Photo by Esther Lin for SBNation
With a second title defense and a second shellacking of Rich Franklin under his belt, Anderson Silva looked to the future and sought to further cement his legacy as the greatest middleweight to step foot inside the Octagon.
It just so happened the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently purchased their primary rival, PRIDE Fighting Championships, and inherited many of its fighters, making a bevy of dream matches no longer hypothetical but very much possible.
One such fighter was Dan Henderson who, at the promotion's end, was their 205-pound and 183-pound champion. After a failed bid to unify the former belt with Quinton Jackson's Light Heavyweight Championship, Henderson was given the chance to do so with Silva's Middleweight crown.
This Saturday (July 7), Silva faces another Team Quest alumni in Chael Sonnen. While the Brazilian's bout at UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" was primarily to determine the world's best fighter at 185-pounds, the main event for UFC 148: "Silva vs. Sonnen II" has too much bad blood to be considered solely a sporting contest.
Sonnen has insulted "The Spider," his wife, his country and for the American's transgressions, Silva has promised to break his opponent's teeth in a beating he claims will forever change the image of the sport.
While the champion remains the betting favorite in the rematch, it was Sonnen's dominance during their initial bout at UFC 117 which has planted more than a seed of doubt in the minds of some. They also point back to the first round of Silva's bout with Henderson as proof the Brazilian struggles with wrestlers.
Let's take a look back at the bout.
For the opening two minutes of the fight, Silva successfully used his striking to keep Henderson at bay. He even busted out the now famous front kick which would be knock Vitor Belfort out years later.
But the American would not be denied for long and as soon as he was able to grab hold of the champion, he quickly dumped "The Spider" onto his back.
Operating from half-guard, Henderson spent the remaining time in the first round landing short hammerfists with one arm while covering the champion's mouth with the other. By the time the horn sounded off, just about everyone watching agreeed "The Spider" had lost a round for the first time in his UFC career.
However, Henderson's success against the Brazilian would be short-lived.
Silva immediately began pressuring his opponent in the stand-up, visibly frustrating the wrestler into shooting for a ill-fated takedown attempt. The champion stuffed it easily and prevented another attempt from Henderson as the American worked him over against the cage.
When they separated, Silva just about exploded.
A flurry of punches punctuated by a vicious knee had Henderson on his heels and a second poor takedown attempt from the Team Quest fighter led to Silva gaining top position. Elbows from above forced "Hendo" to scramble on the mat and right into a rear naked choke.
After weathering a first round storm, Silva dominated the next five minutes to become the best middleweight on Earth. He may have struggled for five minutes against Henderson and for over 20 minutes against Sonnen but at the end of each day, Silva went home with the belt.
So what was left for "The Spider?"
Why not a fight at 205-pounds against a former light heavyweight champion?
Tomorrow: With seemingly no challenges remaining at middleweight, Silva moves up to 205-pounds for the second time and in doing so, embarrasses a former champion.