UFC 84: Ill Will
Saturday, May 24, 2008
MGM Garden Arena
Las Vegas, Nevada
By Stephen Quadros, “The
UFC Lightweight Title Fight
-BJ Penn (Champion) vs. Sean Sherk (Challenger)
Not as spectacular a bout as the sweltering, pre-fight hype. Decision.
-Keith Jardine vs. Wanderlei Silva
“There Will Be Blood” and then...there will be a decision.
-Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz
Ad infinitum - a non-terminating repeating process, A.K.A. Decision.
...End of preview...
...OK, OK...I’m incorrigible.
I just wanted to see what would happen if I did that... Answer: nothing...
It’s UFC 84: “Nickname”...I mean “Ill Will” (sorry, a relapse). Actually the
former title idea is a sound one (pure genius) if, as a penalty (opposite of the
bonus system) the loser of these matches should be forced to relinquish their
nicknames and have to use a nickname chosen by their conquerors. Now THERE’S an
|BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (Champion)
Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk (Challenger)
UFC Lighweight Title Fight
Since the UFC reintroduced the
lightweight division, after a nearly two year absence, Sherk and Penn’s
name have been consistently in the hat as far as guys who could or would
be the top guy at that weight, “if” they ever held a title fight again.
But no one really thought that there would be the kind of combustion and
animosity that has grown between the two.
It is a well-documented fact that Sherk was stripped of his title for
using steroids, an accusation he vehemently denies. I had Sean on my old
radio show last year at Sherdog.com and he made a good and passionate
case. Unfortunately the California state athletic commission didn’t see
it that way and levied Sherk with a fine of $2,500 and suspended him for
six months (his original suspension was for a year but that was later
reduced). So when BJ poured salt on the wound and openly challenged and
derided the validity of Sherk’s claim of innocence, well, Penn was off
“The Muscle Shark’s” Christmas list...and the grudge angle was born in the
realm of two fighters who hadn’t really ever been known as ‘smack
In the fight business, it is a well know fact that publicly exhibited
personal animosity towards your opponent will get a fighter paid more
than when two humble masters “compare their skills in a friendly
contest”. Every third article I used to write back in the 1990s and the
early part of this decade used to harp on the fact that fighters for the
most part lacked the personalities and/or heat to make their clashes
compelling to NON-hardcore fans. But here it is nearly a decade later
and many of these ‘grudge matches’ are almost too nice and neat, where
it seems like the fighters are inadvertently following the prototypical
scripts pioneered by Ken Shamrock, and later Tito Ortiz and Phil Baroni.
I’m sure the “ill will” between Penn and Sherk is real, but for some
reason it almost seems out of place in this particular fight. But maybe
I am overanalyzing this. Both Sean and BJ are relatively laid back guys,
who will speak their minds if pushed. Neither will ‘back down’. I doubt
they manufactured the whole “he really doesn’t like the other guy”
angle. Still it seems little foreign here from my vantage point.
On a technical level, Penn is anything but one-dimensional. His MAT,
“multiple areas of threat” (® Fight Professor, May 2008) are known
around the world: world champion in Brazilian jiu-jits, heavy hands and
sound enough balance and wrestling to where opponents think twice about
expending the effort trying for a takedown. Cardio has always been an
area of criticism for “The Prodigy”. But his training for Sherk has been
focused on putting that suspicion behind him.
Sherk on the other hand comes from a wrestling base and has always
exhibited an almost hummingbird-like work rate that overwhelms most of
his opponents. Sean’s quickness, strength and endurance athletically
places him above, if not beyond most of his competitors.
Both these guys are definitely championship material and both will
present the other with their toughest challenge stylistically.
Experience will not be an issue because they have both fought the best
and have several common opponents:
Georges St. Pierre
-(March 2006) BJ smacked up Georges pretty good in the first round only
to gas and lose on a split decision.
-(November 2005) Sean gave St. Pierre problems standing but succumbed to
ground & pound in the second.
-(April 2003) Sherk went the distance with Hughes when nobody else
could, then was released from the UFC for almost three years. His
welcome back party was fighting St. Pierre (ouch!).
-(January 2004) Penn stepped up from lightweight and toppled the king
with a rear naked choke in round one.
-(September 2006) Penn was in complete control early until suffering a
rib injury that caused him to get stopped by G&P in round three.
So what do these stats tell us? Not much - those kinds of ‘facts’ are
usually just set dressing to placate those who choose to over-think and
grasp the intangibles of an MMA fight.
But to me BJ Penn and Sean Sherk may match up so well style-wise that
they shut each other down offensively. There is the strong possibility
that this will NOT be fight of the year as a result.
If cardio is not an issue (translation: Penn can match Sherk wind wise)
then I see BJ Penn winning this...by decision. But if BJ gets tired, he
will be another in a long list of men who got out hustled by “The Muscle
But then the bigger question looms to those actually informed on “the
sport”: where does the winner of Penn/Sherk stack up against the ‘other’
best lightweights in the world - JZ Calvancante, Shinya Aoki, Gilbert
Melendez, Eddie Alvarez, etc. a
|Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine
Wanderlei "The Axe Murder" Silva
Keith Jardine’s momentum was momentarily derailed when he walked into
a crushing right hand, two fights back, courtesy of Houston Alexander.
The embarrassing 48-second first round loss was something that many
would not rebound from. In his very next fight the going wouldn’t get
any easy as ‘The Dean’ faced former UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck
“The Iceman” Liddell. Keith looked a lot better against Chuck than his
split-decision victory would indicate. So putting him in with the “Ax
Murderer” can be looked at two ways: a) further not doing him any favors
or b) setting him up on a fast track to a title shot. One could also
surmise that after losing a gutsy one to Liddell, the UFC was throwing
Silva to the (new) lions by having him fight Jardine.
Either way, I cannot fathom how this match could be anything but a
knockdown, drag out standup war that pits the hurky jerky crab-like
style of Jardine against the straight ahead windmill bulrush of
Wanderlei Silva. I’ve seen Keith get KO’d but I have never seen anyone
low kick Silva...yet. Jardine’s movement is one of his keys to setting
things up. Wanderlei is easy to find because he is usually standing
right in front of you. But in his availability, and we all know he CAN
be hit, he is also in range to knock you out.
You don’t get “lucky” and beat Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, and
Jardine did just that. Silva needs a win to remain relevant and maybe to
even remain IN the UFC. But I see Jardine’s elusiveness being a problem
Wandy will not be able to solve the puzzle with his characteristic
brutality, so I pick Keith Jardine to win by judge’s decision.
|Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida
Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz
Tito has two opponents in this match: the fast rising and super slick
Lyoto Machida, who he will face IN the cage, and the ever present aura
of his bigger nemesis and former manager, UFC president Dana White. The
feud between White and Ortiz has stewed for years. I’m not going to
assess “blame”, but I will say that the bickering creates a bit of a
“celeBRITy” carnival atmosphere that conjures up images of Vince McMahon
(WWE’s chief) and all the wrestlers who have passed through the doors of
his organization and left acrimoniously.
But Tito seems to thrive on drama; I guess it keeps the ‘fame’ lights
lit bright. The only problem is that he has not been a dominant force as
a fighter since he decisioned short notice replacement Vladimir
Matyushenko (when original opponent Vitor Belfort was injured) in
September 2001. Sure he “beat” Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin, by
controversial split decisions and pounded on an aging Ken Shamrock for
three “fights”. But he was also knocked out twice by Chuck Liddell and
literally spanked by Randy Couture.
Now Tito, who is coming off a draw to Rashad Evans, will, in his last
contracted fight for the UFC, is stepping in with an enigmatic (more
compelling way to say ‘quiet‘) and undefeated entity from Brazil named
Lyoto Machida. I will have to jump on the bandwagon and proclaim that
Machida is the worst possible matchup in every aspect for Ortiz at this
time. The Brazilian is unorthodox (he comes from a Karate background)
and with a 12-0 record with TKOs over Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar
and a submission victory against Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in his last
fight. He indeed does seem unstoppable, at least by Ortiz.
Tito’s savvy will make for a long and frustrating night of survival for
the ex-champion, as I predict that Machida will dominate and win by way
Quadros, "The Fight Professor", has worked as a host and play-by-play
commentator for some of the world's greatest fight organizations including:
PRIDE, K-1 and Inoki Bom Ba Ye. He currently balances
his activities between acting, working as a analyst/color commentator for
ShoXC (Showtime), Cage Rage (UK), the International Fight
League (IFL) on Fox Sports Net and MyNetwork TV, hosting his own radio
show at Sherdog.com (every
Tuesday at 12 noon PST), choreographing fight scenes for feature films and
playing drums for the bands
Snow and Whipped
Cream. Visit Mr. Quadros on the worldwide web at:
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