THANK YOU, ANDERSON
Pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva proved yet again why he is viewed as the very best fighter on the planet by easily dispatching with an overmatched Stephan Bonnar on Saturday night. It was absolutely a no-win situation for the champ. A loss to Bonnar would have been disastrous to his legacy. Even allowing Bonnar to survive into the second round, something that neither of Silva’s previous two 205-pound opponents did, would be fodder for his critics.
Yet, Silva volunteered for the short-notice fight anyway. Why? To prevent the cancellation of UFC 153 after the two other marquee matchups were cancelled due to injuries. He said this was his way of giving back to the fans and the UFC.
My response: THANK YOU, CHAMP!
UFC 153 turned out to be one of the most entertaining cards of the year. For my money, it was actually the most entertaining to watch. But that is like preferring strawberry to chocolate ice cream. It is a matter of personal taste.
Yet, as mentioned, the card may not have happened without Silva stepping up. The fact that his performance was as dominant as his staunchest critics would have demanded is just icing on the cake. Silva was a winner the moment he accepted the fight. It displayed the bushido mentality that UFC President Dana White loves so much.
Now, we just need the champ to step up one more time. Nothing against Chris Weidman or Michael Bisping, probably the two top contenders at 185 pounds. It’s time for Silva to concentrate on nothing but super fights, which means two names—Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones.
For my money, Silva should fight GSP first and Jones second. If he takes the fights in the reverse, then the GSP fight will be largely immaterial. Would anyone give the Canadian a chance at scoring an improbable upset, if Silva already has a win over Jones? By contrast, facing GSP first may be the biggest fight in the sport’s history, trumped only by an immediate next matchup against Jones.
Come’on, champ. Give us a reason to say ‘thank you’ one more (actually, two more) times.
AFTER YEARS SPENT MIRED IN ANONYMITY, TEIXEIRA CONTINUES MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
Fabio Maldonado is a pretty darn good fighter.
Saturday night was Teixeira’s 17th consecutive win. His last loss occurred 90 months ago when Ed Herman scored a unanimous decision victory over the still green Brazilian. Now, Teixeira is undoubtedly the best “no name” light heavy in the game. I say “no name” because few in the US, outside of the truly dedicated hardcore fans, recognize his name. Visa problems forced this guy to hone his craft in his native Brazil over the last several years.
Two fights (and two one-sided wins) into his UFC career, there is no doubt that the time in Brazil served him well. I recall famed trainer John Hackleman touting this guy’s potential way back in 2004. Hackleman, who is best known for training iconic champion Chuck Liddell throughout his career, is an exceptional judge of talent. It looks like the “Pit Master” was right yet again. Teixeira is looking every bit like the 205-pound monster that Hackleman predicted he would become.
HERMAN GETS A LESSON IN HUMILITY
Dave Herman is a guy who appears to have the tools to be a tough fighter. He absolutely crushed at smaller promotions before getting the call to compete in the UFC. 20 wins. 19 of them inside the distance. Only two losses. Not bad, huh?
Herman, like many before him, has found the UFC to be a bit more difficult than anticipated. After winning his first bout with a Fight of the Night performance, he suffered back-to-back knockout losses, which likely left him a bit uncertain about his short-term UFC future.
Then, he received the opportunity of a lifetime. A fight against living legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the former champion’s home country of Brazil. A win over “Minotauro” would instantly catapult Herman into the mix in the heavyweight division. The two knockout losses would long be forgotten.
It was a matchup that seemed ripe for an upset, too. Minotauro is getting long in the tooth, has lots and lots of hard wear-and-tear on his body, and had only won two of his last five bouts. Had Minotauro’s arm fully healed from his submission loss to Frank Mir? Would he get caught up in the hype of fighting in Brazil for only the second time in his career? Would he take Herman lightly?
All those upset thoughts got tossed out the window when Herman began motivating the former champion by saying things like “jiu-jitsu doesn’t work on me.” For a true martial artist, like Minotauro, those are pretty offensive words. It wasn’t surprising, therefore, that he showed up sharp and ready to go on Saturday night. Herman got outfoxed by a wide margin in the first round. I’ll never understand why he thought it was a good idea to fight with his arm extended and his chin up. And then he got submitted with an armbar in the second.
It was a fitting end to a fight that seemed ripe for an upset. Instead, Herman got taught a pretty good lesson from one of the sport’s greats.
FITCH-SILVA PROVES THAT IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Jon Fitch has long been criticized as being a “boring fighter.” It’s a label that he understandably despises, though it has now been five years and 11 fights since the elite welterweight has won by stoppage. His style, while wildly effective, is more of a grind-it-out approach to the game, rather than a high-risk, high-reward approach. That’s OK. Fitch is 8-2-1 during that 11 fight stretch. Lack of stoppages notwithstanding, this guy is one of the best in the business.
Yet, something changed when he competed with Erick Silva. Fitch won only the second post-fight bonus of his career, earning Fight of the Night honors for his thrilling war. So what gives? Where has that Fitch been over the last five years?
The answer is a simple one. Styles make fights, and it takes two to tango. How about that? Two trite phrases in the same sentence. Good stuff, I know.
You can lock the most entertaining fighter in the world inside the cage with another man, and there is no guarantee that the fight will be exciting, unless both men want it to be exciting. Then, both men have to have the ability to make the bout exciting, which has as much to do about how their skills match up as anything else.
Fitch has been in several yawners. There is no doubt about that. But the yawners are often due to the fact that the AKA-trained fighter is just that much better than his opponents. Thus, they are unable to offer up any real resistance to his ground-and-grind style.
Silva proved to be the perfect dance partner on Saturday night. Not only did he want to engage in an all-out war, but he had the skills to force that kind of a fight, because Fitch could neither hold him against the cage nor keep him on his back. As a result, we got to see the best in Jon Fitch. Silva forced him to fight a dog fight, and the elite welterweight was more than happy to oblige. That was one of the better fights of the year, one that should earn Fitch some breathing room from having to continue to bear the “boring fighter” cross.
MAIA STARTING TO LOOK LIKE A CONTENDER AT WELTERWEIGHT
Demian Maia took the UFC by storm when he debuted back on October 20, 2007. The jiu-jitsu savant stopped each of his first five opponents by submission. Then, the realities of competing in the middleweight division hit home, as he lost two of his next three fights and four of his next eight.
The biggest problem for Maia initially seemed to be his severe lack of standup. He made tremendous improvements in that part of his game over the last couple of years, but that ultimately wasn’t what was holding him back. It was his size – or, more accurately put, his lack thereof.
Maia was a tiny middleweight. His lack of size mixed with his lack of a dominant wrestling base made for tough living among much larger men, particularly since he needed to get the fight to the ground in order to give himself the best chance at success.
The natural decision was to drop to welterweight, which is exactly what Maia did earlier this summer. The results were spectacular, as he dominated a tough Dong Hyun Kim – a fighter who had only lost once in 18 previous professional bouts heading into his fight with Maia. That fight made Maia an interesting topic of discussion when surveying the welterweight landscape.
Still, it was only one fight. And anything can happen during any individual fight.
That brings us to the present and Maia’s submission win over another tough welterweight, Rick Story. Maia looked every bit the contender that his camp hoped he would become after dropping to welterweight. No longer is he the smaller man in the cage. In fact, he has a large frame for the division. He no longer faces major strength and weight disadvantages. Thus, he can now rely on technique (and being a big fighter for the division) when trying to drag guys down to the ground, where he is at his very best.
Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Maia is 2-0 in the division. He stands well back of Fitch, Johny Hendricks, Josh Koscheck, Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald, Nick Diaz and other top contenders for Georges St-Pierre’s 170-pound belt. But he is absolutely ready to begin mixing it up with those guys in an effort to see where he truly belongs in the contender hierarchy.