Wanderlei Silva has been hearing suggestions for two years now that he should retire, that he can no longer compete against the dangerous fighters now populating the sport. Those critics have had plenty of ammunition in their favor. Silva was just 3-7 in his last 10 fights leading into Saturday's UFC on FUEL 8 main event.
Silva will hold off the critics and retirement at least a little longer. After an epic first-round that saw numerous momentum shifts, it was "The Axe Murderer" who found the finish, recalling his earlier days fighting in Japan with a crushing KO over Brian Stann.
The finish came at 4:08 of the second round.
The knockout sequence came as the two were trading. Silva landed a short right hook behind the ear, and as Stann was going down, a left hook also landed behind it. Stann covered up but Silva landed four hard strikes to his downed opponent that put Stann's light's out.
That set off a wild celebration at the Saitama Super Arena.
"I'm so proud," he said afterward. "Thanks Dana White, thanks UFC for the wonderful opportunity here. I'm proud to fight for you."
It just as easily could have been a loss for Silva, who was knocked down once in the action-packed first. Several times during that opening five minutes, the two anchored themselves to the mat and traded bombs. Both men were wobbled on more than one occasion, but Stann seemed to get the better of it. According to FightMetric, he landed 53 strikes in the round while Silva landed 30.
Common wisdom was that Silva would slow down as the fight went on, but the two were throwing strikes at the same time when Silva's haymaker landed. It was a shorter, sharper punch, and the beginning of the end for Stann.
"I knew what I had to risk when I signed on the dotted line next to that man," Stann said afterward. "Wanderlei has always been one of my favorite fighters ever. I'm very proud to be part of this, as much as this hurts. My heart's broken, but I'm still proud that I fought him."
It was the 35th win of Silva's legendary career against 12 losses, one draw and one no contest. Stann, who lost his second straight, fell to 12-6.