Against all odds, UFC 153 was a pretty good card. With a main event that lived up to the hype insofar as we got to see the greatest fighter in the sport ply his trade, it’s hard to complain. Even some extremely shoddy referee work couldn’t ruin what was a solid night of action inside the Octagon. If name recognition and hype is secondary to the in-cage product for you, you probably enjoyed UFC 153.
Anderson Silva: As Great As Expected
At this point, when we see Anderson Silva step into the Octagon, we expect to see something remarkable. He didn’t disappoint on Saturday, as he did something nobody else has been able to do: make Stephan Bonnar look like an amateur before finishing him (in less than a round, no less).
We’ve seen Bonnar face some good fighters: Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, and Forrest Griffin (twice), among others. None have made him look as outclassed as Silva did. Bonnar may not be a world championship-caliber talent, but he is one of those fighters who never allows his opponents to look their best and at the very least, gives them a tough go of it for the full three rounds.
So, yeah, you can poo-poo Silva’s performance and say that Bonnar had no business being in the cage with him. It’s dirty pool to say so, in a way: we all know the circumstances that forced the rather strange matchup. Anyway, the statement is only half-true; the truth is that nobody has any business being in the cage with Silva.
Silva vs. Jones Has to Happen
Joe Rogan gave the hard sell for a fight between Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, saying that the fight has to happen “for history”, and he was completely correct. When you look at those who have a stake in the fight, only one party really doesn’t need it to happen.
The UFC? Of course they’d love that fight; it would be the greatest matchup in MMA history. The fans? Likewise. The media? Come on…those columns write themselves. Jon Jones? He may not know it, but he needs that fight. He could continue destroying light heavyweights for another 5-10 years, even go to the heavyweight division and have a run there, retire and live comfortably with a great resume, but people would always wonder what would have happened against Silva.
Silva? He’s the one who doesn’t really need the fight. He’s seen as the greatest ever already and he could retire today without anything left to prove.
In MMA, you are only as good as the fighters you’ve beaten, and Jones will never face somebody with the credentials that Silva has. The fight would be great for everybody involved, but it’s Jones who really needs it. Especially right now, when he’s struggling to repair a relationship with fans that has been strangely combative from the start, as well as when he could use a little goodwill with the UFC itself.
Still, for Silva at this point in his career, no other fight makes as much sense as one against Jon Jones. What other fighter could be announced to face him and make fans actually think, “Wow…I don’t know if Jones wins that one”?
–I hate speaking ill of the sport’s greatest fighters, but I have to call it like I see it, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is done as a top-level heavyweight. He beat Dave Herman- as he should- but as Herman was hanging around for two rounds, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s Dave fucking Herman! This should look a lot easier than it is.” Herman is a serviceable fighter, but he has little to offer but his standup, which features him standing flat footed, looking to land kicks to the body and not bothering to move his head to avoid the strikes of his opponent. Come on, now.
I’m not going to say Big Nog should retire, because that’s stupid. He should fight as long as he still wants to and it is healthy (relatively speaking) for him to do so. But all of the wars and injuries have caught up to him, and while he’ll always be dangerous, he’s done being a truly elite heavyweight.
–Jon Fitch, on the other hand, has a little left in him. His fight with Erick Silva was downright inspirational, as he refused to be part of any torch-passing and instead taught Silva a likely-needed lesson in humility. I’ve never thought of Fitch as a particularly boring fighter; he works his ass off all fight long, every fight he participates in. Good for him getting back healthy and not only winning a huge fight, but getting a Fight of the Night bonus, to boot.
–It was great to see Demian Maia’s nasty submission game make a long-awaited return. Similarly, I know his standup is still very much a work in progress, but how great is Phil Davis’ ground game? He’s picked up right where he left off after being unwisely rushed into a matchup with Rashad Evans.
Adventures in Refereeing
Mario’s lesser-known younger brother Fernando Yamasaki stood fights up with the frequency of a hyperactive teenager on speed. He stood fights up so fast that even Dan Miragliotta would shake his head in disbelief. Or nod in respectful admiration. I’m not sure which would be worse. Once again, Fernando reminded us that the job of a referee is not to ensure that fights are fairly and safely contested according to the rules, but to ensure that drunk assholes in the crowd don’t get too bored and decide to boo.
Meanwhile, Mario himself was not to be topped, doing his damndest to get Fabio Maldonado killed in the early minutes of his extremely one-sided loss to light heavyweight prospect Glover Teixeira. When the two fighters finally got to their feet after Glover had spent several minutes beating Fabio into a “living death“, Fabio was visibly out of it and unable to stand up straight without teetering over and leaning against the cage in order to keep his balance. This was not enough evidence for Mario, though, who seemed to be waiting for Glover to land that one more good shot before stepping in.
Oh, and before you even say it…didn’t Maldonado clip Teixeira after they stood up in the first? That’s not evidence that the fight should have gone on. Stop it. If Maldonado was in any condition to fight, he would have been all over Teixeira after he hurt him with a punch he assuredly doesn’t even remember throwing. He wasn’t all over him, though. You know why? Because he could barely stand.
Movin’ On Up Award
This could go to either Glover Teixeira or Phil Davis; I’ll give it to Davis. I thought that while both were impressive, Teixeira showed the he needs a little more polish before being proven to be a truly elite light heavyweight fighter that’s ready to contend for the title. Davis is not a bona fide title contender yet, but when you’re a prospect ready to make the leap and you face a Fabio Maldonado or Wagner Prado, you need to break him, not play around and get rocked by someone who’s out on his feet. Teixeira’s ground and pound is nasty, though.
Beautiful Loser Award
With a nod to Sam Sicilia for his great showing in an excellent fight with Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra, this goes to Erick Silva. Silva fought gamely against the super-tough Jon Fitch, and even had his moments against the veteran. You can see the kind of fighter Silva will become, and even Fitch noted that he’s going to have a great career. It’s good for prospects like Silva to have a fight like that, which can easily end up being a turning point in Silva’s career that he will eventually say taught him a lot.
Holy $#!% Award
A good amount of the main event qualifies for this award. You know “The Spider” is always going to do something special, and standing flat against the cage and slipping Bonnar’s punches (and moving deftly out of the way as Bonnar threw a spinning back kick that missed by three feet) will go nicely in his Hall of Fame-worthy highlight reel. The finish, where Silva anticipated Bonnar bouncing his back off the cage and quickly shifted stances to launch a left knee with maximum power right into Bonnar’s solar plexus as he rebounded toward him was perfectly timed and placed. Brutal and beautiful violence from Silva, as usual.