Redemption - “The act of redeeming or the condition of having been redeemed.”
Words that couldn’t be more relevant when looking at the line-up for this April’s showdown in Montreal.
Headlining is Anderson Silva. Fresh off a lacklustre performance against Patrick Cote in October of last year, Silva looks to show the world why he is widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in Mixed Martial Arts.
He will square up with fellow Brazilian Thales Leites as he defends his UFC middleweight belt for the sixth time.
Thales Leites, 5-1 in the UFC, earned his title shot thanks to good timing and some brave performances.
With Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson scheduled to fight in July and the likes of Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt already booked to fight, Thales was gifted a chance to fight for the title.
On paper, Anderson is a clear-cut favourite. He is easily the most well-rounded fighter in the division he owns.
A skill set that gives him advantages in nearly every area of the fight. A fluid and graceful striker with knockout power in all eight points. Grappling skills that can give even the best on the ground fits.
It’s no secret that Leites' best chance will come from his world-class Jiu Jitsu. This, coupled with his tough chin and sneaky power, seen when he dropped Nate Marquardt in their controversial fight, gives him a better chance that you think.
In the co-main event of the night, two of the most exciting fighters to have ever competed in Mixed Martial Arts lock horns.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, coming off a devastating knockout loss to current Light Heavyweight Champ Rashad Evans, looks to bounce back.
He will battle Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who recently scored a TKO win over Mark Coleman.
Just two years ago to this day, both Shogun and The Iceman were seen as the two best LHW fighters in MMA. Chuck was on a seven-fight winning streak, and Shogun was dusting off all comers in spectacular fashion. But somehow it all went wrong.
Liddell lost his belt to Rampage Jackson and has since gone 1-3. Shogun dropped a shocking loss in his UFC debut to Forrest Griffin.
It was later made know Shogun had a torn ACL and has since torn it again but managed to return to fitness and score a brave win over Coleman at UFC 93 in January of this year.
In Liddell’s case, it looks as if age has caught up with him. Currently 39 years old, he may have simply come to the end of the road.
As for Shogun, it seems injuries have kept him from performing to his best capabilities as seen with his lack of cardio. For Liddell, things do not look good. The 27-year-old Shogun looks to have recovered fully and is now training harder than ever.
Stylistically it makes for a great fight. Both are dangerous strikers but both very different. Liddell loves to counter and can be slightly one-dimensional. Shogun mixes it up with knees, kicks and punches but can be very sloppy.
Liddell, who used his sprawl and brawl style so well in his reign as champion, does not have as many tools as the Brazilian.
Shogun has outstanding submission skills and some of the best ground and pound in all of MMA. If he manages to pass guard, it is an early night for whoever his opponent is.
What it will ultimately come down to is Chuck ability to control the fight and keep Shogun at bay. Shogun will be looking to fire at him from all angles and will be comfortable wherever the fight goes. That is a luxury Liddell does not have.
One thing is for certain, both men are looking for redemption.
Full UFC 97 Card
MAIN CARD (televised)
- Middleweight champ Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites
- Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
- Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Brian Stann
- Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk
- Luis Cane vs. Steve Cantwell
PRELIMINARY CARD (un-televised)
- Vinicius Magalhaes vs. Eliot Marshall
- Xavier Foupa-Pokam vs. Denis Kang
- Jason MacDonald vs. Nate Quarry
- Ed Herman vs. David Loiseau
- David Bielkheden vs. Mark Bocek
- Ryo Chonan vs. T.J. Grant
- Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman