UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" went off last night without a hitch at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, before a crowd of 16,431 fans who paid a collective $2.2 million at the gate.
It was one of the most loaded cards from top to bottom in recent memory and the fights -- for the most part -- did not disappoint.
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva continued his brilliant dominance over the 185-pound division, submitting Pride FC 183-pound champion, Dan Henderson, via rear naked choke in round two.
Henderson appeared to have the right gameplan heading in to the bout, controlling Silva on the ground for most of the opening frame and peppering him with short punches and elbows while in the top position.
But it all went south when the horn for the second round went off. Silva connected with big knee in the clinch that dazed Henderson and a follow-up punch sent him crashing to the canvas.
Henderson survived for the better part of the stanza, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt took his back and sunk in the fight-ending choke hold with a handful of seconds remaining on the clock.
Part of me wished Henderson held on for the final eight seconds and the two continued to battle it out. But would it have made any difference?
"The Spider" proved (again) that he is just in another universe -- he's made such quick work of so many very talented fighters. And there's just one man left to beat, Yushin Okami, before we can say that he single-handedly "cleaned out" the entire category.
Okami continued his winning ways with a knockout win over former middleweight champion, Evan Tanner. "Thunder" whipped out a very impressive clinch game and put Tanner to sleep with a crushing knee to the jaw.
Even before the fight ended, Okami was dictating the pace of the bout and landing hard, crisp straight left hand punches. One of which, in fact, dropped Tanner early in the fight.
It was a great performance without a doubt. But should Tanner have even been in that fight?
He's got such a great story and he is adored by fans and fighters alike. It was difficult to see him thrown into the deep end against a top dog like Okami and get beat up after a two-year break from competition.
Hopefully, Tanner rebounds and can find his old form his next time out. Okami, on the other hand, could be the next opponent for Silva.
Good luck, buddy.
Top welterweight contender, Jon Fitch, was also in action last night against Chris Wilson. The Octagon newcomer -- who trains with the prestigious Team Quest camp -- looked solid in his debut performance.
Wilson -- a southpaw -- has an awkward approach that appeared to give Fitch fits. The former Purdue University wrestling captain seemed like he had no other choice but to take the fight to the ground ... and that's just what he did.
Fitch seemed to break Wilson a little bit in the second round and he continued to roll in the third. It was a solid but not great fight and it'll be interesting to see if it was enough to earn Fitch a shot at the 170-pound crown next.
It's hard to argue otherwise: He's still undefeated in the Octagon, tying UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie for the most consecutive wins (eight) in the UFC.
So, too, was Wilson in such a big fight. Hopefully, he sticks around and gets paired up with someone like ... Dustin Hazelett?
Just an idea.
The co-feature of the night was a heavyweight clash between Cheick Kongo and Heath Herring. This was a hard one for this writer to get up for, but both combatants turned in impressive performances and it was an entertaining fight.
Kongo -- a kickboxer -- appeared to develop a solid ground game virtually overnight, shooting for takedowns throughout the bout and scoring with them. It was a far cry from the man who got molested on the ground by Carmelo Marrero and could do nothing against Assuerio Silva.
It wasn't enough, however, because the rejuvenated "Texas Crazy Horse" was able to switch positions and do some damage while in side control.
Putting Herring inside the Octagon against division champion, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, does not seem likely -- he just lost to him (for the third time) at UFC 73: "Stacked" in July 2007.
That honor should go to Andrei Arlovski, who defeated Jake O'Brien last night via technical knockout in a weird fight. However, it was the last fight on his contract and he is now a free agent.
Hopefully, he returns ... the division needs him.
The other fight on the televised main card was a middleweight slugfest between Chris Leben and Alessio Sakara. It didn't hit the canvas once (to the best of my memory) and the two were like rock 'em sock 'em robots, with Leben finding Sakara's button late in the first frame.
Sakara wasn't pleased with the referee stepping in to rescue him, but "The Crippler" was teeing off on the unresponsive Italian the moment he was dropped with a looping left hook to the ear.
Leben is slowly creeping back in to the picture. And say what you want about him, but the guy puts on a hell of a show win or lose. He also knows how to pump up a fight.
Perhaps a rematch with Silva is in his future with a few more impressive performances.
Overall UFC 82 delivered the goods. All of the fighters who were favored to win (sans Herring and Luke Cummo) did just that.
Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck returned to their winning ways and could be on a collision course for a third and deciding match up later on down the road (provided "Kos" re-signs with the promotion).
Fitch possibly punched his ticket to a welterweight title shot and Okami perhaps did the same in the middleweight class.
In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if Arlovski does re-sign with the UFC that he, too, earned a crack at the heavyweight strap.
It was a meaningful night of fights with tons of implications going forward to say the least.
Now we just have to sit tight and wait for UFC Fight Night 13 on April 2 -- the next scheduled event for the UFC.
That seems so far away, but well worth the wait.
For blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of the UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" main card fights and quick results click here.