Fighters battled Father Time and themselves at UFC 93
Mauricio Rua was once the premier light heavyweight in the MMA world. Not anymore, as he proved Saturday. Michael Woods looks at what else we learned from UFC 93.
The four fighters who topped the UFC 93 card in Dublin -- Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Mark Coleman -- each can boast a rich fighting ledger filled with deserved acclaim and championships. But to varying degrees, were each to assess his place in the game and his potential prospects moving forward, he probably could reach the conclusion that the bulk of his in-the-cage achievements already have been realized.
Yes, there was a bittersweet air at the O2 arena, where older warhorses tangled with one another. It is with a tinge of melancholy, then, that we offer the five things we learned from UFC 93.
1. SCREAMING AT THE TV DOESN'T WORK
"Hold up your hands!" "Raise your hands!" "Lift your arms!" "Protect yourself!"
Everything I yelled at the TV to Coleman as he huffed, puffed and got pounded down by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua fell on deaf ears.
Coleman, 44, was positively gassed by the first round, as the toll to cut down from 240 pounds to 205 evidently was considerable. One couldn't help but cringe as Rua sized up Coleman in the rematch to their controversial February 2006 Pride bout while The Hammer's chest heaved and his hands hung by his sides.
We thought the UFC Hall of Famer might pull off a miracle and finish the fight with one single hammerfist, but alas, Rua caught him with five unanswered strikes, including a flashy uppercut, and that was it for Coleman.
The Hammer, if he chooses to soldier on, should choose a lesser-caliber opponent than even this rusty version of Rua. Coleman's effort in making 205 is to be applauded, but he hasn't been able to stave off the inevitable decline that comes from aging. His effort brought to mind a quote from a Dubliner, Jonathan Swift. "No wise man ever wished to be younger," Swift wrote. "Except," he could've added, "a fighter."
2. UFC ISN'T SHOGUN'S STOMPING GROUND
Think Rua sometimes sits and ponders and wishes 2009 were instead '05, when he was the man in Pride? The Octagon hasn't been a welcoming arena for Pride expats, and a prime exhibit in that vein is the 27-year-old Brazilian Rua.
First, Shogun gets schooled by Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut at UFC 76 in September 2007. Then he looks underwhelming as he labors to take out a clearly diminished Coleman.
To be fair, knee injuries have sapped something from Shogun, and the rust factor might be considerable. (He hadn't gloved up since the loss to Griffin.) But he might want to consider jetting Fertittaville and securing fights where stomps and soccer kicks are fair game.
This showing against Coleman, even if he did come away with a TKO3 win, didn't raise Rua's stock at all.
3. SOMETIMES STYLES MAKE FIGHTS BORING
Hey, not to be a hater. But the Dan Henderson-Rich Franklin main event never really got untracked, did it? The two athletes are so closely matched with a reasonably similar skill set that the headlining tussle didn't achieve a superlative liftoff.
But if you are the 38-year-old Henderson (24-7), you really don't care whether the fight wasn't a barn burner. You earned the win, and your public profile is set to jump about 500 percent because you will be coaching the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter" across from Brit Michael Bisping, whom you are favored to beat. Then you get another crack at Anderson Silva. Wait is that a good thing?
4. SUPERMODELS AND FIGHTERS ARE OLD AT 35
As for Franklin, the loss to Henderson will send him into deep contemplation mode. He has to wonder whether he still can beat the elite.
And if yes, at which weight class?
Franklin, who will turn 35 in October, is a bit sensitive about his age, and the session of introspection following this loss figures to be painful. He lost his dad to a heart attack last year, so he has much to ponder.
But we think there is about a zero chance he will go back to being Mr. Franklin and teaching math at Oak Hills High in Cincinnati. He still is a high-level fighter who can steamroll anyone under the elite level.
There is no shame in losing to the Silvas and Hendersons of the MMA world.
5. BOOM! GOES THE HAND GRENADE
Easy call for UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and UFC president Dana White. As soon as they locked down their second appearance in Ireland and booked the O2 arena, they had to know the very first fighter they'd tap to appear on the card: "The Irish Hand Grenade," Marcus Davis (16-5). Davis is beloved in Ireland, as his ancestors hail from Waterford, the oldest city in that nation. Davis defeated Jason Tan at UFC 72 in Belfast in June 2007 and followed that up with a split-decision win over hard-core banger Chris Lytle on Saturday.
Hey, mind if we play matchmaker? How about a rematch between Davis and Mike Swick, who put on an entertaining slugfest at UFC 85 in June 2008?
Michael Woods, the managing editor of TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and The New York Observer.