MMA: Anderson Silva
UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi admits that every now and then, he’ll log onto an Internet fan forum to see what’s being said about him.
He doesn’t always agree with what he finds.
Mousasi (34-3-2) will make his first appearance at middleweight since 2008 when he meets Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 36 on Saturday in Jaragua do Sol, Brazil.
If there’s one knock on Mousasi’s sterling record thus far, it’s that he’s built it while facing lesser competition. Although he’s lost just three fights in the last 10 years, rarely if ever will you see his name on a pound-for-pound list.
“I don’t get a lot of credit,” Mousasi told ESPN.com. “When I fought Denis Kang, Renato Sobral and Melvin Mahoef (in 2008), they were much better then. At that time, Kang was on top. A couple years later, he was losing to everybody.
“When I beat [Ronaldo] Jacare Souza, he wasn’t a big name. Mark Hunt -- no one knew who these guys were. Now they are doing very well. It depends how people look at it and people usually look at it negatively with me.”
Mousasi knows he can do a lot to change that perception with a win over Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who appears to be on the verge of another title shot following a first-round knockout over Mark Munoz in October.
On Wednesday, Mousasi shared his thoughts on that upcoming opportunity.
ESPN: Does it bother you that some observers criticize the level of competition you’ve faced?
Mousasi: I don’t know how people look at it. I’ve seen so many fighters getting knocked out. I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve never been hurt in a fight. But people don’t look at those things. Vitor Belfort has been knocked out a couple of times. No one looks at it that way. I’m a solid fighter. I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, but I am always underrated.
ESPN: When you stopped cutting to middleweight in 2009, you said it was too difficult of a cut for you. What’s changed from then to now?
Mousasi: My last two fights (at light heavyweight) I didn’t cut a lot of weight. I was around 206 or 207 pounds. It makes sense cutting now. I think I always knew I was a little undersized. I perform better at 185 and I will get an easier title shot here.
ESPN: What makes you think a UFC title shot at 185 pounds is easier to earn than 205?
Mousasi: There are a lot of popular names in the light heavyweight division. At middleweight there isn’t a No. 1 contender. You have Vitor Belfort next and then no one is really in line. At 205, the next guy is Glover Teixeira, then you have Alexander Gustafsson and then Daniel Cormier or Rashad Evans. You have three guys in front of you at that weight. At middleweight, you only have Belfort.
ESPN: You’re well known for how calm you are in the cage. Has that always come naturally to you, and is it an advantage in a fight against an elusive guy like Machida?
Mousasi: When I was an amateur, I would go to knock guys out in the first minute. When you get experience, you know it doesn’t work like that. Emotion works against you. The less emotion, the more you use your brain and fight smart. I’ve been working on staying calm for this fight and I’ve seen Machida get frustrated, too. If he can’t do what he does, he’ll get frustrated.
ESPN: When you announced your intent to drop to 185 pounds, Anderson Silva was still the champion. Were you excited about the idea of a possible fight with him?
Mousasi: My goal was to fight for the belt. At that time, Anderson Silva was the champ, so of course I wanted to fight him. I was thinking about it. But I just want the belt. That’s my goal. Who has it now is not that important.
ESPN: Chris Weidman is the champ now, having beaten Silva twice. Curious though, who would be a tougher matchup for you, Silva or Weidman?
Mousasi: Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. I would say, I think Anderson a little bit -- but not really. I don’t know. They are both equal. It’s too difficult to say.
The absence of longtime UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at the top of the division has done nothing to change the mindset of Constantinos Philippou.
He never thought about the UFC title before Silva lost and still doesn’t now.
Philippou (12-3) is set to meet Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday, in Duluth, Ga. Clearly, Philippou would like to get his hand raised because “everybody likes to win,” but in terms of what it would do for his rank, he doesn't particularly care.
Based out of Long Island, N.Y., Philippou says he won’t lose a minute of sleep if he someday ends his career having never fought for a world title. He understands it’s a weird stance to have as a martial artist, but that’s just the way it is.
I don't care about the fame or being called a champion. It's just a means to an end right now. Get a little money to move on to the next step of my life. Fighting is not my life. It's something I'm good at and it's what I do right now." -- Constantinos Philippou, on his place in the UFC
“That’s not me,” Philippou told ESPN.com. “I never saw myself in mixed martial arts and I never saw myself in the UFC.
“I don’t care about the fame or being called a champion. It’s just a means to an end right now. Get a little money to move on to the next step of my life. Fighting is not my life. It’s something I’m good at and it’s what I do right now.”
That doesn’t mean, Philippou says, he lacks motivation to improve. Since his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Francis Carmont at UFC 165, Philippou has worked especially hard on defensive grappling.
He knew how to defend takedowns prior to that fight against Carmont, in which he was badly outwrestled, and chalks up a lot of what happened to an off night.
Still, he expects most of his opponents, even those dangerous on their feet, to try to take him down. So it's always going to be on him to stay upright.
“Carmont has fought many times before where he strikes, but he chose not to stand with me, “Philippou said. “I feel any opponent will try to take me down. I don’t think they will feel comfortable enough striking with me.
“Even if they are good on the feet, they won’t want to chance taking a shot from me.”
Rockhold (10-2) seems to be thinking along the same lines, based on some of his prefight comments. A former Strikeforce champion, Rockhold is deft in establishing the range on his kickboxing, but it sounds as if he watched the Carmont fight.
“If this fight hits the mat within three rounds, I just don’t see him surviving,” Rockhold said. “My ground game and top game are too good. He’s in big trouble if it ever touches the mat.”
Philippou isn’t too concerned about trying to figure out Rockhold’s game plan. Since Philippou isn’t actively pursuing a UFC title, one might think he’d request “fun” fights from the promotion and avoid opponents who rely heavily on wrestling.
He insists, however, that he doesn’t care one way or another. It’s not as though he’s avoiding a title shot, he’s just not looking for one. He’s interested in being in the Octagon on a regular basis and collecting a steady paycheck for it.
The 34-year-old former professional boxer does admit, however, that seeing former teammate Chris Weidman win the belt has enforced the idea in his head that a title shot might present itself someday.
Philippou left Weidman’s team -- coached by Ray Longo and Matt Serra -- early last year for personal reasons, although he says he did so on good terms.
Since then, he has stated numerous times he wouldn’t fight Weidman, even if it were for a belt. But since the fighter Philippou used to spend plenty of time with is now the UFC middleweight champ, he supposes it does make the belt feel attainable.
“I trained with Chris, so now I kind of know what it takes to be at the top,” Philippou said. “It was an unknown with Anderson Silva because everybody thought it was impossible for him to lose. Then Chris went and did it twice.
“I’ve been in the cage with Chris. It proved to me it’s not impossible [to win a UFC title]. It can happen. If Chris did it, maybe I can do it.”
All early signs indicate that Silva, 38, will attempt a comeback from the serious leg injury he suffered during a UFC middleweight title fight Dec. 28.
Silva (33-6) fractured the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg when his opponent, Chris Weidman, checked Silva's kick in the second round. He was rushed to immediate surgery, where a metal rod was inserted into his tibia bone.
That rod, 11.5 millimeters in diameter, will likely remain in Silva’s body the rest of his life. That prompted many fans to question whether or not the Brazilian might enjoy an unfair advantage -- basically, a metal weapon attached to his lower body.
According to Dr. Timothy Trainor, consulting physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, there is no such concern. If Silva was to seek a license to fight in Las Vegas, where he has fought four of his last six fights, the rod would not be an issue.
“To my knowledge, there are absolutely no scientific studies that have ever been done to prove someone gains an unfair advantage in any kind of sport after they have a metal rod inserted to a bone,” Trainor told ESPN.com.
“Can I tell you he can kick harder with that rod? Absolutely not. Do I think he can? No, I do not. The rod is in the middle of the hollow bone. It’s not going to change the force he kicks with. That’s still based on muscles.”
Trainor, an orthopedic surgeon, said the only “benefit” Silva might have is it would be very difficult for him to suffer the same injury with the rod in place.
In terms of impact during a kick, “the bone still absorbs that trauma,” Trainor said.
Ultimately, no orthopedic procedure exists that would concern Trainor in terms of providing a combat athlete an unfair advantage. Metal pins inserted into the hands of boxers or plates into the orbital area of a martial artist’s face are all included.
“The answer is no,” Trainor said. “You have to understand, the plates and screws being put on for something like that, they’re not very strong. What I mean by that is, in the operating room, I bend those plates with my hands.”
Should a future Silva opponent file a complaint on the rod, Trainor said he would advise the commission to license Silva anyway. The rod is designed to be removable, however it’s typically left in place unless a patient experiences complications.
“Essentially what we would require prior to approving Silva to fight again is a note from the treating orthopedic doctor, stating he’s healed the fracture,” Trainer said.
Dr. Steven Sanders, who performed the operation, estimated Silva could return to the gym within six to nine months.
You're probably wondering what is currently the UFC's No. 1 identifiable moment with the casual fan. It's probably Silva's front kick against Vitor Belfort in 2011 or Georges St-Pierre begging for a title shot in 2005. Or maybe it's something relating to Brock Lesnar.
If you ask Weidman, his guess is the fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar that capped off the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series in 2005 -- although that classifies more as the promotion's most famous fight than any singular moment.
In terms of historical context, few fighters mean more to the UFC than Silva and that's unlikely to change. He'll be remembered more for the knockouts that went in his favor than the one that didn't, at least generally speaking.
But when you look at that Weidman left hook, the element of shock it created rippled through mainstream news outlets. Non-UFC fans saw it -- because of its relevance to the promotion and because it was just a wild, crazy moment in sports.
Depending on what Weidman (and Silva) go on to do in the future, there's reason to believe UFC 162 could go down as not just the knockout of the year, but the most recognizable moment in the Octagon ever.
"That's crazy to think about," said Weidman, who defeated Silva a second time in last Saturday's rematch when the former champion suffered a severe leg injury. "But it's hard for me to think about too many things. I'm thinking about Vitor Belfort."
No. 2: Vitor Belfort KO1 Luke Rockhold, UFC on FX 8
Belfort really took to referring to himself as "The Lion" in 2013 and boy did he maim Rockhold in this fight. This was a spinning heel kick for the ages.
No. 3: Demetrious Johnson KO1 Joseph Benavidez, UFC on Fox 9
We're going to say it one last time and then we're not going to argue about it ever again: Flyweights carry knockout power. End of discussion.
No. 4: Renan Barao KO2 Eddie Wineland, UFC 165
This fight felt like treading water for Barao -- just don't lose, get the win and secure a unification title bout with Dominick Cruz. If this is how the Brazilian treads water, what's it look like when he decides to really swim?
No. 5: Lyoto Machida KO1 Mark Munoz, UFC Fight Night 30
Many wondered what "The Dragon" would look like at 185 pounds and they got their answer in his middleweight debut: pretty good. Pretty. Good.
LAS VEGAS -- Anderson Silva might never fight again.
What an absolutely depressing, awful thing to contemplate. A man who has been at the helm of so many memorable moments in UFC history might be finished at 38, thanks in no small part to a freakishly broken leg suffered on Saturday.
It’s not like I’ve spent hours of my life contemplating what the end of Silva’s career would look like -- but now that we might be there, I guess, yeah, I had some ideas. None of them involved him leaving on a stretcher, headed for the operating table.
This isn’t 100 percent the end of Silva’s fighting career -- in 2008, Corey Hill suffered a very similar injury in the UFC and he fought 13 months later -- but it should be. I would never put anything past Silva, but a full recovery at age 38 would be a task.
And seeing a 40-year-old, past-his-prime Silva attempt a comeback in 2016 would be even more depressing than witnessing the injury itself. No, I’d rather my last memory of Silva be the one I had right before that kick -- when I knew he lost the first round but there was still almost an expectation he’d find a way to win.
The one saving grace in this unfortunate (and most likely) end to Silva’s career is that the other fighter involved was Chris Weidman.
It wasn’t some random No. 1 contender who happened to perfectly check one leg kick. It was a fighter who, over the course of four rounds, proved he was better.
That’s the problem with the traditional, “passing of the torch” storyline. It’s a give/receive relationship. That’s not how professional sports are supposed to work. A contender wants what the champion has and the champion will do everything he can to keep it. There’s not supposed to be any “passing” involved.
And that’s what happened on Saturday. Looking back on the entirety of the Weidman/Silva fights, you actually get this feeling that Weidman got robbed. He knew he could beat Silva -- twice. He even wanted the second time to be in Brazil.
In fact, Weidman didn’t even look all that happy after the win -- both in the cage and at the post-fight news conference. Of course, seeing Silva suffer a severe leg injury will dampen the mood, but it also appeared Weidman was disappointed that a freak injury prevented him from another convincing finish of Silva.
Hopefully, history will be written correctly when it comes to these two fights. Silva did clown in the first meeting and it helped lead to a certain result, but he played it completely straight in the rematch and was dominated just as soundly.
Silva didn’t look old and he didn’t lack motivation. He wasn’t a former great on the decline. He was still Anderson Silva.
“I thought he looked great tonight,” Weidman said. “Physically, I thought he looked the best I’ve ever seen him.”
UFC female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey told ESPN.com recently that her hope (and goal) is to retire undefeated and vacate the belt. That said, Rousey made it a point that she would want “her” belt to fall to someone deserving.
A broken leg injury on a checked kick was not how anyone wanted to see Silva go out. It’s downright tragic.
But how did we want to see him go out? The answer to that is probably that it didn’t really matter, as long as it felt like he lost to a better fighter, deserving of his title. At least on Saturday, despite the way it ended, Silva did indeed lose to the better man.
If 2013 reminded us of one thing, it’s that no one is untouchable in mixed martial arts. Not every UFC belt changed hands, but dominant champs such as Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey each danced with defeat at some point this year.
Silva had lost before Weidman knocked him unconscious, but not since 2006 and never in the UFC. We all tend to agree with the general idea that no fighter is “perfect,” but Silva has been, in the eyes of many, the closest thing to it.
His loss, to an undefeated fighter no less, highlights an interesting question: What is perfect relative to MMA? Will we ever see a fighter pitch a career shutout -- an undefeated record at the highest level? Is it even possible?
In the minds of those who still have a shot at retiring undefeated, it’s quite possible.
“Absolutely,” said light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, when asked whether the UFC will ever see one of its champions retire undefeated. “If I were to retire right now, I would consider myself undefeated, so it’s totally doable.
“I’ve felt [unbeatable] a lot of times throughout my career, watching my old fights and seeing the way I’ve dominated people. I’ve definitely felt invincible at times. I think it’s important to feel that way, but still respect your opponent.”
There are currently (and this number might surprise you) 32 fighters on the UFC roster who have yet to lose as a professional. Of those 32, however, 23 have fought 10 times or fewer and are well outside of title contention. Jones is 19-1, the "1" thanks to a disqualification in 2009.
The competition level of the UFC will spoil undefeated records pretty quickly, says Weidman (10-0), who still believes that it's possible for a fighter to retire undefeated but that his or her final record would look nothing like that of boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is 45-0.
“There are more ways to lose in MMA,” Weidman said. “You have striking, wrestling; there’s always a guy that’s going to come around that might have something better than you.
“You could have a guy go [undefeated], but not with the numbers of a Mayweather. I don’t know about that many fights. And in boxing, they start you off fighting 15 guys with losing records. In MMA, you get thrown in right away. I’m 10-0, and I’m already the champion.”
The greatest challenge of remaining perfect, it seems, is finding a perfect balance in multiple aspects of the sport.
You have to feel invincible, but know you’re vulnerable. You have to fear losing, but remain unaffected by the pressure of that fear. You have to win every training session, but hold back enough to not injure yourself in the process.
“When I’m about to fight, I am laser focused on my fear of failure,” said Rousey, a former U.S. Olympian in judo and 7-0 in MMA. “That’s why I try to raise the stakes in every fight, because I’m more likely to make a mistake when I feel it’s not a big deal.
“The mental thing is really the hardest part. I think if they would line up 20 fights and I could have them happen in a week, it would be easier for me to do it than over the course of several years. It’s the buildup to every fight that takes it out of you.”
Of course, there is also the challenge of walking away from competition itself with a perfect record intact. This year, St-Pierre essentially became the first modern-era UFC champion to willingly vacate his belt -- and even he left the door open for a return.
Frank Shamrock vacated the UFC middleweight title (now the light heavyweight title) when he retired in 1999. He had seven losses on his record before that decision. He returned after a brief absence and suffered three more defeats.
Phillip Miller retired from professional MMA in 2003 with a perfect 16-0 record, including two appearances in the UFC, but he never fought for a title. Royce Gracie was 11-0-1 when he left the UFC in 1995, but he returned to action five years later and eventually lost to Matt Hughes at UFC 60 in 2006.
Depending on what way you look at it, several have come close to sort of walking away from the highest level of MMA undefeated -- but it’s a distinction no one can legitimately, inarguably claim thus far.
Frankly, odds seem very much against it. There are too many ways to lose in MMA.
Jones was disqualified for a rarely used rule in a fight he was dominating. Heavyweight Travis Browne suffered his first loss when he tore his hamstring muscle in a freak-accident type injury against Antonio Silva. Seemingly unstoppable Cain Velasquez lost his perfect record in a split second, thanks to a Junior dos Santos right hand.
In the words of Silva, speaking to ESPN.com, “A perfect fight doesn’t exist. You can only dream about a perfect fight.”
If a perfect fight doesn’t exist, how reasonable is it to believe that a perfect record could? Well, there are those who do.
“My mom says there’s never a history of anything happening until it does,” Rousey said. “And then there it is.”
LAS VEGAS -- Muay Thai instructor Diogenes Assahida has known Anderson Silva for more than a decade and cornered him throughout his legendary career.
It takes him three words to describe what went wrong July 6, when Silva suffered the first loss of his UFC career -- a second-round TKO to Chris Weidman.
“Lack of motivation,” Assahida told ESPN.com, through interpreter Derek Lee.
Assahida, who lives and trains fighters out of Curitiba, Brazil, first observed Silva in the late 1990s in Vale Tudo competition. He would eventually appear in his corner, while Silva was fighting for Cage Rage promotion.
He was part of the Brazilian's camp when he first fought in the UFC, against Chris Leben in 2006. He was in Silva’s corner when he took the middleweight title from Rich Franklin via first-round TKO at UFC 64.
As Silva’s career progressed, Assahida wasn’t able to remain a consistent presence in his camp -- although the two remained in near constant contact.
When Silva meets Weidman for a second time at UFC 168 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it will be the first time Assahida has been a full-time member of his camp since he fought Chael Sonnen for the first time in August 2010.
Assahida, who spent the previous six weeks with Silva in Los Angeles, said they've worked on technique but most of their focus has been mental.
“Since he started training in the beginning, he’s always worked hard to be the best -- to be the champion,” Assahida said. “In my personal opinion, I don’t know how much it matters to him to be the champion anymore, but it matters to win this fight.
“I think for a few fights, he’s had a little bit of a lack of motivation. He was tired. His mindset and his focus now look good. I’ve been with him since the beginning of this camp and I am very confident.”
ESPN Stats & Information
The UFC was to crown its first ever superfight champion on April 7, 1995, at UFC 5. Royce Gracie, the three-time tournament champion against Ken Shamrock, whose only loss was to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master at UFC 1 in just 57 seconds. The two men fought for 36 minutes, with Shamrock gaining a takedown shortly into the fight and holding top position for the remainder of the 31-minute period. A five-minute overtime settled nothing and the fight was declared a draw. Despite being in top position, Shamrock landed 10 significant strikes (98 in total). And so began the legacy of the UFC rematch.
Over its 20-year history, the UFC has had more than 100 rematches. Some bouts such as Gracie versus Shamrock have changed the course of UFC history.
Battles that Changed History
UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell 2
UFC 65: Hughes vs. St-Pierre 2 (aka Bad Intentions)
Matt Hughes had defended his UFC Welterweight Title twice when he fought Georges St-Pierre for the second time at UFC 65. Hughes won the first matchup at UFC 50 by way of armbar, with one second remaining in the opening round. In the rematch, St-Pierre dominated, outstriking Hughes 45-10 and landing a brutal head kick and punches to dethrone the champion. Hughes would fight St-Pierre at UFC 79 and lose again, his last shot at a UFC title.
UFC 77: Silva vs. Franklin 2 (aka Hostile Territory)
UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir 2
By November 2008, Brock Lesnar had become the UFC heavyweight champion. But there was one man who had his number: Frank Mir. Mir defeated Lesnar by heel hook at UFC 81, and after Mir became interim champion, it set up the rematch at the UFC’s century mark event. Lesnar would control the action from the opening bell, bloodying Mir and outstriking the interim champ 47-4 in significant strikes. Lesnar would make one more title defense before health issues and losing the title led to his departure from MMA in 2011.
UFC 100 would be a night of redemption for Lesnar, much like these rematches.
Battles of Redemption
UFC 49: Belfort vs. Couture 2 (aka Unfinished Business)
Randy Couture was the UFC light heavyweight champion when he defended his title against Vitor Belfort at UFC 46 in January 2004. The end of the fight was marred in controversy when the doctor halted the bout just 49 seconds into the opening round because of a cut on Couture’s eyelid from a Belfort punch. Belfort was awarded the title because of the doctor stoppage, resulting in an immediate rematch in August. In the rematch, Couture gained two takedowns and damaged Belfort on the ground, ultimately leading to a doctor’s stoppage after the third round. Couture landed 33 of his 50 significant strikes on the grounded Belfort.
UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn 2
UFC 46 also saw another title change in the co-main event when BJ Penn submitted Matt Hughes to win the UFC welterweight title. Penn would leave the UFC because of contractual issues, but would return in March 2006. He would again fight Hughes at UFC 63, but the result was much different. Hughes was the UFC welterweight champion, and proved why in defeating Penn by TKO stoppage in the third round. They would rematch once more in 2010 with Penn winning by KO 21 seconds into the fight.
UFC 83: Serra vs. St-Pierre 2
UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2
The matchup against Weidman will be Silva’s third rematch in his MMA career. In his second set of rematches in 2010 and 2012, Silva fought Chael Sonnen and picked up two victories. But the first fight was three minutes away from going to Sonnen. At UFC 117, Sonnen gained takedowns in each of the first three rounds and had Silva on his back in the final round up on the cards when Silva forced a tap out with a triangle choke and armbar. Many thought Sonnen had Silva’s number when the two would rematch at UFC 148, but the Brazilian had other ideas. Sonnen landed 76 total strikes on Silva while the champion threw just two, missing both. But Silva battled in Round 2, eventually striking after a Sonnen slip and finishing the fight with knees against the cage.
All of those battles took place over time, but some rematches remain timeless for their bad blood and exciting results.
UFC 61: Ortiz vs. Shamrock 2 (aka Bitter Rivals)
While Ronda Rousey-Miesha Tate may be the preeminent feud of today’s MMA, it all started with Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. The two fought at UFC 40 in 2002, at the time the most watched UFC PPV of all time. The fight was one-sided as Ortiz dominated Shamrock for three rounds before the fight was stopped. The rematch took place 3 1/2 later at UFC 61 after the rivalry reignited on Season 3 of the Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz, in the middle of his career, beat the aging Shamrock with strikes 68 seconds into the first round. They would rematch in October 2006, and again Ortiz pounded Shamrock into a stoppage. But the rivalry and the bad blood is what kept the feud going for almost 10 years.
UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2
UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson 2
In 2003, Liddell was sent to Japan by the UFC to represent the company in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. Liddell would face “Rampage” Jackson in the semifinals and the winner was expected to face Wanderlei Silva in the final. Jackson would defeat Liddell by TKO due to corner stoppage in the second round. Fast forward to 2007, and Jackson became the No. 1 contender to Liddell’s UFC light heavyweight title. Once again, Jackson would catch Liddell with big punches, putting him to the mat and winning the bout 1:53 into the first round.
UFC 125: Edgar vs. Maynard 2 (aka Resolution)
The rivalry between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard began in April 2008, when Maynard beat Edgar by unanimous decision. Edgar would go on to win the UFC lightweight title from Penn in April 2010 and would defend it against Penn in August. After winning that rematch, it was time for UFC 125 and a rematch against Maynard, the only man to beat him. Edgar was knocked down three times in the opening round and Maynard looked to be on his way to another win. But Edgar battled back, outstriking Maynard 95-71 in significant strikes and earning a split decision draw. The two men would fight one more time in October 2011, but this time the clear winner was Edgar by fourth-round knockout.
This Saturday night, UFC 168 is headlined by not one, but two of these rematches. Will they be battles of redemption for the challengers, Silva and Tate? Or will Weidman and Rousey continue to cement their places as champions and put their foes out of the title picture for good? Either way, these fights will become part of the ever growing legacy of the UFC rematch.
ESPN Stats & Information
Here are the numbers you need to know for the fights:
7: Silva had been undefeated for more than seven years before losing to Weidman. Silva had not lost since January 2006, when he was disqualified for an illegal kick against Yushin Okami. "The Spider" has never lost consecutive fights in his 38-fight career.
37: Weidman landed 37 percent of his significant strikes in the UFC 162 fight, which was slightly below his average of 42 percent. Weidman was the busier of the two fighters, throwing 55 total strikes to Silva’s 32.
7: Silva has won seven knockout-of-the-night awards in his UFC career (most all time). Weidman has won knockout-of-the-night honors in each of his past two fights, including knocking out Silva for the first time in the Brazilian’s career.
3: Weidman attempted three takedowns against Silva, succeeding on one occasion. "The All-American" has landed at least one takedown in all six of his UFC fights. With that takedown 30 seconds into the fight, Weidman attempted two submissions and held Silva on his back for 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
4: Fighters from the state of New York who have held UFC gold (Jon Jones of Rochester, Rashad Evans of Niagara Falls, Matt Serra of East Meadow and Weidman of Baldwin). Weidman and Serra are the only UFC champions to come from a Long Island-based gym (Serra-Longo Fight Team).
7: Number of arm bar submission victories Rousey has recorded in her career, all in the first round. Rousey is the only fighter in the UFC to have won every one their fights with the same finish. Rousey has five arm bar submission victories under the Strikeforce/UFC banner, the most of any fighter in the promotions.
5: Number of UFC champions to coach "The Ultimate Fighter" and then defend their title against the opposing coach. The challengers are 3-2 in those fights, but the champions have retained in the previous two.
1: Rousey and Tate have both fought one common opponent, Sarah Kaufman. Tate lost to Kaufman by unanimous decision in 2009 under the Strikeforce banner and Rousey defeated Kaufman by first-round arm bar in 2012 to defend the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title.
78: Twelve of Tate’s 17 fights, including her previous four, have ended by way of KO/TKO or submission. All seven of Rousey’s fights have ended in a submission. 78 percent of fights involving Tate or Rousey, including their previous fight, have ended by KO/TKO or submission. Tate is 6-1 in fights ending in a submission (with her only loss to Rousey) and 3-2 in fights ending in a KO/TKO.
1: Tate gained one takedown in the first fight with Rousey. Although Rousey was able to take down Tate three times before getting the submission, Tate is the only fighter who has been able to take down Rousey. After her takedown, Tate was able to take Rousey’s back and hold the dominant position for just under a minute.
Statistical support from FightMetric
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.