UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva had been hailed as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time in the pre-fight build-up to his UFC 134 main event last night (August 27, 2011) against Yushin Okami.
It appears all the doubters no longer have a case to make against that claim after his second round massacre of the number one middleweight contender, the last man to hold a victory over him nearly five years ago.
Fueled by the passionate Brazilian crowd and fighting in his home country for the first time in eight years, Silva put on one of the finest performances of his storied career.
So how exactly did he do it and, more importantly, who's next?
In typical Anderson Silva fashion, he began the first round very cautiously. Despite being a southpaw, he started the fight in the right-handed traditional stance, probing forward with his lead left hand to gauge the proper distance for later strikes. Okami wisely didn't waste time and give Silva much to work with early by throwing all of his strikes.
"The Spider" then began testing Okami's reaction to strikes, switching back to southpaw and throwing a slow, looping left hook and analyzing the challenger's every move. The Japanese challenger responded by pushing forward, pressing Silva against the fence in the single collar tie position and both men traded short strikes and knees for nearly two minutes.
Okami attempted a couple takedowns but Silva grabbed an underhook and thwarted him so easily that the befuddled contender simply backed away from the position and allowed the Brazilian to go to work. Silva really began to open up here, landing a beautiful left head kick immediately before the final horn to end the round.
The champion came out in round two as a man possessed, feeling he had Okami entirely figured out, he dropped his hands to his sides, simply using head movement to avoid everything the Japanese challenger threw. Silva dodged a lead right hand and then countered beautifully the second Okami attempted a follow-up strike, not only beating him to the punch but landing flush and dropping the challenger.
Silva allowed Okami to get back to his feet and after countering another right hand, you could literally see the fight leave the challenger. "The Spider" stood in front of him, hands at his sides and Okami refused to even try to hit him, not throwing a strike for 30 straight seconds. That's the kind of fear the Black House fighter can instill in his opponents.
When Silva dropped Okami a second time, he decided it was time to finish the fight, pouncing on his opponent and patiently landing punches to the face as well as knees and elbows to the body until the referee had seen enough. Anderson Silva reined supreme yet again.
For Yushin Okami, after starting out with a decent gameplan of pressuring Silva and pushing him into the fence in the first round, he completely abandoned everything that was working when the second round began. He didn't try for another takedown, he didn't try to clinch and he didn't try to press forward nearly hard enough to worry Silva. Perhaps that head kick at the end of the first round did more damage than it appeared because he was a completely different fighter in round two.
Getting destroyed like that on the world stage is going to wreck Okami's confidence. He's likely going to need some time off to figure himself out. The likely best opponent for him right now would be the losing coach of the upcoming season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter between Michael Bisping and Jason Miller. Other possibilities could be Chris Leben if he loses to Mark Munoz or Brian Stann if he falls to Chael Sonnen later this year.
For Anderson Silva, the possibilities are endless. With his performance last night, the odds of a super fight against Georges St. Pierre dropped significantly but other doors opened. The best case scenario for a "big money fight" would be if Chael Sonnen defeats Brian Stann. Sonnen is the only man to ever really push Silva and make him look human. That fight would not be difficult to sell to the masses at all. After how poorly he made Yushin Okami look, it's difficult to think that fighters like Mark Munoz, Michael Bisping or Brian Stann would honestly stand a chance if they stepped in there against the champ.
Perhaps a permanent move to 205 is in his future before he decided to hang them up, of course there's also a conflict of interest there as three of his best friends and training partners compete at light heavyweight.
After last night's drubbing of Okami, is Anderson Silva the greatest mixed martial artist of all time? What in the world would you do with him next, Maniacs?