UFC 77 Recap: Silva shuffles to victory in the jungle
Rich Franklin entered US Bank Arena to Guns 'n Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and sported orange-and-black trunks, both homages to the Cincinnati Bengals teams of yesteryear. But, it was Anderson Silva who did his own version of the Ickey Shuffle midway through the first round of their bout en route to yet another dominating victory over Franklin.
In a fight that ended in remarkably similar fashion to their first bout about a year ago, Silva actually knocked Franklin out twice. One can argue that Franklin, a former math teacher, was “saved by the bell” when Silva dropped him to the canvas just as the first round ended. But the reality is that the one-minute intermission between rounds only prolonged the inevitable. Franklin was hurt when he came out for the start of the second round and it didn’t take much for him to succumb to Silva’s flurry of strikes to end the fight.
Silva proved again last night that he is a consummate professional. Possessing sublime all-around skills, the Brazilian entered the Octagon confident, calm, and humble. After winning, he appeared almost apologetic for defeating the hometown boy in such devastating fashion. The two hugged as worthy competitors.
But that could not mask the fact that Silva has no true competitors in UFC’s middleweight division or the fact that he is running through the weak division in Liddell-esque fashion.
What else can UFC’s middleweight division offer Silva?
As far as I can tell, not very much. UFC tried to convince us last night through the televising of two other middleweight bouts that Alan Belcher, Kalib Starnes, Demian Maia, and Ryan Jensen may give Silva a run for his money. But, what was mystifying is the fact that Yushin Okami’s decision victory over Jason MacDonald was not aired on the pay-per-view telecast. After all, that was the bout purported to determine the next No. 1 contender for the title.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who UFC throws at Silva from its current ranks. The gap between Silva and Franklin is more like an abyss. And, as Franklin proved by defeating both MacDonald and Okami earlier this year, there is another gap between Franklin and the rest of the field.
Still, I would like to see UFC put Okami up against Silva because if the No. 1 contender position goes to the victor of a war of attrition, then Okami has staked his claim -- even if in unspectacular fashion -- to the opportunity.
What I hope doesn’t happen is that Silva’s most dominant years are spent fighting also-rans. After all, there are other intriguing middleweight matchups for "the Spider" – they’re just not in UFC. For example, WEC champion Paulo Filho, EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler, Strikeforce champion Frank Shamrock, or K-1 HERO’s Denis Kang might provide nice matchups.
However, only Filho would appear to be a realistic opponent at this point, simply because WEC is also owned by Zuffa, the parent company of UFC, and I imagine he would be the easiest fighter to bring over.
Sylvia grinds out victory over Vera
In a heavyweight division also in turmoil, Tim Sylvia held rising star Brandon Vera down for a methodical unanimous decision victory. Sylvia didn’t earn too many style points with the fans, but he did at times show the hand quickness and kicks that helped him rise to the top of the division. Fresh off back surgery, Sylvia spent most of the night clinching the smaller Vera up against the cage. Vera scored one takedown but didn’t do much with it and appeared to have no answers for the giant. The few times the two fighters separated, the exchanges appeared fairly even.
Sylvia’s flurry at the end of the third round, which opened a cut on top of Vera’s head, solidified the win for the former champion.
Now the question is where does the heavyweight division go from here, assuming Randy Couture doesn’t return? Was Sylvia’s performance enough to put him in a title bout? Can UFC stomach another title reign by Sylvia? After all, his last four fights have all gone to decisions. And, where does “Minotauro” (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) stand in all this?
Brock Lesnar joins UFC
In a rather understated announcement made during the telecast, former amateur wrestling champ and professional wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar was announced as UFC’s newest addition to the heavyweight division. Lesnar only has one pro MMA fight under his belt but it was a submission victory over Min Soo Kim at K-1 HERO’S ill-conceived Los Angeles show in June.
I wonder who will have the bigger impact. Kimbo Slice, who signed with EliteXC a couple of weeks ago, or Lesnar? I can say that I’ll be following both career paths with considerable interest.
No Wanderlei Silva announcement
Although PRIDE superstar Silva has been under contract with the promotion for a couple of months now and he was on hand live for UFC 77, we still don’t officially know who his first opponent will be. Speculation is rampant that his first fight will be against Chuck Liddell at UFC 79, but no official pronouncement has been issued by Dana White.