|ESPN.com: Mixed Martial Arts||[Print without images]|
LAS VEGAS -- With a chip on his shoulder and power in his left foot, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva wasted little time retaining his title Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
But there was more than the title at stake. Silva and top contender Vitor Belfort had a score to settle at UFC 126. This fight was personal, and the champ made certain that Belfort's quest to take his crown would end quickly.
Silva landed a front left kick to Belfort's chin as the challenger expected a blow to the body. Belfort quickly hit the canvas and Silva put on the finishing touches -- two hard rights. Just like that, it was over at the 4:25 mark of Round 1.
The origin of the hostility between Silva and Belfort began several years ago. The two once trained briefly at Chute Boxe in Brazil. It is custom in Brazilian mixed martial arts gyms that everyone is treated like family. As far as Silva and the other fighters at Chute Boxe were concerned, Belfort was one of them. But soon, Belfort opted to go elsewhere to train.
Hard feelings toward Belfort developed from those who once called him a brother. Silva was among them. The bad feelings turned white hot this week when Belfort accused Silva of being a fake and a phony after the champion wore a mask during Friday's staredown.
|Down and out: Anderson Silva put a wounded Vitor Belfort out of his misery with a follow-up flurry.|
The two exchanged harsh words at Friday's weigh-in and had to be separated. There was no one to keep them apart on Saturday night. Silva was determined to make his former friend feel his wrath. This victory might be Silva's most satisfying.
"There is a code of honor in Brazil," Silva told ESPN.com. "When people train together you don't leave and come back to fight your former teammates.
"Vitor broke that code of honor. He paid for it tonight."
Although there was anger clearly etched on his face, Silva played it cool early on. Neither he nor Belfort did much in the way of pressing the issue. Instead, they spent the first two minutes posturing, waiting for the other to make the first move.
Belfort broke the peace at the 2:17 mark with a right hand. From that moment, the fight was on.
Silva decided to put an end to his feud shortly thereafter.
With Belfort now in his rearview mirror, Silva turns his attention to his next opponent. Most believe it could be welterweight title holder Georges St. Pierre. Silva, however, isn't ready to commit to anything at this time. He prefers to enjoy his win over Belfort.
"I don't know who my next opponent will be, but I will be ready," said Silva, who improved to 28-4-0.
In defeat, Belfort praised his former teammate, but vowed to come back stronger next time out.
"Anderson Silva is a great champion," said Belfort, who is now 19-9-0. "We came to fight, and we fought.
"I promise to come back and fight just as hard."
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.