Ultimate Fighting Championship Column: Scott's UFC Kicks
Silva’s Left Foot Puts Belfort to Sleep
Anderson (The Spider) Silva is still the best MMA fighter in the world, Forrest Griffin thrilled the hometown faithful and Jon Jones got a title fight. But while Griffin and Jones were outstanding, nobody was better than The Spider.
In the raucous, deafening, testosterone-driven rock show that morphs into a mixture of skilled acrobatics and pure, unapologetic viciousness, the Ultimate Fighting Championship turned into ultimate theatre at UFC 126 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Arena on Saturday night.
With a sold out crowd estimated at 12,500 looking on, Silva, remained the greatest pound-for-pound mixed martial artist on the planet, by drilling Vitor (the Phenom) Belfort in the jaw with a perfectly timed and perfectly placed left-footed front kick that sent the former light-heavyweight champion to the mat.
At three minutes and 25 seconds of the opening round of the UFC’s world middleweight title fight, the Spider won by knockout and retained his championship belt.
“I want to thank every trainer I’ve ever had in my career,” said the Brazilian champion through an interpretor. “I also want to thank my family, friends, all my coaches, everyone in Brazil and every one who came here to watch this fight tonight.
“Vitor Belfort was a champion before he stepped out here tonight. He’s still a great champion and he deserves everyone’s respect.”
You have to respect anyone who will go toe-to-toe with the Spider. After a long, slow start to the fight, it ended with such force and skill that it’s impossible to suggest anyone is a more skilled ultimate fighter than Silva.
“It was a strike I was working on,” Silva said. “I had been working ion a number of kicks and attacks and tonight we both started slowly because we have so much respect for each other. I just used something I’ve been working on and it proved to be successful”
With that, Silva bowed to all four corners of the crowd.
In the meantime, after regaining consciousness, Silva’s friend and training partner, was gracious in defeat.
“Thank you all for the support,” said Belfort as he spoke to the crowd. “He caught me with a kick. He’s a very good fighter. I got caught up in what I was trying to do and didn’t see the kick. He faked to the body and kicked to the head. I didn’t see it.
“I promised to breathe the fire here tonight. I promised to give him a good fight. But he caught me that’s all I can say.. I want to thank everyone who came here to watch me fight. I promise I’ll be back here in the Octagon to beathe the fire again.”
In the co-main event, the local star and underdog, Forrest Griffin got 35-year-old Rich Franklin to the mat quickly and proceeded to ground-and-pound his older, smaller opponent.
However, despite being choked and punched while flat on his back for almost the entire round, Franklin survived. It was a testament to his experience and toughness.
In an uneventful second round, Franklin was taken to the mat twice, but Griffin couldn’t re-establish the total dominance he had in Round 1. Then in Round 3, it was only a matter of time before Griffin would have his arm raised. Although he seemed to tire late in the fight, Griffin was always the aggressor and Franklin always seemed to be on his back foot – or flat on his back.
The only time Franklin had the upper hand, Griffin escaped and put the veteran’s back on the mat, once again.
Griffin won by unanimous decision (29-28 on all three cards), but said he felt rusty after a long layoff from the Octagon.
“It’s great to be back, honestly,” Griffin said. “I was nervous. I knew he was quicker than me. Fortunately I got him down in the first round and was able to grind on him a bit.”
In an extremely interesting bout, Phoenix product Ryan Bader came into a light-heavyweight bout with Jon (Bones) Jones as a heavy favorite and clearly the choice of the fans. The winner of Ultimate Fighter Season 8, he was undefeated (13-0) and tough as shoe leather.
But Jones proved to be far too quick. Taller, with a much longer reach and long powerful legs, Jones had far too much skill and balance. While Bader spent a lot of time on his back, Jones was able to control the pace and forced Bader to tap out in the second round. It ended at 4:27 of the second round, Jones the winner by guillotine choke.
Now, 12-1, Jones got the surprise of his life right after he was declared the winner. While still in the ring, Jones was told, that he’ll now fight Mauricio (Shogun) Rua for the world title. Jones was nearly speechless and the crowd was absolutely crazy.
“I feel like it’s my time,” Jones said with a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. “I came in with a lot of confidence and thought I could win, but this, a title fight. I knew it would happen but I didn’t think it would happen this fast.”
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