The Weekly Wrap: June 13 - June 19

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By Jack Encarnacao Jun 20, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship's debut in Germany produced fireworks of all kinds, as two fights resulted in disputable decisions, new contenders emerged, local media reacted with a blend of disgust and praise, and an iconic heavyweight made a victorious UFC return only to bolt from the organization.

Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva had at it in the main event of UFC 99 on June 13 in Cologne. Franklin took the unanimous decision in a razor-close fight, using effective counter-striking throughout and taking the action to the ground when Silva closed in. Silva came on stronger as the fight unfolded; with Franklin clinching behind him, he threw back elbows feverishly as the bout concluded.

The pair met at a 195-pound catch weight as they seek their footing in new weight classes, Silva at middleweight and Franklin at light heavyweight. While the match was ambiguous in terms of weight-class rankings, it did get a sustained rise out of a crowd likely seeing the UFC for the first time.

Both fighters earned $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses. Judges' scorecards were not read due to time constraints.

Silva is seeking a rematch, but Franklin said on ESPN.com’s "MMA Live" that that “wouldn't make much business sense” for him as he seeks to begin another honest 205-pound run. The UFC had offered Franklin the fight at middleweight, but the former 185-pound champ bristled at going back down after two fights at light heavyweight.

UFC 99 drew a reported 12,800 fans to Lanxess Arena, which was reportedly configured for 13,000 fans. The turnout translated into a $1.3 million gate, a higher tally than the UFC's last outing in Europe, UFC 95 in London in February. The show had drawn some media backlash in Germany reminiscent of the early 90s campaign against the sport in the United States. The UFC agreed not to allow anyone under 18 to attend the show to stem the tide.

The tone of the post-fight coverage was all over the map, according to a round-up by Sherdog.com's Tim Leidecker, though negative press seemed to shout the loudest, with headlines like “Blood and Circuses," “Cologne Cage Fight Pleases International Mob” and “Bloodstain on the Canvas." Some outlets played off the massive cut suffered by Stefan Struve that resulted in an undercard bloodbath against Denis Stojnic.

The event also featured the ascension of contenders in the welterweight and heavyweight classes. Welterweight Mike Swick countered a Ben Saunders kick with a straight right in the second round and followed by punches for the TKO to take the night's “Knockout of the Night” bonus. Swick moved into Sherdog.com’s Top 10 welterweight rankings with the win, and was being talked about as next in line for the winner of the Georges St. Pierre-Thiago Alves July 11 title fight.

In addition, heavyweight Cain Velasquez had his chin put to the test by sizable striker Cheick Kongo, eating damaging right crosses in the beginning of two of three rounds. But the two-time All-American wrestler pushed through to wrest several takedowns and work voluminous ground-and-pound to earn the decision.

Despite the win, some 70 percent of fans voting in a Sherdog.com poll said Velasquez, a gym phenom who’s only had six pro fights, is being pushed too quickly through the heavyweight ranks. Velasquez’s manager told Sherdog.com that he would take a title shot if it was offered, but was hoping to face slugger Shane Carwin next.

At one point, the UFC was trying to match Velasquez with heavyweight legend Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, but Velasquez, according to UFC President Dana White, was one of several opponents the Croatian turned down in talks to return to the Octagon after an unsuccessful 2007 UFC campaign.

Cro Cop, who appeared to draw a crop of fans from nearby Croatia to UFC 99, ended up being matched with Mustapha al Turk, defeating him in a first round TKO that was clouded by an eye poke that the referee missed. Al Turk pledged in interviews to appeal the decision, which led to a discussion about whether instant replay has a place in such situations. Keith Kizer, of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, told MMAJunkie.com that he thinks the time has come for instant replay and he is looking for the fairest way to implement it.

Despite the fight controversy, it was Cro Cop's post-fight maneuverings that garnered the bulk of the headlines. Dana White railed on Cro Cop post-fight, announcing Cro Cop had taken advantage of a rare one-fight UFC deal and was going to re-sign with the Dream organization in Japan. White said Cro Cop had verbally promised him he'd return for a three-fight deal. Cro Cop has since signed to fight K1 veteran Siala Siglia on the next Dream card on July 20, SI.com reported. Cro Cop claimed in an interview with the Croatian website Index.hr that he had not gone back on any verbal deal and that he simply wants to fight more than once every six months, as a UFC contract would likely dictate. He can almost surely make more money in Japan, where he was a key face of the country’s MMA boom.

The televised portion of UFC 99 kicked off with a bout that had produced entertaining and resonant verbal warfare. The bout between Dan Hardy and Marcus Davis was very close, with both fighters landing equally emphatic strikes, but Davis taking more visible damage. Hardy got the split decision nod, angering Davis, who refused to shake hands with Hardy after the decision was read. The result represented a victory in more ways than one for Hardy, who said in interviews that he didn't think Davis, a more established UFC welterweight, would have given him a fight if he hadn't come at him so directly in interviews. Hardy began the trash-talking campaign at UFC 95 shortly after picking up his second UFC win. Davis admitted the talking got in his head and is calling for a rematch.

Also picking up wins at UFC 99 were Spencer Fisher, who defeated Caol Uno in the Japanese fighter’s first UFC bout since 2003, as well as Europe-based fighters Paul Kelly, Paul Taylor, Stefan Struve, Denis Siver and John Hathaway. British lightweight Terry Etim overcame a knockdown at the hands of Justin Buchholz to secure a D'Arce choke and the night's “Submission of the Night” payday.

With UFC 99 in the books, the company can begin its push for what will likely be the deepest, most lucrative MMA card of 2009, UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas. To commemorate the event, the promotion is hosting a voting contest for best fight in UFC history to culminate in a Spike TV special starting July 6. There will also be a fan expo the weekend of the show, as well as a closed-circuit viewing of the sold-out event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
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