MMA: Anderson Silva
Throughout his career, Vitor Belfort has built a reputation as someone who doesn’t pull punches or cut corners. Whether in the cage or out, he gives it to you straight.
And Saturday night when he steps in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 32 for a main-event showdown in Goiania, Brazil, with Dan Henderson, fans will get the best Belfort has to offer. He will not shy away from the action or pull punches.
The same can be expected from Henderson.
While the fight is being contested at light heavyweight, Belfort is very much aware that a win likely lands him the middleweight title shot he has coveted for a while. At 36 years old, and competing in a 185-pound division that has gotten much deeper with the recent addition of former 205-pound champion Lyoto Machida, a loss Saturday night could end Belfort’s title hopes.
"“I deserve it [the middleweight title shot],” Belfort told ESPN.com. “I want the [Chris Weidman-Anderson Silva] winner.”
I'm not doing anything illegal. It's a treatment. Actually, if I go without it I will be at a disadvantage. It will be like the other guy is on something and I'm not." -- Vitor Belfort on receiving TRT exemptions.
A possibility of getting a middleweight title shot can’t be completely ignored. Belfort admits that much, but he refuses to allow it to consume his thoughts. His mind is fully on Henderson. To do otherwise would almost assure defeat.
“I’m looking forward to Dan Henderson,” Belfort said. “That’s what I can talk about; he’s my challenge right now. My mind is on him.
“I don’t care what people think, talk or say. It’s doesn’t take my focus away. I do want to fight for and win the UFC title, but I don’t need to keep talking about it over and over.
“I’m about to have one of the hardest fights of my career, so there is no reason to start talking about what is next. It’s totally disrespectful to [Henderson]. And I don’t have that kind of attitude; I’m focused on winning this fight. He’s one of the legends of this sport. He beats guys and he’s defeated me one time [by unanimous decision at Pride 32 in Las Vegas on Oct. 21, 2006] in the past. This is a great fight. What most people remember, however, is your last fight.”
That’s Belfort being Belfort. There’s no need to shy away from the matter at hand -- beating Henderson. He will address what comes next, a potential title shot, when the time arrives.
This method of handling fight-related matters has served Belfort well in recent outings. He’s won four of his five most recent fights, the lone loss coming in a 205-pound title loss to champion Jon Jones at UFC 152 in September 2012.
But Belfort doesn’t just fight to remain relevant at middleweight, he must battle the perception of being a cheater. To be competitive, Belfort regularly requests and receives exemption for testosterone replacement therapy.
No matter how hard he trains; no matter how impressive he looks inside the Octagon, Belfort never receives full credit. His critics are loud and relentless.
The criticism has been a little less voluminous than usual lately; maybe it has to do with the fact that Henderson also receives TRT exemptions. But the attacks will return to normal after the fight, especially if a title shot is granted.
Belfort is prepared for the onslaught.
“The [TRT] critics are always going to be there,” Belfort said. “If you do it, they will say, ‘he cheated.’ What people don’t know is that we do good work.
“I was the only guy to do blood work. Now Dan Henderson has to go through blood work; it’s in our contract. All the fighters have to do blood work. With the blood work you can track if they [fighters] use testosterone. We know some guys do it; they do things to cheat. My lab work is right there. My levels are right there, every week.”
Belfort makes no apology for seeking and receiving TRT exemptions and he does not intend to relinquish the process. He does what is necessary to remain a competitive fighter. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“I’m not doing anything illegal. It’s a treatment,” Belfort said. “Actually, if I go without it I will be at a disadvantage. It will be like the other guy is on something and I’m not.
“If you have asthma you get treatment. If your have high blood pressure, you get treatment for it. This is my treatment. Everybody knows.”
Belfort isn’t hiding anything. His testosterone levels are available to all proper authorities. But there is a circumstance under which Belfort will relinquish his medical treatment -- for a title shot.
Some have questioned whether Belfort is avoiding a bout in the United States, especially Las Vegas, to receive TRT. That’s the furthest thing from the truth, Belfort says.
As usual, Belfort holds nothing back when addressing another attack from his critics.
“I’d love to fight in Las Vegas; I’ve fought in Canada,” said Belfort, who trains in Boca Raton, Fla., but has not fought in the United States since his first-round knockout of Yoshihiro Akiyama in August 2011. “I love fighting in America, I have lots of fans here. I have just as many fans here in America as I have in Brazil. Of course I want to fight here, I live in America.”
Stream-of-consciousness-style thoughts on Jon Jones versus Alexander Gustafsson, followed by a light heavyweight edition of Pretenders and Contenders. Let’s go.
I scored the title fight in favor of Gustafsson 48-47. I gave him the first three rounds, Jones the final two.
After the fight, I posted on Twitter that Jones was being packed in a stretcher for the hospital, while Gustafsson was good enough to conduct interviews. Many followers jumped on that as an opportunity to point out Gustafsson had been robbed, since Jones was in far worse shape. I get it, but that’s not how you score a fight.
Even though I had it for Gustafsson, I’m happy Jones won -- if I’m allowed to say that. The most conclusive rounds of the bout, I thought, were the fourth and fifth for Jones, which also happen to be the “championship” rounds. Jones basically refused to lose when it really mattered.
The best moments were in the fourth round. That has to be Round of the Year. I remember seeing, literally, blood from Jones’ facial cut flying in the air when Gustafsson hit him. Midway through the round, it almost looked like Jones was about to go down. The crowd was going nuts.
Then Jones looked at the clock. And maybe I’m totally wrong on this, but I bet if you asked him about it today he might not even remember doing it. It was just built in -- the way some ninja spy might subconsciously, without knowing it, remember the exits of a building or something. Busted up, swollen, exhausted -- something inside Jones said “Look at the clock; OK, 90 seconds left in a must-win round, throw the spinning elbow, stay on him.” I don’t want to get too dramatic, but come on. That’s crazy.
I haven’t watched it a second time, but sitting here days later, I’m willing to say that was the best fight in UFC history -- surpassing Mauricio Rua versus Dan Henderson and Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard II.
I also see it as the one that solidifies Jones as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He sort of inherited the spot (in my eyes) after Anderson Silva lost to Chris Weidman, but he really owned it here. Had Silva knocked out Weidman in the first round this year, I think I would still rank Jones ahead of him after the Gustafsson fight. He went to the brink of defeat against a very good opponent who basically forced him to fight his fight, and still left with his arms raised.
We knew about his skills, but now that we know about his heart, it’s virtually impossible to pick against him. But let’s look at the division real close and see.
Really talented fighters with no chance: Ryan Bader, Rashad Evans, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Rua. All four have long roads to even get to Jones. Three of them have already lost to him. Rua appears to me, at 31, pretty much done when it comes to winning elite-level fights. A hard realization, but a realization nevertheless. Bader has plenty of career left, but there’s really no reason to think a second fight against Jones would go any different than the first. On Evans, I know he was the only title contender to go the distance before Gustafsson did, but that grudge match was every bit as one-sided as the fights Jones has finished and Evans hasn’t looked great since.
The athlete: Phil Davis. Davis is more than just an athlete, but I call him this because it’s still his best quality -- at least in a fight against Jones. The problem is, he won’t outwrestle Jones for five rounds. It won’t happen. Jones is a good enough wrestler with good enough intelligence to not let that kind of game plan beat him. You hear this sometimes about great fighters; it’s not really a game plan that will necessarily beat them. You have to be capable of beating them in every area on that one given night. Gustafsson almost did that. Davis, even on his best night, can’t be better than Jones.
The old man and the right hand: Dan Henderson. I would not count Henderson out completely in a Jones fight for three reasons. It’s possible he could defend the takedowns, at least early. He’s crafty at getting inside. His right hand can kill a mule. But yes, I will admit it’s a long, long, looooong shot. It’s going to be very difficult for him to get to Jones and if he did, Jones could probably wear him out pretty quickly, take the right hand out of the equation, and finish him before the end of the second round.
The Olympian: Daniel Cormier. Everyone seems to be putting all eggs in the Daniel Cormier basket, completely ignoring the fact that (A) we don’t know whether he can make the weight; (B) we don’t know what he’ll look like if he can make the weight. You can also add in (C) we don’t know whether he’ll beat Roy Nelson. As much as the UFC’s “Height and Reach” marketing ploy was poked fun at heading into UFC 165, truth is, we saw that having size sure doesn’t hurt in a fight against Jones. Cormier is 5-foot-11, with a 72.5 reach. He’s the only real hope at holding Jones down, but he’s at a huge disadvantage on the feet.
The only two, but the best two: Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira. Everyone basically acted like the hardest part was over for Jones at 205 pounds. He beat all the former champs, after all. What challenge could the lesser-known Swede and Brazilian possibly pose? After the whole Silva-Weidman fiasco we really should have known better. Confident, hungry, well-rounded challengers can’t be dismissed. These two have never held the belt, like most of the other men Jones already fought. They are in their athletic primes. They are true light heavyweights. As awesome as Jones has been, he’s never really shown one-punch knockout power. These two are big and athletic enough to stay upright, take a Jones elbow and respond with effective offense. Jones really is impossible to pick against right now, but if you’re willing to do it at 205 pounds, these are your only options.
Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has been pursuing Wanderlei Silva for several months. As is common when Sonnen targets a fighter, especially a Brazilian, the verbal assault can turn vicious.
Silva has received some of the best trash talk in Sonnen’s repertoire, making a potential showdown between them enticing. A Sonnen-Wanderlei matchup has main event written all over it, especially if held in Brazil. But this fight, which seemed certain a week ago, lost a bit of its luster Saturday night in Boston.
When Sonnen submitted Mauricio Rua in the first round of their light heavyweight bout, he quickly became UFC’s most sought-after non-titleholder. Middleweights and light heavyweights alike began jostling for position to secure a fight with him.
Normally the hunter, Sonnen now finds himself being hunted. This comes as no surprise, really: Sonnen, once he starts yapping, becomes one of the biggest attractions in UFC.
Within minutes of Rua’s demise, fellow Brazilian title contenders Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida went public with their eagerness to be Sonnen’s next Octagon dance partner. Sonnen became such a hot commodity that even American light heavyweight contender Phil Davis announced that he wants in.
Overwhelmed by his newfound popularity, an excited Sonnen refused to reject any of his suitors, except Davis. That’s because Sonnen has a thing for Brazilians.
“I will beat up Vitor on the way to the ring to kick Wanderlei’s a--,” Sonnen said Saturday night. “And I will take care of that third guy [Machida], whose name I’ve already forgotten, in the parking lot on my way to my after-party. I would take all three.”
If given the opportunity, Sonnen would fight all three in one night. But let’s get back to reality. He can pick only one for his next date and that person should be Machida.
While Silva has been harassed by Sonnen for a while, and his overall career accomplishments are impressive, the former Pride middleweight champion has struggled since returning to UFC in December 2007. In his nine most recent UFC bouts, Silva is 4-5. As a result of his inconsistency, Silva hasn’t received 185-pound contender consideration in well more than a year. Silva just isn’t as attractive as he once was.
Belfort seems poised to fight Dan Henderson at an as-of-yet unannounced event in Brazil, according to a report on “UFC Tonight.”
That leaves Sonnen against Machida, which would be huge. Their contrasting fighting styles would be fun to watch. Transferring hostility from Silva to Machida will be a piece of cake for Sonnen. He’s been tossing verbal darts at Machida for a while, anyway. And it’s clearly gotten under Machida’s skin -- he is itching to get his hands on "The American Gangster.”
Despite a disputed unanimous decision loss to Davis on Aug. 3, Machida remains among the top contenders at light heavyweight; Sonnen is a contender at 185 pounds. But weight won’t be an issue for either -- Machida has hinted at dropping to middleweight, while Sonnen is comfortable at 205 as he proved Saturday night.
This fight makes the most sense. Dana White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva need to make it happen.
That, however, would be the furthest thing from the truth.
Sonnen, a former No. 1 middleweight contender who returns to the division after Saturday's bout, will step inside the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 26 against Mauricio Rua as determined as ever to win. This fight is as important to Sonnen as any he's had in his pro career, and he didn't cut a single corner while preparing for it.
"I want to fight Anderson Silva," Sonnen told ESPN.com. "It was never about titles, it was never about the title with Jon Jones; Jon just happened to have the title.
"I wanted to punch Jon in the face; I wanted to beat him up. I heard all his talk of who deserved it [the title shot]; I didn't even care about all that crap. If you want to fight a guy, go fight him. And if there's a belt on the line, that's just a byproduct.
"I want to fight Anderson Silva more than I want to wake up tomorrow morning. I don't care if he has got the belt or not. I don't accept the outcome of either of [our] fights; I don't acknowledge that for one day he was the better fighter than me."
With three title shots, all losses, in the past three years, Sonnen isn't focused on facing the middleweight champion at this time. At 36, the possibility of landing another title shot is fading.
I want to fight Anderson Silva more than I want to wake up tomorrow morning. I don't care if he's got the belt or not. I don't accept the outcome of either of [our] fights; I don't acknowledge that for one day he was the better fighter than me.” -- Chael Sonnen
Still, Sonnen rules nothing out. A victory over Rua would get him back in the middleweight title conversation. And without a doubt, the quick-witted, trash-talking Sonnen will take over from there.
"Anytime you're in the top 10, you're in title contention," said Sonnen, who is ranked sixth among middleweights by ESPN.com and ninth by UFC.com. "We have a new ranking system and it's very important to operate within the confines of that system.
"Anybody in the top five will go for that title. Shogun is in the top 10 [at light heavyweight] and I haven't won a light heavyweight fight in a considerable amount of time. With that said, I have had only one light heavyweight fight. But it's always important to win, especially if you can beat a top-10 guy.
"Shogun is a true legend; he's a former world champion. He's the guy [Jon] Jones beat to win the title. And he's ranked No. 8 in the world [at 205 pounds by UFC.com]. So I have a lot of reasons and motivations to win, aside from my pride and ego."
But nothing is pushing Sonnen to succeed Saturday night more than the possibility of a third fight with Silva. The fact that Silva has a rematch Dec. 28 with the man who dethroned him, Chris Weidman, only serves to heighten Sonnen's enthusiasm.
Weidman shook up the mixed martial arts world July 6 by knocking out Silva in the second round at UFC 162. The loss was Silva's first in UFC competition.
"I believe Chris Weidman will destroy him again," Sonnen said. "This is not a knock on Anderson Silva; he's an awesome fighter. And he's had an amazing career. But in the history of boxing, in the history of MMA, a rematch has never favored the older fighter.
"You're talking about a decade of an age difference. It's very, very unrealistic to believe that Anderson is going to win that [rematch]. This is not to say he can't do it, but it's unrealistic to see how that's going to happen.
"But it doesn't change that fact that he's a great fighter, and it doesn't change that fact that I want to fight Anderson Silva."
First, Sonnen must take care of business Saturday night in Boston. A solid performance will go a long way toward getting him a third fight with Silva, but a win certainly increases the probability. And if Weidman does what Sonnen expects him to do at UFC 168 in Las Vegas, Silva might be receptive to a third go-round.
Overeem sat on the podium for nearly 30 minutes Thursday during a pre-UFC Fight Night 26 media conference as other fighters slated to compete at the event answered questions about their upcoming bouts. For the guy once considered a shoo-in to land a title shot, Overeem wasn’t even an afterthought.
It wasn’t difficult to notice the lack of media interest. But if Overeem felt any disrespect he immediately quashed that notion when a question was finally addressed to him. In fact, he welcomed the snub.
“I kind of actually like [being ignored] a little bit,” Overeem said. “I don’t have to fake it too much. I can just observe it.
“I’m paying attention to the new rising stars. And that’s fine with me, for today.”
While Overeem is enjoying his time away from the spotlight, he immediately made it clear that things will return to normal quickly. Without going into detail, Overeem plans to make a statement against Browne.
“I assume [the attention] is going to pick up after this fight,” Overeem said. “I expect it to pick up after this fight.”
With lots of fanfare surrounding his arrival in UFC, the former Strikeforce champion seemed headed toward a title shot with current promotion heavyweight titleholder Cain Velasquez. But a third-round knockout loss to Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva on Feb. 2 at UFC 156 derailed Overeem’s title quest.
He now sits behind Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum and Daniel Cormier in the heavyweight contender pecking order. An impressive win Saturday night over Browne, however, is sure to get Overeem back in the title conversation.
And that is exactly what Overeem is seeking to accomplish, whether anyone is currently paying attention or not.
RUA NOT TAKING SONNEN’S BRAZIL REMARKS PERSONAL
Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen never shies away from making his harsh feelings about Brazil and its fighters known. He’s directed several strong words toward former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and recently has targeted former Pride titleholder Wanderlei Silva.
His opponent Saturday night is former UFC light heavyweight titleholder Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, a Brazil native and close friend of Wanderlei’s. But Sonnen has shown no interest in disparaging Rua.
On the contrary, Sonnen has expressed respect for the man whom he will face in the light heavyweight main event. And Rua, obviously, has taken notice.
“The only thing that bothers me is when he talks about my country and my friend Wanderlei,” Rua said. “But I’ve tried not to get too involved in that. I’ve tried to keep my focus on my training and make sure that I am 100 percent ready for the fight.”
After the fight, win or lose, Sonnen is returning to 185 pounds. He has lost two fights in a row, both at light heavyweight.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva was knocked out for the first time in his UFC career on July 6 at UFC 162 after absorbing a left hook from Chris Weidman.
Weeks later, “The Spider” broke down what went wrong against Weidman.
“Getting knocked out is the worst,” Silva said on the Brazilian late-night talk show "Agora é Tarde." "There are always going to be questions -- people want to know what happened, but [when you’re knocked out] you don't remember anything. You black out and that's it.”
Silva's posture and posturizing during the fight was questioned and criticized by fans and media alike. Some went so far as to say he was disrespectful to his opponent. Silva was quick to explain his actions.
“It [the awkward movement] was a technical error to keep my legs parallel; I should have taken a step back instead,” he said.
“Several factors led to the knockout. The tension in the air before the fight, you just want to burst ... it was a series of mistakes.”
Silva revealed another error on his part: Instead of returning to his corner after Round 1 for guidance, he took issue with his team’s suggestions.
“In my career, I’ve always went back to my corner [for advice],” Silva said. “Against Weidman, I went back to argue, and I should have gone back to my corner and calmed down. I didn't do any of that; I lost control."
Disdainful after Weidman’s successful takedown, Silva dared Weidman to hit him, then proceeded to showboat and trash-talk.
When asked what he said to the American, Silva explained he was trying to draw Weidman into a more fan-friendly fight, instead of wrestling and taking matters to the ground.
“I was saying, ‘Come on, let's fight standing up, look at the crowd applauding.’ Because standing up is much cooler than fighting on the floor," Silva said.
Silva intends to finish the 10 fights remaining in his contract with the UFC. The Brazilian already has a rematch lined up with Weidman, set for Dec. 28 at UFC 168.
Holding the 185-pound belt for nearly seven years put Silva in position to become a multimillionaire -- his children will never know the economic struggles he experienced as a youth in Curitiba, Brazil. During each pre-UFC 162 interview, Silva smiled while struggling to find words to adequately describe his joy of being financially secure.
Silva is set for life monetarily. His belly is full and, as a result, it's possible he has lost some of the drive that made him a champion.
As we know, he would lose his middleweight title at UFC 162 when Chris Weidman knocked him out in the second round. And while Silva's presumed lack of hunger can't be singled out as the sole reason he lost, it was a contributing factor.
Silva's loss was monumental, sending shockwaves throughout the fighting world. It also put every single UFC champion on notice: Let your guard down and the same will likely happen to you.
Flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson was among those who got the message. He watched intensely as Silva dropped his hands, got touched on the chin by a Weidman left hook and fell to the canvas.
As Silva was getting pounded out, Johnson shook his head before immediately turning his attention back to July 27. That's when he puts his title on the line against John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle.
Johnson is a very talented fighter, just like Silva. But unlike the former middleweight champion, Johnson remains extremely hungry.
In order to satisfy his cravings, Johnson needs to make money and lots of it. And the best way to continue putting food on his table and keeping a roof over the head of his family -- Johnson's wife, Destiny, gave birth to the couple's first child [a boy] on Friday -- is to win fights.
He's in no mood to lose a fight inside the Octagon anytime soon.
"It is what it is. Anderson Silva played that game and it happened," Johnson told ESPN.com. "For me, I'm always motivated -- not only to keep the belt but to win my fights. I got into this sport to become champion and now I am a champion and now I'm on a mission to put money away for the rest of my life so I don't have to work anymore.
Johnson views Moraga as the latest of many obstacles he must overcome to achieve his long-term goal of financial security. He expects to retain his title, but isn't underestimating his challenger as Moraga is too talented to be overlooked.
"One of the things he brings that other fighters I've faced didn't is finishes in the flyweight division," Johnson said. "John Moraga is a tough opponent and he has a good set of skills. He brings good things to the table, but I've been fighting for pretty much a long time."
A major key to Johnson's success is being honest with himself. While most fighters refuse to admit looking beyond the bout in front of them, Johnson has no such inhibitions. He isn't shy when it comes to discussing future title defenses.
"I ask myself this all the time: If I get past John Moraga, who is next for [me]?" Johnson said. "My goal is that anybody who's in the UFC flyweight division must have a loss from me on their resume."
Thus far, Johnson (17-2-1) is off to a solid start. He has victories over several of the best UFC flyweights in UFC -- Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, who by the way, is the only fighter to hand Moraga a professional loss.
After a tough go of it during the opening two rounds on Jan. 26 in Chicago, Johnson rebounded to beat Dodson by unanimous decision and retain his title. It was Johnson's first title defense.
Dodson beat Moraga by unanimous decision in December 2010. But don't put too much stock in that fight when attempting to handicap Moraga's upcoming showdown with Johnson. Moraga has taken his skills to a higher level since falling to Dodson.
He's looked especially impressive in his two Octagon appearances -- knocking out Ulysses Gomez in the first round last August in his UFC debut, and submitting Chris Cariaso in the third round at UFC 155.
Moraga is 13-1, and ESPN.com currently ranks him fifth among flyweights. Whether standing or on the ground, Moraga poses a serious threat to Johnson -- and his goal of achieving financial wealth.
One question I get just about every week on the Friday chat was some variation of this: Which UFC champion will fall first?
For the past year, it’s been easy to imagine that none of the current champions would ever lose again, given the state of the matchmaking. Not with Ronda Rousey fighting Liz Carmouche, and Georges St-Pierre fighting Nick Diaz, and Jon Jones fighting Chael Sonnen, and Anderson Silva fighting Stephan Bonnar with no belt in the balance, and Dominick Cruz not fighting at all.
With landslide favorites in these matchups, the answer was always Junior dos Santos. Heavyweights have never been good at holding on to the belt. Then it became Cain Velasquez, when he beat Dos Santos. That is, until Velasquez was resaddled with Antonio Silva, whose odds the second time were longer than his gangly reach. When that happened, the question of who would fall first came back around to its usual futility.
The real question was: Who would get Matt Serra’d first?
For the past year, it wasn’t that the UFC champions were being catered to and protected, so much as the matchmaking lacked imagination. Or the matchmaking had too much imagination, because it required the open-mindedness of our disposable income. There was not enough genuine threat, due to circumstances (injuries), limitations (shallow heavyweight division) and cash-out gimmickry (Sonnen). Aside from a few exceptions -- Gilbert Melendez versus Benson Henderson, say, or any Demetrious Johnson fight -- for a long time we had main events that looked and felt more like potboilers.
Just activity for the sake of activity, with low-flame drama.
Yet here we are in mid-2013, and a champion has fallen. Anderson Silva, the longest-tenured, most unthinkable of the titleholders with his 16-0 record in the UFC, lost to Chris Weidman spectacularly at UFC 162. There’d be no such thing as “eras” if they went on forever. Now the Silva era hinges on the rematch in December. How are those for stakes?
If that wasn't novel enough, after a long dry spell of pretenders getting shots on whims and shaking limbs, suddenly it looks as if Silva could be just the first domino to fall. Most of the title fights slated to take place in the second half of 2013 pits a challenger who looks and feels like an actual threat to the throne. Suddenly we can imagine a world where Johny Hendricks is posing for magazine articles with the belt slung over his shoulder, know what I mean?
Think about this: By the end of 2013, we might have recast our pantheon of UFC champions. Hendricks is a legitimate threat to St-Pierre. So is the barely talked about John Moraga over flyweight champion Johnson. Dos Santos could reclaim his title against Velasquez, just the same as Silva could reclaim his belt against Weidman. These fights are booked and happening (pending health).
Rousey will be the odds-on favorite to beat Miesha Tate, just as Jose Aldo will loom large over Chan Sung Jung -- but Anthony Pettis beat Benson Henderson once, what’s to say he can’t to it again at the end of August? Especially in his hometown of Milwaukee?
Romanticists might point to Alexander Gustafsson as a viable challenge to Jon Jones, but that one is more wait and see. Yet Gustafsson feels like Ares in there against Jones after fostering our collective beliefs for so long over Sonnen’s chances.
By the end of 2013, our pound-for-pound lists may become a weekly Etch-a-Sketch. This is how it was drawn up in the Ultimate Fighting Championship -- to stake the best fighters in the world against the people who the matchmakers think could beat them. That’s how this thing works best. Champions, after all, are made to be vulnerable.
And it’s refreshing to look over a slate of upcoming fights and genuinely have no idea how things are going to go. It’s better, when asked a question like "which UFC champion will fall first," to counter with: "A better question is -- which one will still be champion this time next year?"
Unbeaten Chris Weidman did what some thought to have been the unthinkable by knocking out middleweight champion Anderson Silva on Saturday at UFC 162 in Las Vegas.
Weidman, 29, caught Silva, who had defended his title a UFC-record 11 times, leaning back with a short left hook and finished the job on the ground to score a stunning second-round knockout.
The Baldwin, N.Y., native and former two-time Division I All-American wrestler at Hofstra University visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., Thursday and took some time to answer our questions:
What did you do to celebrate after getting home from Saturday’s victory in Las Vegas?
I didn’t get to celebrate yet when I got home from Vegas -- it was right into media stuff for the UFC. I was in Vegas until Monday, but I got back early Tuesday morning and tried to get some sleep, which did not happen. It’s just been rock 'n' roll with the media. I can’t wait to get home and just lie down in my bed, hang out with the family and let it absorb a little bit.
Going back to your initial takedown of Anderson Silva in the first round, was that something you practiced countless hours specifically for him, or was it just muscle memory in the moment?
Yeah, muscle memory. It just happened. That specific takedown and the way I finished it, I don’t think I’ve done that once in sparring. I’ve wrestled my whole life and done that takedown a million times, but never in sparring [for this fight.] It was just natural feel.
Was there any one of Silva’s antics inside the Octagon that irritated you the most?
Just the excessiveness of it. I was just like, yo, you’re not punching me and I don’t know, like, bro … I mean if you could do all that, punch me in the face. I actually let him punch me in the face; there was one time where I just said, "hit me." He punched me [Weidman points to his chin] and I said, "hit me again." He punched me, and then I could hear my coaches yelling, “Wideman! Stop! Stop!” I’m like, all right, and I circled out. I was just like, bro, what are you doing? I’m laughing inside and saying, I’m winning the fight. It got to the point where I wanted to hit him, so it motivated me to put my hands on him.
Silva has long been considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA. But who do you now consider to be No. 1 in the world?
I’m not a big rankings guy, to be honest with you. But I would say Georges St-Pierre or Jon Jones. One of those two, I think.
You debuted this week on our ESPN.com P4P list at No. 5 with Silva right ahead of you at No. 4. Do you feel like you have to beat him another time to disprove all the naysayers?
I expected that when I took this fight. I said I would beat him and that after I finish him, we’re going to have an immediate rematch at Madison Square Garden. That was the only part that I got wrong, the Madison Square Garden. So we are having a rematch and I understood that, no matter what I did to him. I did the impossible and knocked him out and there’s more naysayers than anything. But if I would have submitted him it probably would have been worse. No matter what I did out there, if I had decisioned him, no matter what I did, he’s known as the greatest of all time and people think that he’s unbeatable and are shocked that anyone could actually beat him. So they are going to come up with excuses.
You have probably already heard a lot of excuses since Saturday not giving you a lot of credit. So how motivated are you for a rematch?
I’m very motivated. I’m motivated without that. I get to fight him again, and I want to put on an even better performance.
Stone Cold Steve Austin. I thought that was cool. He direct messaged me on Twitter. First he wished me good luck. I had never met him before. But I thought that was pretty cool. He thinks I’m a badass apparently. So, I’m a big fan of his now.
We’ve read that your home was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy and about the nonprofit work you have done to help rebuild the area. Tell us about that and about how you and your family have recovered?
We are about nine months out from Hurricane Sandy. The house is still not back to 100 percent. It’s still a mess. But we have recovered -- we are on the second floor. We are good and are happy with where we are at. Obviously this fight has helped us a lot. We might be moving out and getting a new house, we’ll see. As far as nonprofit, I worked with Theo Rossi from “Sons Of Anarachy” and [Dallas Cowboys running back] DeMarco Murray. It’s something Theo Rossi started called Staten Strong that I just kind of jumped on because I was affected. We work together to get some money together and help people. But honestly the biggest thing I did right after Hurricane Sandy was me and my wife set up a point where people could bring food and batteries and cleaning supplies. We had it through my social media where everyone brought it to our local church and we passed it out to different charities and helped a lot of people.
There are a lot of great nicknames, of course, in MMA. You are known as The All-American. How did you get that name?
When I started and first got to the MMA gym the guys would start and say, “You’re like the All-American kid.” It was because, I don’t know, I go to church every Sunday, I got married young and I’ve always been an All-American in college having gone All-American all four years [two years each at Nassau Community College and Hofstra]. They just started calling me it and that was really it.
Let’s talk about some other fighters in your division not named Anderson Silva whom you could potentially fight. We’ll start with Vitor Belfort. What are your thoughts about him?
Tough guy. I would say he’s the No. 1 contender right now. If I wasn’t fighting Anderson Silva in a rematch, I’d probably be fighting him.
What do you think about all of the controversy surrounding him about testosterone-replacement therapy, and what are your thoughts on TRT in general?
I don’t like it, to be honest with you. If your testosterone is low, man, that’s God telling you that you have low testosterone, and if you can’t train the right way or whatever it is, it’s time to retire and do something else. It’s a little unfair that you could be 38 years old and he definitely has higher testosterone than me. [Note: Belfort is actually 36.] I’m 29 and have decently low testosterone, but I would never take testosterone because you are stuck on that thing for your whole life. I would never want to be on TRT. And I feel fine, [having low testosterone] doesn’t bother me. So I can’t imagine these guys that are using it for performance reasons. I don’t like it, and I know California banned it recently although other commissions allow it. I don’t like it.
What are your thoughts on Michael Bisping?
Another tough guy. I would love to fight Bisping, to be honest with you. That would be a great fight for me.
How about Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza?
Really good jiu-jitsu, good standup. He’s another tough guy, I think. All of these guys would be great challenges, and I would really love to entertain them.
Of all the other fighters out there, who is the one you admire the most and why?
I really like Cain Velasquez. I like his pace that he puts on; he is mentally and physically breaking everybody he goes with. He’s just tenacious and relentless. I like Anderson Silva, too. I like his style. He’s very relaxed.
If Silva had won the fight against you, there was talk about possible superfights for Silva against either Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre. Now that for the time being that’s not going to happen, would you ever consider a fight against either of those two guys?
Definitely not against GSP. First off, I would never call out someone who was a lot smaller than me. I’ve trained with him before, and he’s just a smaller guy. I’m not the type of guy who is going to be like, Hey, you want to fight? I’ve got Anderson Silva on my mind, but if the fans wanted to see that fight [against Jones] and the UFC wanted it to happen, I’m 1000 percent in. I asked to fight Jon Jones on 10 days’ notice back when Dan Henderson got hurt. But I wasn’t a big enough name at that point, so they were like, no.
With your wrestling background, what are your thoughts about the current state of Olympic wrestling?
It’s crazy that it’s even in question and up for voting. But it is, so it’s sad. I think wrestling is the one of the greatest sports there are. It’s the ultimate combat sport, and I just think it needs to be in the Olympics. I think the Olympics was made from wrestling and that it’s a staple. There just needs to be a lot of attention brought to it to keep it there.
Your goal has always been to be champion. Now that you have reached the pinnacle of your profession, how have you readjusted your goals?
My ultimate goal was always that I want to be known as one of the greatest of all time. The first step was obviously to be UFC champion. I did that, and now it’s time to take one fight at a time and really just set myself apart from the group. That’s my goal.
There was a long moment after Chris Weidman became the UFC’s new middleweight champion that Ed Soares, the longtime manager and friend of Anderson Silva, stood staring at the cage at MGM Grand. He looked devastated. Crestfallen. The empire he had lorded over had just crumbled before him, and just like that, it all became merely a dream. Only it was a dream that now belonged to somebody else.
It wasn’t just the fact of it happening, because Silva one day losing was a long enduring inevitability. We all knew at some point he’d fall. He wasn’t going to win forever.
It was the how.
Silva rolled out the red carpet for Weidman to come forward and touch his chin under the lights for everyone to see. Only thing Weidman could do was oblige. He wasn’t falling for the hocus-pocus like so many who went before him. He was bent on wresting that belt from Silva’s grip.
And he did just that.
In a sequence that will forever go down as one of the most bizarre, intense and humiliating in UFC history, the 38-year-old Silva dropped his hands and dodged bullets in the second round. The showman in him trusted his reflexes to steer clear of danger, as he’d done plenty of times before. He postured and egged the challenger on, and strafed Weidman with the occasional fast-twitch jab. “Come on,” he kept saying, waving Weidman in. Was he psyching Weidman out, or psyching himself up? Like Muhammad Ali, there’s no distinguishing between the two. UFC president Dana White later said all that was just “Silva being Silva.”
Yet everyone knows that Silva being Silva is more complicated than it should be. He is, after all, duplicitous. He pretended his knees buckled when a left rolled off his brow. Mockery. What he was saying was clear: “That’s all you got?”
Weidman, the intended target of the humiliation, kept forward.
Seconds later he clipped Silva, and down went the boogeyman of the division. Who’d have thought that Silva would cough up his belt to something as awkward as this: antics that backfired spectacularly. It wasn’t the way people imagined it might happen. Seven years of reign and myth all came down with him. The centerpiece to the “superfight” drama of the past couple of years went down, too. So did the stadium shows and a streak for the ages. Weidman cleared out the superfight division with an engraved left.
Everything else evaporated before our eyes. Like water.
So what do we make of the whole thing, a couple of days later? It’s open season for opinions.
Maybe it was hubris that caused the showboat to capsize. Maybe it was Weidman’s cool, his refusal to be baited into something dumb. Maybe Silva is finally his age, getting too old for adjectives such as “sublime.” Maybe he knows it. Maybe he knew Weidman was a greater threat the whole time, and was carrying self-doubt into the Octagon. Maybe the wig-out was pressure coming to the surface, or he was thinking about Roy Jones Jr. sitting cageside. Then again, maybe Weidman is just that good. Maybe Weidman never loses again, or he just has Silva’s number. Maybe he just got caught, as Mark Munoz said after the fight.
The plain fact is this: It was hubris that got Silva knocked out, and it’s hubris that will bring him back in. You think a champion of his ability and legacy is going to go out like that? No way. Moments after the fight, he said he had no pressing need for a rematch. That rare moment is no time to take a man at his word.
Wait until the whole thing sinks in. That he got clubbed after all but sending out an embossed invitation for Weidman to do it. That had he presented himself as a “ballet of violence,” as Joe Rogan once famously said, instead of a willing participant to his own downfall. That he could have run his streak to 17-0 in the UFC, and made Weidman look as green as they said he was.
No, it won’t take long for pride to report, even if Silva does take some time off. That might be what’s needed after suffering his first loss in 17 UFC fights. In the time it takes him to realize he wants his belt back, there will be a new landscape to think about. All of the guys who lost to Silva and had little chance of getting another shot at the belt have been reinvigorated overnight. The new sheriff has so little history. He barely has an ounce of Silva’s mystique -- even if he’s carrying that mystique around Long Island today in his back pocket.
One thing is certain, though. Silva losing has its own fascination. How does he respond? Does he come back in no-nonsense form like when he was downing Chris Leben and Rich Franklin? Or was UFC 162 the dreaded day that began Silva’s undoing?
These are all of the new narratives. And we’ll have to contemplate them along with Ed Soares until they come together again. When they do, it’ll be Silva who walks out first. And that in itself is very strange indeed.
After years of being the most dominant mixed martial artist in UFC history, Anderson Silva suffered defeat in the Octagon for the very first time Saturday night in Las Vegas. And he didn’t know how to handle it.
Chris Weidman knocked Silva out at 1:18 of the second round to become middleweight champion. Minutes after regaining his faculties, Silva was asked about a rematch.
“I won’t fight [again] for the belt,” Silva said. “I had the belt for a long time. I have 10 more fights [with UFC], but not [necessarily] for the belt.”
Considering the time and circumstances, Silva’s response should have been taken with a grain of salt. Within minutes of his initial statement he had softened his stance.
“First of all, we need to respect Chris Weidman,” Silva said during the UFC 162 postfight news conference. “He’s the champion; he won the fight. But right now I’m just thinking of going home. I want to be with my kids and take some time off. And maybe in three to four months think about what I am going to do. But right now I can’t really think about that [rematch]. I just want to take some time off and be alone to think about everything.”
There will be a rematch. Silva will demand it. At least Silva has given us a general time frame in which he is likely to tell UFC president Dana White it's OK to set it up.
Silva’s a great champion, and like great boxing champions who have suffered a major defeat, he’ll want to restore order in his universe.
But, for the first time in his illustrious fighting career, Silva finds himself at a crossroads. His back is against the wall -- his future as a fighter, and how he will be remembered, hinges on what happens in that rematch with Weidman.
There are only two scenarios that matter: He will defeat Weidman handily, proving that the loss Saturday night was a hiccup, a fluke that occurred due to his poor judgment; or he will lose two in a row for the first time. A draw does nothing for him.
Hall of Fame boxer Sugar Ray Leonard came face-to-face with this situation in November 1980, five months after Roberto Duran handed him the first loss of his pro career. Duran taunted the slightly favored Leonard throughout their 15-round affair and emerged on the favorable side of a closely contested unanimous decision.
The loss was extremely painful for Leonard, who shed tears afterward. It took weeks before Leonard was able to gather himself and announce that he was ready for a rematch. Leonard would give Duran a dose of his own humiliating medicine in their rematch. He toyed with the hard-hitting Duran, who became so frustrated by Leonard’s superior boxing that he quit in the middle of the ring during eighth-round action.
That was the "No Mas" fight. And Duran, one of the greatest boxers in the sport’s history, never fully regained his legendary status.
Leonard would go on to achieve even greater heights -- wins over Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler stand out. To this day, Leonard is regarded among the greatest boxers ever. This is the scenario Silva will seek to retain in his rematch with Weidman.
But a rematch with Weidman puts Silva in position to experience another loss and a slip in legendary standing. If that happens he might begin to be seen more like “Sugar” Shane Mosley than Ray Leonard. When his fighting days are over, Mosley will be voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But he will never be in the same class as the elite; he will never be on Leonard’s level.
There was a time when Mosley appeared to be on his way toward entering the conversation for greatest of all time. He was a dominant fighter for many years, even beating Oscar De La Hoya by split decision (June 17, 2000) in a long-awaited, highly anticipated showdown of Southern California natives.
Mosley looked unbeatable after that win. But in January 2002, he put his WBC welterweight title on the line against Vernon Forrest. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare leading into the fight, though Forrest was unbeaten as a pro -- he actually beat Mosley during their amateur days.
Forrest also possessed a fighting style that gave Mosley fits. He hit Mosley repeatedly with a looping right hand en route to a unanimous decision.
The rematch, six months later, wasn’t much different: Forrest took it by unanimous decision.
As in the Mosley-Forrest matchups, Weidman has a fighting style that seems tailor-made to frustrate Silva. Those who picked Weidman to beat Silva on Saturday repeatedly cited his high-class wrestling, top-level jiu-jitsu and extreme confidence as keys. What few, if any, expected to see from Weidman was his punching power, solid head movement and straight left jab.
This aspect of Weidman’s game makes him an even more dangerous opponent in a rematch than the guy Silva faced Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. But it’s the perfect opportunity for Silva to keep his label as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
No matter the outcome, Silva will always be regarded as a great champion. In this rematch, however, there is much more at stake for Silva than reclaiming the UFC middleweight title belt. He must win this fight, some might say convincingly, like Leonard did against Duran, to maintain his standing as the greatest mixed martial artist in the sport’s history.
But it won’t be easy. Weidman proved Saturday night that he is no one- or two-trick pony. Silva will need to be at his absolute best in the rematch, and even that might not be enough.
Fighters sometimes wade through boggy brains to find their words. When they do, we should know enough to receive them with skepticism. This is especially true following the sort of stunning defeat Anderson Silva suffered against Chris Weidman on Saturday, which is why I don’t expect he’ll cling to what he said.
After an uncorking, oxygen and time can impact fighters and wine alike. Silva, the finest vintage of them all, hadn't a chance to breathe when he expressed a perplexing disinterest in the belt he surrendered or the unbeaten New Yorker who just knocked “The Spider” from his web.
Instead, Silva expressed how tired he was of being champion. His time at the top was done. There would be no more high-stakes fights, despite recently signing a new 10-fight deal. This made people go crazy. To many ears, mine included, Silva’s reaction was off-kilter, an indelicate red as it were.
He was so deferential it came off as if he was abdicating the throne.
This is where tone confused people. The trouble was squaring Silva’s reaction with one befitting the sport’s pound-for-pound king. That designation is assigned for competitive dominance as much as overarching skill. Now the guy who ruled forever, the wizard and his ballet of violence, was picking up his ball and going home? Nuts.
Literally, it made people lose their minds. There were so many screams about a fix being in that Dana White was asked about it afterward. A savvy veteran fighter, who shall remain nameless, texted to tell me he thought something was “fishy.” I asked for specifics, but didn’t get a response.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that Silva spoke as if he was determined to leave Weidman in charge. In fact, he said so the week of the fight in an interview with Canadian reporter Joe Ferraro. Sarcastically but prophetically, Silva suggested the “perfect” outcome meant he'd no longer be a UFC titleholder. As for a rematch, which in a rare prefight statement White declared was automatically in play if Silva lost? A face was made suggesting a case of shingles would be more appealing.
Yet half an hour after picking himself up off the canvas, having taken time to breathe, Silva’s rematch repudiation had given ground to reason. At the postfight news conference, the 38-year-old magician conceded he needed time to figure it all out. Three to four months’ worth. He sought to reconnect with his family. He had to step away for a bit, he said. These were perfectly rational requests.
Silva should come to the conclusion that a rematch is the only decision worth making. Yes, the man’s legacy is set, however, it’s not done being written. If Silva declines to fight for the piece of hardware that came to define his career, that’ll be etched into his history, and as more than a footnote.
Silva devoted his life to martial arts. He should be excited to fight Weidman again. Finally. After all these years. A worthy challenger has emerged that didn’t require cloning, and he’s angling to do a series of, what, exhibitions?
The reality is Silva has two options at the moment: retire or rematch.
Who would have thought the middleweight icon needed reminding what it is to be a champion worthy of distinction?
Much has been made of his approach to the fight. Silva was more animated against Weidman than any opponent he faced before. Rather than go businesslike after the challenger the way he had against Chris Leben, or Dan Henderson, or Vitor Belfort, Silva hammed it up, attempting to rouse Weidman with showboating, hands-down, jelly-legged madness.
Silva essentially walked himself into a corner where he transformed from sitting champion to sitting duck. I imagine this will gnaw at him; his pride along with the money he can make with White will influence his return to championship fighting. Let’s hope it won’t be delayed by Silva’s desire to box Roy Jones Jr., who probably had flashbacks of his downfall as he saw history Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Or work on a movie, something he's currently involved in as part of a Kickstarter project. The longer Silva waits, the older he gets and the better Weidman will become.
When Silva chooses to fight, he should prepare for an MMA contest against the guy who just stopped him, not a meaningless boxing match that no one really cares about but him. As an undefeated champ, he had the leeway. Not so anymore. There would be more important things on his plate.
Silva has always fought on the edge. Playing it safe during the closing stretch of his career would be disappointing. He pushed himself to the precipice of safety and eventually took a tumble. If Silva chose to stand properly and defend himself, I think he still could be MMA's best middleweight. But that's only true if he agrees.
There's yet another reason he should embrace the rematch. The new champion, for all the niceties expressed about him, deserves a chance to prove his point. Fans should get to see Weidman make his case against the most dangerous version of The Spider. The tactical sharpshooter who smartly avoids opponents. Weidman deserves to fight the Anderson Silva who demolished Leben, Henderson, Nate Marquardt and Chael Sonnen. To his credit, the new champ wants that.
LAS VEGAS -- It’s commonly said that styles make fights. Chris Weidman has relied on the mantra for more than two years to convince anyone who’d listen that he possessed the style of fighting to unseat middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
And the more Weidman spoke of his skills, the more convincing he sounded.
But it’s one thing to talk the talk, another to walk the walk. Weidman didn’t just walk, he ran away from the Octagon on Saturday night as UFC middleweight champion.
The goal, however, isn’t close to being fulfilled. Lifting the belt from Silva is only part of Weidman’s goal. Weidman dares to be great.
And Weidman is the first to say, based on his performance inside MGM Grand Garden Arena at UFC 162, he is far from greatness.
“It’s crazy,” Weidman told ESPN.com. “I would think that at this point, I could sit back and relax. But instantly I’m hungry. I have to get better.
“I feel I didn’t look my best. So, I’m excited about going out there and to hold on to this belt for as long as I possibly can.”
It’s this attitude that gives Weidman a chance to achieve his ultimate goal. He isn’t satisfied with being the first man to defeat Silva in UFC competition.
When Weidman spoke of knowing he would defeat Silva, it wasn’t simply because of the favorable style matchup. Weidman believes he is the overall better fighter.
But anything short of successfully defending the middleweight belt for many years will be deemed a failure in his eyes. And Weidman has the skills to achieve his long-term goal.
His wrestling is second to none. His jujitsu is of the highest quality. And his striking game is much better than average. But more than anything, Weidman is improving in every one of these areas.
The next time he steps in the cage, when his title is put on the line, Weidman will be a better mixed martial artist than the one fans witnessed Saturday night. His best isn’t close to being realized.
And that’s why a rematch with Silva will be more intriguing. Silva has not been on the losing end of a fight in more than seven years -- and that setback was due to an illegal kick. Take that loss to Yushin Okamai in January 2006 out of the equation and you have to go back to 2004 to find his last true defeat.
It’s been a very long time since Silva has tasted defeat. He’d never suffered a loss in UFC -- until Saturday night.
So it’s wise to take his talk, inside the cage immediately after the loss, of not wanting a rematch with Weidman with a grain of salt. Besides, he was softening his stance minutes later.
“First of all, we need to respect Chris Weidman,” Silva said during the UFC 162 postfight news conference. “He’s the champion; he won the fight. But right now I’m just thinking of going home. I want to be with my kids and take some time off.
“And maybe in three to four months I will think about what I am going to do. But right now I can’t really think about that [rematch]. I just want to take some time off and be alone to think about everything.
“There was a lot of pressure in defending this title. I’ve defended it for a long time, so I just need some time to myself.”
Though he came up short Saturday night, the 38-year-old Silva showed no sign of slowing down. He was simply beaten by the better fighter – on this night at least.
Silva is still a great fighter who pulled out just about every trick in his MMA bag; Weidman just didn’t bite. If a rematch with Weidman is made, expect Silva to be even better.
But expect the same from the new UFC middleweight champion.
LAS VEGAS -- It was always likely Anderson Silva would eventually suffer a UFC loss.
Fighters stay in this game longer than they should. Even as age diminishes their skills, they continue to walk to the steel cage, wearing nothing but four-ounce gloves.
Eventually, age or the right opponent would catch up with Silva. On a stage that is this unpredictable, Silva’s 16-fight win streak already bordered on mythical.
We should have all been prepared for a Silva loss at some point -- but like this?
What happened at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday enthralled the crowd of 12,399 spectators who paid to see the greatest fighter of all time. Most likely, though, it also left them shaking their heads.
Chris Weidman, an undefeated 29-year-old wrestler, took Silva down in the first 30 seconds of the fight -- a bad sign for supporters of the Brazilian champion. The overwhelming belief was if Weidman did win, it would be on the floor.
But moments later, Silva got back to his feet and broke away. It was a major turning point in the fight, but not in the way many expected.
Immediately after that initial scramble back to the feet, Silva got weird. He dropped his hands or put them on his hips. He pointed to the floor and demanded Weidman come forward, even though Weidman never backed down.
After taking a punch from the challenger, he would laugh and sometimes yell at him. Weidman later said he didn’t think it was showboating from Silva. He’s fine to say that, but it was absolutely showboating from Silva.
The antics, combined with Weidman’s composure, cost Silva the first round -- but not yet the fight. If anything, it felt as though the early momentum Weidman captured with the takedown was gone.
But Silva kept it up in the second round. Added to it, actually. After Weidman hit him with a left hook, he dramatically wobbled on his feet as though he were hurt but still slipped Weidman’s next punches.
It was during that sequence, though, when Weidman landed a left hook that finished the fight and ended perhaps the greatest run the UFC will ever see.
Fair or not, there are two equal pieces to this story: The composure of Weidman. The ridiculousness of Silva.
UFC president Dana White didn't see it that way. To White, Silva’s behavior coincided with many of his past performances. The fight delivered drama, action. If a streak is going to end, you want to be entertained along the way.
“The fans came here to see a great fight,” White said. “They saw a pretty good fight tonight.
“My heart was in my stomach, my hands were sweating, my jacket is soaked. I almost fainted twice. I’d say it was a pretty damn good fight.”
It was, and maybe Silva owes us nothing. Maybe for all the moments his career has produced -- and they are countless -- this was a fitting end after all.
No one really knew what a Silva loss would feel like in the UFC. We’ve been waiting to see one for more than seven years. But for that exact reason, it should have felt different than this. It should have felt like something truly extraordinary, not a goofball move.
Truthfully, it robbed Weidman as much as anyone else, if not more. The kid from Long Island was doing terrific on his own, without Silva’s invitations to take free shots at him.
After the fight, Weidman said the win wasn’t cheapened in his mind due to Silva’s taunting. He, too, pointed out Silva has a past of acting this way.
“Anderson Silva has won a lot of his fights because of what he did [tonight],” Weidman said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. I capitalized on it. A lot of other guys couldn’t. I’m not trying to take that away from myself.”
No one should -- Weidman earned the belt in Las Vegas -- but people will. When fans read that Silva’s hands were down, when they see the mockery in the faces he made, they’ll say it was more Silva’s foolishness that lost him the fight than Weidman.
On top of that, Silva said he has no interest in giving Weidman the opportunity to further legitimize the win, saying he had no interest in an immediate rematch.
Silva might be the greatest champion in UFC history, but he acted nothing like it in this fight. His first loss in the Octagon was always destined to be something special. In the end, the greatest way to describe it might be disappointing.
LAS VEGAS -- There is no rematch clause in the fight contract between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, as far as anyone knows -- at least not officially.
Weidman has become a popular pick among the MMA community to hand Silva his first UFC loss at UFC 162 this weekend. Since signing with the promotion in 2006, Silva has won 16 consecutive fights, including 10 title defenses -- both records.
If that streak comes to an end at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, UFC president Dana White says an immediate second fight between the two is a done deal.
“The rematch is a no-brainer,” White said. “Should Anderson Silva lose his first ever in the UFC since 2006, you’re damn right we’ll do the rematch.
“If he loses on Saturday, you guys can go out and print: The rematch will happen. I don’t know what date, but it’s coming.”
Silva (33-4) signed a new 10-fight deal earlier this year. He's 38, so there is a strong possibility he'll never finish that deal, a scenario even White acknowledges.
At this stage in Silva’s career, White says, the middleweight champion is most interested in big-money fights. While an instant rematch with Weidman is guaranteed if Silva loses, the options open up considerably if he wins.
White and Silva have made no secret the top choice is welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. White initially wanted that fight booked in November, but St-Pierre opted to take a title defense against Johny Hendricks instead.
White says he’s tried to make Silva-versus-St-Pierre enough to say with confidence St-Pierre doesn’t want it.
“There’s no doubt about it. That’s a fact,” White said. “If that was the case, [St-Pierre] would say, 'I’ll take that fight. I think Weidman is going to beat him and I don’t want Weidman to have that fight. I want to beat him.'
“At the end of the day, [St-Pierre] weighs 170 pounds. If he weighed 185 pounds [middleweight] and felt that way, I’d be real pissed.”
Previously, White has hinted that any fight between champions would take place within a weight class with a title on the line, but he has since softened that stance, opening the door for a potential catchweight fight.
“It was always, for me, a pound-for-pound fight -- a huge legacy fight,” White said. “Who is the greatest of all time? They could both hold their titles. Georges St-Pierre could do this fight and still be the champ at 170.
“What’s crazy to me is St-Pierre opted to take a very dangerous fight at 170 without trying to take a dangerous fight at 185.”
Roy Jones attending UFC 162, still a Silva target
Amazing as it sounds, a nonsensical fight between Silva and former world champion boxer Roy Jones Jr. actually might have legs.
For years, Silva has publicly stated his desire to get in a boxing ring with Jones. In a recent interview with MMAjunkie.com, Silva said he’d actually prefer that fight to a UFC superfight against fellow champions St-Pierre or Jon Jones.
Picturing Silva getting into the ring with Roy Jones Jr., 44, is difficult. Silva’s UFC deal prevents him from doing so on his own. And certainly the promotion would never be interested in having it in the Octagon -- would it?
“Roy and I are talking,” White said Thursday. “Roy is coming here on Saturday.”
Jones, 56-8 as a professional boxer, hasn’t fought since a 10-round split-decision victory over Pawel Glazewski in June 2012. He serves as a commentator for HBO and has been involved with the camp of Canadian light heavyweight Jean Pascal.
In 2010, the UFC promoted a light heavyweight bout between Randy Couture and former world champion boxer James Toney at UFC 118. Toney was embarrassingly unprepared, losing via submission in the first round.
White wouldn’t go into details on what, if any, agreement might be reached to make Silva’s wish a reality. He acknowledged, though, how serious Silva is about it.
“It makes no sense to me,” White said. “These guys, when they grew up they had their heroes or whatever their deal is. It’s something they want to accomplish. This is something Anderson Silva wants to do.”
White says a Vitor Belfort rematch is a tough sell to Silva
Vitor Belfort, who likes to point out he doesn’t ask for fights, has asked for a fight.
This week via Twitter, Belfort sent a message to White requesting either Silva or Weidman, adding, "I deserve the winner!"
Belfort (23-10), who is on a four-fight winning streak in the 185-pound division, is unlikely to get his wish.
If Weidman wins, White already has said there will be an immediate rematch. If Silva wins, well, Belfort had his shot at that fight. It didn’t go well.
“The hard position Vitor is in, [Silva] went out and kicked him in the face in one of the most devastating knockouts of all time,” White said.
“So when you go back to Anderson Silva in the twilight of his career and say, ‘Hey, what about Vitor?’ ‘I annihilated Vitor. I want to fight other people.' "
White wouldn’t rule anything out when it comes to Belfort’s future, even adding, “I’m not saying Vitor can’t get the next shot or get a shot soon,” but in terms of what’s next in Silva’s career, it’s clear Belfort doesn’t top the list.