The best mixed martial artist on the planet took on perhaps the most durable opponent of his career last night (Oct. 13, 2012) as UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva moved up to Light Heavyweight to take on Stephan Bonnar in the main event of UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Last night was no different.
After taking Bonnar's best shot for over four minutes, Silva turned on "kill mode" and the fight was over within seconds of him actually throwing significant fight-ending strikes.
So what was it that helped put Silva over the top? And where do both men go from here?
Bonnar quickly came out of the gate, stalking Silva and moving forward aggressively and "The Spider" actually made the first mistake, tripping along the edge of the fence and giving Bonnar an opportunity to shoot in for a takedown and put him against the fence in a defensive position.
When the takedown didn't work, Bonnar didn't back off, instead working some dirty boxing into his clinch attack while Silva fired back with a few knees to the body.
Bonnar was relentless in his pursuit of the takedown along the fence, mixing in knees to try to soften Silva up. He even threw a nice flurry of short punches and elbows which connected clean on the inside but when he changed levels for a takedown once more, Silva stuffed it with ease.
With a tiny bit of space to work with, Bonnar tried to mix in a flurry of punches but Silva took his shot and responded with a knee and a pair of very accurate blows to the head which forced him to back off and try to reset in the cage center.
Silva was having none of it, however, staying at the fence, leaning against it and beckoning Bonnar to come and try to implement his strategy once more. Bonnar threw some of his most powerful strikes here and Silva absorbed them to the face like they were nothing, countering with heavy punches of his own and then throwing shoulder strikes when Bonnar once again initiated a clinch.
After informing his corner that "he's got this," Silva fended off a single-leg takedown attempt, dropped elbows on Bonnar and again absorbed Bonnar's best shot. He would then proceed to score a very brief trip takedown and as Bonnar rose to his feet, he exploded forwards and threw perhaps the most devastating knee of his career directly to Bonnar's midsection, forcing one of the toughest fighters on Earth to go into the fetal position and pray for it to be over.
After a few follow-up punches on the ground, the ref intervened and put a stop to it.
For Stephan Bonnar, the fight could not have started any better for him. The slip from Silva gave him his perfect opportunity to close the distance, lean on him, force "The Spider" to carry his superior weight and work for takedowns while mixing in some short dirty boxing and knees. It still didn't matter. Silva even taunted him by dropping his hands and eating a few of his best shots as well as letting him return to clinch once he'd backed off. This was everything Bonnar needed to do to get a victory except getting a takedown and being in top control and he still not only couldn't win but it wasn't even close. Bonnar was a huge underdog for a reason. He just wasn't on Silva's level and the result showed.
If Bonnar doesn't retire, a bout against the equally sturdy Fabio Maldonado would make sense. Other fights against the iron-chinned Joey Beltran and Chad Griggs are possible if he wants but they aren't the type of big fights he's been demanding.
For Anderson Silva, his performance showcased the best and worst of his abilities. He was clearly the superior fighter, but for some reason he wanted to test his chin and allow Bonnar to get in as much offense as he could. Perhaps it was in the spirit of competition, but he definitely could have put Bonnar away earlier if he wanted but he let "The American Psycho" stick around longer. Regardless, once he turned on "kill mode" he exploded forwards and that knee to the body was one of the most devastating single strikes he's ever thrown in his career.
While many fans are clamoring for a super fight against Jon Jones at light heavyweight, Silva said he won't be returning to the division and that this had been a special instance. If Silva's next fight is at middleweight, a title defense against Michael Bisping would probably make the most financial sense. Another potential title defense against Chris Weidman (should he beat Tim Boetsch) would work. Lastly, a super fight against Georges St. Pierre is still possible if GSP gets past Carlos Condit later this year.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you expect Silva to get the stoppage inside the first round? What did you make of his antics allowing Bonnar to put him against the fence in the clinch?