $45 to watch him headline before getting rewarded with a crack at the 205 belt. Besides, the next UFC event features two former light heavyweight champions in Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who, due to various circumstances, never got their title rematch. White wouldn’t quite commit Saturday to giving the winner a title shot – the guess here is that White doesn’t quite trust Jackson not to flake if he beats Evans – but this makes more sense than any other scenario at the moment.
4. “The Dragon” will return: MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” sort of game, but let’s hope Lyoto Machida isn’t forgotten based on a single bad loss, which, after all, was the first defeat of his career. Machida’s point karate and sumo training gave longtime fans a blast from the past and the firepower he displayed in his wins over Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans demonstrated that he is close to a complete package. Rua shattered Machida’s invincible aura with his fearlessness on Saturday night, so it will be intriguing to see how a fighter as cerebral as “The Dragon” responds to his first major setback.
5. Do the right thing: For all the criticism, fair and otherwise, that White has received for his decisions at the UFC helm, Saturday night demonstrated why he is the sort of leader needed to successfully run a promotion in a business as cutthroat as mixed martial arts. There’s a code of honor and respect in MMA and there are lines you simply don’t cross if you want to compete in the major leagues. What Paul Daley did to Josh Koscheck, sucker-punching him after the fight was over, is a zero-tolerance infraction. White sent an unequivocal message by cutting Daley on the spot. No doubt, some reporters and bloggers will look at every single decision White has ever made in a decade as company president and try to trump up some sort of charge of hypocrisy or inconsistency in his decision making, but White made the right decision in this case, period, end of story.
6. In the money: Make no mistake about it, Georges St. Pierre against Josh Koscheck for the welterweight title is a money fight. Koscheck cemented his place as the fighter UFC fans most love to hate with his performance in his victory over Daley and with his trash talk afterward. And that’s before we get several months of Koscheck’s mug all over “The Ultimate Fighter” as a coach. As for the title match itself, while it is still hard to see Koscheck beating GSP the second time around, he was, in fact, the last person to win a round against the current champion, back in 2007, and does figure to give the champ his most competitive matchup in quite some time.
7. True talent: It’s hard to believe that Alan “The Talent” Belcher is the same fighter who was TKO’d in short order by Jason Day in Montreal two years ago. Since then, Belcher has become one of the sport’s most improved fighters, and he never looked better than he did in hostile territory on Saturday night. Belcher returned to the Bell Centre and finished a motivated Patrick Cote in front of a sellout crowd that was vociferously rooting for the Quebec City native. Belcher says he wants to fight Anderson Silva, and Dana White sees it as feasible. “I was very impressed with Belcher tonight,” he said. “He’s in the mix. I don’t disagree with him.”
8. Woe Canada: It appears the easiest way for a UFC fighter worried about job security to keep his job is by moving north of the border. After Saturday’s action, the five Canadian fighters on the non-televised undercard – Jason MacDonald, Tim Hague, Joe Doerksen, T.J. Grant and Jonathan Goulet – are a combined 2-13 in their past 15 Zuffa fights. Granted, this is a bit unfair to MacDonald, who lost due to a freak leg injury on a takedown, but only the cagey veteran Doerksen, who suckered Tom Lawlor into a rear-naked choke, left the Bell Centre cage as a winner.