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UFC 97 recap and final thoughts

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UFC 97: "Redemption" from the Bell Center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, has come to a close.

And it was a record-setting performance for UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, scoring his ninth straight win inside the Octagon with a unanimous decision win over Thales Leites in the main event of the evening.

That's right, "The Spider" was taken the distance for the for the first time in his career since 2004, which clearly did not sit well with the fans sitting ringside or on their couches at home. The 185-pound showdown turned out to be quite a chess match (that's being quite generous) with little to no real action for 25 minutes.

Silva didn't do much in the first two rounds against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, opting to keep his distance and stay out of harms way. But when he did attempt to engage, Leites did what most laymen and keyboard warriors would do and flopped to the canvas, looking to bait Silva into a ground match.

He didn't bite for a majority of the fight, but when he did hang with Leites on the ground he used the opportunity to lump him up. He couldn't seal the deal, however, when all was said and done and it went to the judges scorecards.

That is more than likely a tougher pill to swallow for everyone outside the Octagon tonight who wanted to see a devastating finish after the Patrick Cote debacle just last year.

It didn't happen.

And Silva in his post-fight remarks didn't seem to concerned about the perception, saying fans sometimes just don't get it. He's right, but that fight was just downright painful to watch ... maybe that's what happens when a title challenger gets his big chance with a finish over Drew McFedries.

In the co main event, Chuck Liddell, with his legendary career seemingly hanging in the balance, had his back up against the wall against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who many anointed the best fighter at 205 pounds not too long ago.

He just couldn't get it done.

"Shogun" found the button midway through the first round that has been his downfall of late with a straight left that put the "Iceman" on his back once again. He finished of the dazed 39-year-old fighter with a barrage of strikes for which Liddell had no answer.

That's now four losses in five attempts for the former world beater who "got caught" once again. He didn't announce his retirement in the post-fight interview, saying "he just didn't feel right." But his future as a mixed martial arts headliner is certainly in serious doubt.

This writer didn't really feel right seeing it go down the way it did because he is such a staple of the sport. It was a very sad scene. No one of his stature should be forced into retirement, which is how it appears to have unfolded.

However, perhaps that's the best thing for him right now.

He'll clearly have a good talk with his good friend and boss, UFC President Dana White, about what the future holds. But at this point it doesn't appear to be too rosy. The opposite can be said for Rua -- talk about a big win that more than likely silenced the many critics ... for now.

Shogun is back, maniacs. That's a good thing.

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum, Krzysztof Soszynski, was up next against against' "The All American" Brian Stann -- who revealed before the fight that he had been training for essentially four straight months at Team Jackson.

Too bad he can't get any of that time back.

"The Polish Experiment" needed literally minutes to takedown the former Marine and sink-in a fight ending submission, which was a kimura that had Stann tapping almost immediately.

It was an impressive win for the Team Quest fighter in front on his hometown fans, putting him in a nice position moving forward. Stann's path, however, is not so certain now that he has tasted defeat for the second time in just as many fights.

Cheick Kongo was out to prove that he is indeed a top contender in the heavyweight division against Antoni Hardonk, as well as string together his third straight win inside the Octagon.

Mission accomplished.

The Parisian weathered an early storm in the first round from the Dutch kickboxer, who was pressing the action in the early going with his crisp stand up attack. Kongo eventually responded with some nice strikes of his own and changed it up with a takedown and solid ground and pound.

It was more of the same in the second round -- Kongo dropped Hardonk early and followed it up with punishing ground strikes, cutting Hardonk open under the left eye. From that point forward, Hardonk had no answer for the domination and the referee had no other choice but to step in and call a halt to the action.

Kongo scored a solid -- but not spectacular win -- that should get him back in the mix among the top dogs in the division later in 2009. He's certainly an imposing force that could once again stir some serious waves in the very near future.

Good luck, heavyweights.

Three-fight UFC veteran and knockout specialist, Luis Cane, tonight had the pleasure of putting the last man to hold the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) light heavyweight belt, Steve Cantwell, to the first big test of his career inside the Octagon.

And even though the "Robot" was game, he just didn't have enough to pull out a win against "Banha."

The action-packed fight never hit the canvas -- both gladiators traded leather for 15 straight minutes. Cane appeared to get the best of it in the first round and Cantwell rebounded in the second to make it close. However, Cane did what he had to do when in mattered most in the final frame, picking his spots and nailing Cantwell with several powerful strikes that found their marks.

In the end, Cane notched his third straight victory inside the eight-walled cage with a unanimous decision, handing Cantwell his first loss in five fights. It was a solid scrap, which Cantwell can chalk up to solid experience against one of the best in the division .... a status that Cane deserves now of he didn't have it already.

UFC 97 was a solid but certainly not spectacular show. But it was an entertaining night that has some huge implications moving forward. For complete "Redemption" results and blow-by-blow coverage click here.

We've said enough for one night, not it's time to hear your thoughts. What did you think?