Joe Rogan spent so much time Saturday night selling the idea of Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones, you could all but hear Dana White screaming at him through his headphones, ordering him to hype the fight.
White, for his part, has availed himself of every opportunity to steer the conversation toward a Silva-Jones superfight and away from Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre.
But as much as Silva protests to the the contrary and states his desire to fight GSP, Silva's own performance in defeating Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 has helped pivot interest away from Silva vs. St-Pierre and toward Silva vs. Jones.
In winning his record 16th consecutive UFC fight, Silva owned a larger and presumably stronger fighter. Silva didn't respect Bonnar's wrestling, didn't respect his standup, and needed a mere matter of seconds to finish the fight once he decided to turn up the heat.
Now, it almost goes without saying that Jones is a whole different ballgame than Bonnar. But after watching Silva toy with Bonnar -- on the heels of the 2009 fight in which Silva sent former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin straight into his career tailspin -- how many people are going to get excited to see Silva fight a welterweight, even one as good as St-Pierre? St-Pierre isn't even a large man by welterweight standards. Silva has thrilled fans by taking out bigger fighters, so who wants to watch him bully someone smaller?
Silva, though, is sticking to his story. He told Rogan in the Octagon after defeating Bonnar that he's done at 205 pounds, and at the post-fight press conference he reiterated his vow to meet St-Pierre.
"I think it'd be a great challenge for me," Silva said. "I prefer him over Jon Jones. He's smaller. It'll be a little bit easier. I'll be hit less."
Don't buy the notion that Silva is afraid of anyone. (Likewise, the idea Chris Weidman is the undisputed top contender for his middleweight title deserves a Joe Biden-like dismissive laugh. Weidman still has to beat Tim Boetsch, and the winner of that fight needs to meet Michael Bisping, before that question is settled). Silva has mastered the negotiation game. You want to get White to open up his wallet? Play hard to get. Silva already had White more or less saying at the UFC 153 post-fight press conference that he'll pay out the nose to get Silva in the cage with Jones.
"I know this: the Georges St-Pierre fight is a big fight," White said. "I think the Jon Jones fight is a big fight. I know my man says, 'No, no, no,' but the amount of money that would be offered for that fight, I guarantee you I will make Anderson Silva say, 'Yes, yes, yes.'"
Silva has the upper hand, especially since, by taking the Bonnar fight on short notice, he just did White a favor and saved a show during a stretch in which Zuffa had to cancel three out of seven planned cards. Silva will continue to milk things until he gets a price he likes for whichever fight UFC wants, whether it's Jones or a middleweight title defense. Publicly stating a preference for St-Pierre is just a part of the game plan.
But as Silva wakes up Sunday on this, the sixth anniversary of his then-stunning destruction of Rich Franklin to win the middleweight title in Las Vegas, he can't blame the UFC or anyone else if the public would rather see him fight Jones than St-Pierre. His own performances in the Octagon have led the fans down that path.
UFC 153 quotes
"I still can fight. I feel amazing and I'm still hungry. I feel good physically. I'm very happy to be a part of the co-main event in Brazil and I want to be back fighting in Brazil next year or anywhere." -- Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira isn't retiring any time soon.
"If we cut that guy, we deserve to be beat with a stick." -- White, indicating Fabio Maldonado's job is safe after his loss to Glover Teixeira.
Stock up: Jon Fitch
There were several stock-improving performances last night, so let's give a shout-out to a couple honorable mentions from the get-go: Phil Davis fought like a man possessed in his eye-poke-free rematch against Wagner Prado. Davis' wrestling was so crisp, he looked like the was on a mission to defend the sport's honor. And Demian Maia has found a real home at welterweight. With back-to-back impressive wins of Dong Hyun Kim and now Rick Story, Maia seems ready for a top-tier 170-pounder.
But no one improved their position on Saturday more than Jon Fitch. It wasn't that long ago that Fitch graced most top 10 pound-for-pound polls. But two years filled with injuries with only a flash knockout loss to Johny Hendricks to show for it made it pretty easy to forget just how good Fitch can be at his best.
Fitch fought like a man with a chip on his shoulder when he defeated Erick Silva on Saturday night. He was sick of being told his style was boring, sick of being told his best days were behind him, and he knew he was set up to be fed to the young lion. So he went out and put on a performance which announced he's still got plenty of gas left in his tank. And who knows? With another similar spirited performance or two, maybe he'll even become a fan favorite in his later days.
Stock Down: Erick Silva
It's too soon to write off Silva. White summed up the young Brazilian's performance best by comparing it to GSP's loss to Matt Hughes in their first bout.
Still, there's no getting around the fact that Silva's fast track has been derailed. In his first three UFC bouts, Silva looked like a human buzzsaw who was clearing a path straight to St-Pierre. Against Fitch, he looked like someone with a whole lot of work to do on his wrestling.
Silva wasn't without his moments, as he rallied from a terrible round one to win round two. He also showed heart in holding out til the final horn as Fitch took him to the woodshed. But as a whole, the bout shows Silva, while a solid prospect, still has a lot of work to do before he's truly an elite welterweight. It will be interesting to see if Silva can regroup in the same manner St-Pierre did after losing his first shot at Hughes.
I know this isn't a "call," per se, but I've got to find some space to give a nod to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. His victory over Dave Herman may as well have been a 1980s movie scene in which a street punk shows up at a dojo, challenges the sensei, and proceeds to get his butt handed to him in front of all of the sensei's students.
After Herman spent the week in Brazil trashing the beloved former champion's jiu-jitsu, really, the only proper response was what Nogeuira dished out in the cage: A beating, followed by a submission finish, in front of 16,000 of his countrymen. And Nogueira did it at age 36, in his first fight since getting his arm snapped, after a year of open speculation about whether he should retire. Well played, Big Nog.
Before I get into everything that was wrong with the Glover Teixeira-Fabio Maldonado bout, let me preface my comments by saying there's no disrespect intended to Maldonado. He showed the heart of a warrior Saturday night.
But that said, this bout should have been stopped long before the end of the second round. This fight went about seven minutes too long.The fact Maldonado managed a wobbly-legged, bleary-eyed home run of a punch late in round one doesn't negate that ref Mario Yamasaki should have stopped it before they even stood up.
The carnage continued into the second round. Late in the round, the cageside doctor -- the bout's official scorecard doesn't list him, so I'll assume it was Dr. Nick Riviera from "The Simpsons" -- saw Maldonado looking like a bloodied Sloth and decided he was A-OK to continue. Finally, after the round ended, he called off the carnage.
And we'd be remiss not to recognize the judges here. Romulo Bettencourt saw both rounds 10-9 and Cardo Urso gave round two a 10-9. Doug Crosby was the only sane one, scoring both rounds 10-8.
If anything, Maldonado's one big strike was the only thing that kept round one from being a 10-7. Maldonado was outstruck 86-6 in the round. If a figure skater spends his routine stumbling and tripping all over the ice, but manages one nice move at the end, do you think the judges are going to go ahead and score him a 9 anyway?
If judges are looking at Teixeira-Maldonado and seeing 10-9s, then the ABC may as well go ahead just take the option of a 10-8 score off the books.
Fight I Want to See Next: Glover Teixeira vs. any of "The Jones Five"
First off, a nod to the sadistic fellow on Twitter who suggested Maldonado vs. Joey Beltran in an unlimited-rounds fight. Well played. But keep that guy away from children and small animals.
After watching Teixeira vs. Maldonado, it's become clear Teixeira needs to be matched up against one of the "Jones Five," the band of ex-UFC light heavyweight champions Jon Jones systematically mowed through. Granted, Teixeira was supposed to fight Quinton "Rampage" Jackson last night, but Jackson had to pull out of the fight, leaving Maldonado as the late replacement.
If I could pick just one of the group, I'd be intrigued most by Teixeira vs. Rashad Evans. I'd like to see how Teixeira holds up against a fighter with Evans' wrestling skill. I also wouldn't mind seeing Teixeira vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, simply because it promises to be a war, though the timing for that might be more difficult with Rua fighting Alexander Gustafsson slated for December. Either way, after watching Teixeira pummel lower-ranked fighters, it's time for a big step up.