Anderson Silva isn’t just the best middleweight in the UFC. He’s an artist. He has so many different weapons at his disposal, it must be hard for him to choose which to employ from one moment to the next.
Just ask Rich Franklin, who began last night with high hopes for winning his belt back, but left, much like everyone else, in complete awe of “The Spider”.
When it came down to it, Franklin couldn’t find any way to mount an effective offense against Silva, who slipped punches and checked kicks with relative ease. Though Franklin did briefly exploit Silva’s notoriously weak takedown defense, he was unable to capitalize. He was also unable to avoid Silva’s clinch, despite assurances that he had learned how to defend against it after being demolished in the clinch in their first meeting.
Simply put, there wasn’t anything Franklin could do better than Silva. After picking “Ace” apart on the feet and nearly finishing him with a right hand at the end of the first round, the TKO that finally came early into the second round had already begun to seem inevitable.
While the victory in his third straight title defense is a big one for Silva, what was most impressive was how calm and smooth he looked in the process. In at least one exchange he varied his attack — punches to the head, then leg kicks, then a shot to the body — so deftly and with such precision that Franklin appeared lost just trying to keep up.
It makes you think that Silva’s problem now, as much as there can be one, is the lack of competition in the 185-pound class. Aside from Paulo Filho, who is missing in action right now, the UFC might have to convince a few light heavyweights to move down in weight just to keep providing Silva with credible opponents.
If they do, I have to think that Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping could top the list. Both could conceivably make the weight (Henderson really should have debuted in the UFC as a middleweight), and both may soon run out of options in the stacked light heavyweight division.
In last night’s heavyweight clash, Tim Sylvia promised that his days of winning boring decisions were over, and that he intended to come after Brandon Vera and knock him out. Sylvia lied.
His game plan was not so much to come after Vera as it was to clinch with him and press him against the cage, smothering the smaller man with his weight. That’s how he began the fight and it was the strategy he returned to in every round as he plodded his way toward — you guessed it — another boring decision victory.
But Vera is as much to blame for the lackluster fight as Sylvia. He showed flashes of his speed and dynamic striking from the outside, but they were just frustrating glimpses. He refused to use his kicks to keep Sylvia at bay, like his corner implored him to do, and he was clearly hampered by breaking his left hand early in the fight.
It may have added up to another mark in the win column for Sylvia, but he didn’t do anything to change the perception of himself as a plodding big man who puts on a snoozer of a show.
He tried to generate a little heat after the match by calling out Cheick Kongo, even telling him to pick on someone his own size (despite the fact that Sylvia is much bigger than Kongo), but the crowd seemed unconvinced.
In other action, Kalib Starnes and Alan Belcher put on an exciting show before a huge cut on Starnes’ forehead became too nasty to ignore. The doctor called the fight and Starnes had a mini-blowup at his corner, who apparently thought their fighter wanted out of the fight.
That’s troubling because it makes you wonder what his corner has seen from Starnes in the past that would make them jump to that conclusion. It’s really too bad the fight was called before it could be decided, but it also makes you wonder if keeping elbow strikes legal is really worth the early stoppages.
Stephan Bonnar did as expected in his win over Eric Schafer, despite a couple of early scares. Bonnar still seems like a guy with plenty of potential, but he’s got a hard climb ahead of him in the light heavyweight division.
Jorge Gurgel got hammered by Alvin Robinson, which he deserved after deciding to lie on his back and absorb punishment with an expression that suggested he was just waiting for the fight to be over. Not a great night for hometown boys in Cincinnati.
Oh, and in case you missed it somehow, they call Cincinnati “The Queen City” and it was “Hostile Territory” on this particular night. But you knew that because Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg repeated it like a phone number they were trying to commit to memory. I can’t wait for UFC 84: Punch You in the Face.