It was a no-brainer that the UFC would return to Montreal after the astounding success it enjoyed with UFC 83, but UFC 97 was threatened before it ever started.
Athletic commission officials in Quebec said the unified rules that the UFC uses would have to be modified in order to let the show go forward at the Bell Centre on April 18. There were reports that Quebec officials would ban elbows and knees.
The UFC sent vice president for regulatory affairs Marc Ratner to Quebec to solve the problem. In the end, the only difference was that there would be no foot stomps allowed in the fight.
The card then went off without a hitch and was once again wildly successful at the gate. The UFC set a company record for attendance, drawing 21,451.
The main event, a middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites, was not so successful. Leites wasn't willing to engage Silva and Silva didn't push the action. The result was a slow, cautious bout that enraged the crowd and had it booing. Even UFC president Dana White was critical of the bout.
"I can honestly tell you that I've never put on an event that I was embarrassed to be at until tonight," White said. "I want to publicly apologize to all the fans."
The card may also have marked the end of the legendary career of ex-light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Liddell was knocked out by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, his fourth loss in his last five fights.
White said Liddell would retire, though Liddell said only that it was "probably" his last fight.
Liddell jumped to Silva's aid as Silva was being peppered with questions about his performance at the post-fight news conference. "He was attacking the whole time," an irritated Liddell said.
Popular middleweight David Loiseau returned to the UFC, but offered little and was thrashed by Ed Herman. After the fight, the UFC again cut Loiseau.
Former U.S. Marine Corps hero Brian Stann, an ex-WEC light heavyweight champion, made his UFC debut, but it was forgettable. He was easily submitted by Krsysztof Soszynski.
Quoteworthy: "Everything I trained to do, I did," – an apparently oblivious Silva, through an interpreter. RESULTS
Eliot Marshall def. Vinny Malgahaes, unanimous decision
T.J. Grant def. Ryo Chonan, split decision
Mark Bocek def. David Belkheiden, submission (rear naked choke), 4:57 R1
Ed Herman def. David Loiseau, unanimous decision
Nate Quarry def. Jason MacDonald, TKO, 2:29 R1
Denis Kang def. Xavier Foupa-Pokam, unanimous decision
Luiz Cane def. Steven Cantwell, unanimous decision
Cheick Kongo def. Antoni Hardonk, TKO, 2:29 R2
Krzystof Soszynski def. Brian Stann, submission (Kimura), 3:53 R1
Mauricio Rua def. Chuck Liddell, TKO, 4:38
Sam Stout def. Matt Wiman, unanimous decision
UFC middleweight championship: Anderson Silva def. Thales Leites, unanimous decision (Silva retains title).