Anderson Silva weighs-in for UFC 82: Pride of a Champion. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Anderson Silva passed his toughest test yet as champion with flying colors, submitting former Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson and successfully defending his UFC middleweight title for the third straight time, becoming the second undisputed champ in mixed martial arts history while doing it.
Even in defeat, Henderson perhaps gave the best performance against the champion to date. After an exchange on the feet to start the fight, Henderson was able to take Silva down and control him on the mat until the end of the round.
Although Silva did a good job of keeping a tight guard and preventing Henderson from doing any significant damage, the Team Quest co-founder used a number of hammer fists and the constant disruption of Silva’s breathing pattern to take the lead on the judge’s scorecards.
Silva heeded advice to crank up the pressure at the start of the second round, waving Henderson towards him and then stunning him with a mix of kicks, knees, and punches. A dazed Henderson swung wildly while trying to keep himself from falling over and then came up short in a takedown attempt.
Silva (21-4) capitalized by pouncing on his opponent. After softening him up with punches from inside his guard, Henderson (22-7) gave up his back and was forced to tap out via a rear naked choke moments later.
“My hat goes off to Anderson Silva,” Henderson said during a post-fight interview. “He was definitely the better fighter tonight. I controlled him well and beat him up a little bit in that first round and he came back ready to get after me in the second. He dazed me a little bit on the ground and then he got me in the choke.”
“I think I should have been more aggressive,” continued Henderson. “I didn’t fully execute my gameplan.”
In the other heavily advertised fight of the night, Heath Herring’s self-reinvention paid off as the Texas native used superior wrestling and heavy hands to earn a close, split decision win over fellow heavyweight contender Cheick Kongo.
The fight started off with a bang, literally, as Herring dropped Kongo with the first punch he threw. The Frenchman quickly recovered however and then shocked the crowd when he opted to take Herring down to the mat, unveiling a new and improved ground game that before last night, was Kongo’s downfall.
Kongo’s fresh grappling skills won him the first stanza but it was Herring who was able to control his opponent on the ground for the majority of the second. It looked like Kongo (11-4-1) was about to pull away in the third but Herring (28-13) swept his opponent and controlled him from top position for the remainder of the round, ultimately the deciding factor in the judges awarding Herring a well-earned decision.
Despite a win that secures himself at least one more shot in the UFC, Herring wasn’t very content with his performance.
“I’m not happy,” Herring said after the fight. “I wanted this to be a standup battle, I wanted to duke it out with this guy. I didn’t think he was going to take me down. I didn’t train my ground game at all for this fight. I thought he was gonna stand and bang with me for a little bit, but that’s not what I got tonight.”
An expected slugfest between the always entertaining Chris Leben and light heavyweight convert Alessio Sakara certainly delivered.
Both fighters started swinging right from the start of the bout. The contrasting striking styles of the two became evident immediately. Sakara, the more-technical former professional boxer used jabs and right hooks in an attempt to slow Leben down. Leben however, being the free-swinging brawler that he is, wasn’t having any of it and opted to meet Sakara head-on.
A three-minute exchange took a different turn when Leben landed two looping lefts while Sakara was up against the cage. The Italian knees buckled and then gave out on him, sending him crumpling to the canvas. Leben jumped on top and landed a pair of unanswered punches that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
Sakara immediately stood up and began protesting Dean’s possible early stoppage but replays showed that Sakara (12-7) clearly wasn’t intelligently defending himself.
“He actually hit a lot harder than I thought,” Leben (18-4) told the crowd after the fight. “He caught me with a couple of clean shots that actually hurt. It takes a lot to hurt me, so more power to him. But I did what I do. I put him in the blender. I took him in the deep end. I said you want to swing, let’s swing. That’s what these fans came to see.”
Yushin Okami put a quick to Evan Tanner’s inspiring return to active competition, knocking out the former champion and potentially earning himself a shot at championship gold in the process in the night’s second televised fight.
After a tenative first couple of minutes from both fighters, Okami (21-4) countered right hands from Tanner (32-7) with a straight left that forced his opponent to sit down on the mat for a moment. Tanner recovered but ended up finishing the round inside an Okami thai clinch.
Tanner increased his aggressiveness going into the second round but a strength disadvantage left him unable to take the fight to the ground where he would be the superior fighter. While clinching up against the cage, Tanner opted to throw some shots to Okami’s body, leaving the Japanese fighter an opening to throw a knee, which he took. The knee landed flush on Tanner’s chin and violently ended his night.
While there is no shame in losing to a top-ranked fighter, Tanner’s performance likely was a sign that he may not have been fully prepared for his return.
In the pay-per-view broadcast’s first fight of the night, Jon Fitch (16-2) grinded out a hard-fought unanimous decision over Team Quest product Chris Wilson (13-4) and solidified his spot as the UFC welterweight division’s top contender for a title shot.
“I want to fight the toughest guys out there,” Fitch said after the fight. ““I’m ready for that strap. I’m ready to fight for the title. Whoever has it, Serra or St. Pierre, whoever the best man is, I want to fight him. Once you have that belt, every fight you have is the toughest and that’s exactly what I want.”
Andrei Arlovski (12-5) completed his last fight on his current contract with the UFC and picked up a win over previously undefeated wrestler Jake O’Brien (10-1) in the process.
Luigi Fioravanti (12-3) picked up a win over Luke Cummo (6-5) in surprising fashion, opting to forego his usual strategy of slugging it out on the feet in favor for a ground attack which ultimately worked in his favor.
Josh Koscheck (10-2) stopped hometown favorite Dustin Hazelett (10-4) in devastating fashion, courtesy of a well-placed head kick and a flurry of punches following the impact. Diego Sanchez (18-2) spoiled David Bielkheden’s UFC debut, stopping the former PRIDE veteran with strikes.
Ohio resident Jorge Gurgel (12-3) won a unanimous decision over John Halverson (16-6) in the night’s first fight.
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