UFC 132 was last Saturday night, and it took a few days for the results to fully resonate. That said, its time to write about 30 minutes that brought about a range of emotion in many from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Saturday night UFC 132 took place live from Las Vegas and in the span of thirty minutes; two amazing things happened that changed the landscape of the UFC. First, Tito Ortiz came out to meet Ryan Bader with his career 100 percent on the line. He hadn’t won in five years; he had dealt with a laundry list of injuries, personal matters and other setbacks to get to UFC 132. He’d been discounted, discredited and certainly disheartened over the past few years. However when his music hit, he came to handle business and two minutes later, he was straddling the top of the cage, hands in the air, a winner again.
Tito Ortiz dominated the Light Heavyweight scene at a time when all you needed was explosive takedowns, cardio and ground and pound. As the sport progressed, he remained trapped between evolving into a current fighter and relying on what had always been his bread and butter. It seems he finally trusts his boxing more and he caught Bader a minute or so into the first frame with a right hand that dropped Bader in his tracks. Tito immediately sunk in an arm in choke, dropped to his guard and squeezed. It must have felt like hours, but seconds later, Ryan Bader was tapping out and Tito Ortiz was pulling the gravedigger out of retirement.
For Ortiz fans it was the most amazing moment imaginable. When I wrote about Ortiz’ ability to win the fight Friday even I was hoping more than actually reasoning. I knew Ortiz could beat Bader, I just didn’t know if he’d pull it off. He certainly did and for the time being staved off retirement.
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Retirement….fast forward some twenty minutes and we come to the lowest of the low segment. Wanderlei Silva is possibly the most popular fighter in the sport. He loves his fans, refers to them as friends and he actually means it. Silva had been on the shelf for nearly 16 months recovering from multiple injuries, including a surgically repaired knee.
Much like Tito faced in Bader, Wanderlei was facing a younger version of himself in slugger Chris Leben. As Wanderlei stepped into the Octagon with all those months of recovery and training behind him, he was ready to go. Twenty Seven seconds later, he was unconscious and being looked at by officials and doctors. It was difficult to watch, and immediately afterwards the speculation began about whether or not he’d retire after the loss.
Dana White was quoted as saying he needed to have a “heart to heart” with Wanderlei but also said he felt it was the “End of the Road for Wanderlei,” at the post fight press conference. Well, the decision to retire or not isn’t Dana’s or the MMA community’s, it belongs to Wanderlei Silva. Whether Dana uses him in the UFC is of course his choice.
Wanderlei stated he wants revenge and isn’t thinking about retirement at all. I don’t think Wand is necessarily done, I think he needs to change his gameplan and trust the skills he has learned. Going toe to toe launching wild hooks isn’t the best gameplan against Leben. Had Wanderlei worked behind jabs and low kicks, I believe we aren’t even talking about this right now.
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Bottom line is, whatever Mr. Silva choices to do and whatever Dana chooses to do, this fight with Leben doesn’t tarnish what Wanderlei means to the sport and his legacy in it. It seems that the only people who say Silva was exposed or is overrated are the ones who joined the MMA fan community after Pride and don’t know what he did in that organization for so many years. If you love MMA and are a relatively new fan, do yourself a favor and check out Wanderlei’s fights from Pride. You will get a new respect for the man and understand why so many fans went from being exhilarated at Ortiz’ victory to gutted when Silva was finished by Leben.
The highs and lows in this sport are what drives it, and drives us to care about it. You have to be vested to pay fifty plus dollars to see the PPVs or buy the DVDs. The UFC needs to remember that in the end, it’s the fighters that move us and not just the fight. You can’t replace Wanderlei Silva or Tito Ortiz with Chael Sonnen or the latest TUF incarnation and expect us to care. fans love the artist and the art.
Nobody is suggesting you bring Liddell out of retirement and have him and Wanderlei fight until they are concussed, sweaty, punch-drunk shells who can’t spell their own names but when the time comes for a legend to step away from the sport, allow that legend the grace and respect to have 24 hours to give it some thought before you signify the end of the road. Wanderlei has absolutely deserved that.
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