Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com
Antonio Silva did it again last night (Feb. 2, 2013), ruining a planned heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) marquee match up by scoring a major upset.
As though we needed a reminder, Antonio Silva delivered a shocking jolt last night (Feb. 2, 2013) at UFC 156 to those of us who forgot: sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, no matter how well-stacked the deck might seem. And with the second stunning upset in his career of a superstar, this time Alistair Overeem, the Brazilian sent shockwaves through the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight division.
Alas, Overeem -- at least for the time being -- is no more after having to be peeled off the Octagon floor inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. At least not in the sense that we assumed he was as a big-time UFC acquisition.
There will, no doubt, be a rebuilding campaign, and highlight-reel knockout victories are probably on tap for "The Reem" in the future, perhaps very nearly so. But, last night saw all of Overeem's long-established worst habits come to the surface, and Silva, waiting patiently and playing it close to the vest through two rounds, exploded when the opening materialized.
The finishing salvo of thudding punches to the head, as Overeem wilted against the cage, was a chilling sequence, particularly given the size of the man delivering them (watch it here). As he did in his two-round steamroll of Fedor Emelianenko nearly two years ago, Silva showed that it isn't how you start, but how you finish, that counts.
In that fight, he absorbed some strong blows but simply kept pressing, ultimately mounting and battering Fedor en route to a corner stoppage between rounds. Ironically, the upset scuttled Strikeforce's long-awaited matchup of Overeem-Fedor, as they never met in the Grand Prix tournament that was pretty much designed for their superfight to comprise half of the semifinals bracket, with everyone else outside of Josh Barnett pretty much an afterthought, at least according to the oddsmakers.
On Saturday night, the visual of Silva smashing Overeem into Boliva, as Mike Tyson phrased it, was made all the better with referee Herb Dean restraining him as he charged his crumpled tormentor afterward (what did he say?). In a way, that made the upset all the better, given Overeem's considerable loss of respect in the public eye since getting popped for performance-enhancing drugs, and his generally arrogance toward the Brazilian.
Nobody likes a bully, and almost everyone can relate to wanting to topple one. Silva's dispatching of ‘Reem was a catharsis on many levels.
So what's next for the big man? I'm not sure that a rematch with champ Cain Velasquez is immediately in the cards, as Velasquez blitzed him so badly in their first bout that there's hardly anything to build on at this point. But, what Silva has done is cleared the heavyweight landscape of predictable challengers in a big way. An Overeem-Silva match, which was the intent of putting "Demolition Man" in with Velasquez, is no longer on tap. A rubber match between Velasquez and Junior dos Santos might be a tad premature at this point, so in a sense, it's really a wide-open race of challengers.
Next up for Silva, I'd love to see Josh Barnett come back to UFC and tangle with him. It's the kind of fight that's a win-win for the promotion, as whoever emerges victorious gets a meaningful scalp added to their collection. Barnett's the best-known of the top heavies outside the UFC, and his return would bring some fresh buzz to the division. Silva would also be an interesting matchup for him given his size and grappling.
Whomever faces Silva next, you can bet they won't be talking the way Overeem did before the bout. A "Bigfoot" who feels like he's being overlooked is a lot to handle.
Just ask Overeem ... or Emelianenko.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst