First things first: Anderson Silva knows he’s not the fighter he used to be.
“I’m old,” said the former longtime middleweight champion, who turns 42 on April 14. “I’m very old.”
And yet, regardless of what you think about Silva’s highly debatable unanimous decision victory over Derek Brunson in the co-feature bout of UFC 208, there’s little doubt “The Spider” was the most compelling character on an evening at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center most would otherwise rather forget.
Silva entered the cage Saturday night without an official victory since his first-round finish of Stephan Bonnar in Oct. 2012. Since then, there were two infamous losses to Chris Weidman, a one-sided decision over Nick Diaz which was turned to a no-decision after a drug-test fiasco, a questionable decision loss to Michael Bisping, and a bout against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier accepted on a couple days’ notice.
And yet, still, after all these years, Silva’s fights still have a buzz about them, a tension that comes from the hope that maybe we’ll see one more highlight reel finish along the lines of his legendary face-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort.
That sort of memorable moment never happened on Saturday night. But Brunson appeared so apprehensive of being on the wrong end of a highlight reel clip that he opened the path for a wily veteran to take off with the decision.
Brunson dominated in the clinch when they engaged. But otherwise, the combination of Silva stopping the bulk of Brunson’s takedown attempts in the first two rounds, and the partisan crowd oohing and ahhing over every flashy strike Silva threw (whether or not they connected) was enough to sway the judges.
If this was a robbery, then it was one that occurred after the victim left his door unlocked and put all his valuables right out on a table in the front hallway.
Which brings us back around to what Silva had to say at the press conference right after calling himself an old man: “I have a lot of experience, and I have perfect timing. This is more important.”
He also happened to sign a quite lucrative, eight-fight deal right before the roof caved in against Weidman, and is going to collect every last dollar.
So where does Silva go from here? Perhaps there are “fun fights” to be found. Perhaps he’ll get stubborn and try to make another run at a title. Maybe he’ll parachute in like UFC 200 and try to save another show.
But the young Anderson Silva who wowed crowds with incredible feats has given way to a fighter who is moving around the twilight of his career in a manner far more deft than most. And given Silva’s all about speed and elusiveness, should that be any surprise?
UFC 208 quotes
“Wow unreal I put my heart & soul out there on 3 weeks notice only to get it taken from me. I just outclassed the greatest of all time” -- Derek Brunson on his decision loss
“A lot of times, the first one they give a warning, that’s kind of normal. I wouldn’t expect them to take a point after the first one, even though it was intentional. The second time, at that point you think they’d do something.” -- Holm’s retort
“I feel like the ref from New York shouldn’t be reffing a main event fight. They don’t have enough experience. He should not have been in there. But again, we don’t make those decisions. The commission does. That was a bad decision by them.” -- UFC president Dana White on NYSAC’s bad night.
Hold: Germaine de Randamie So, it’s tough to give someone a “down” after winning a championship and scoring their fifth victory in their past six fights. But it’s also hard to get enthused after the way the first women’s featherweight champion conducted herself in Brooklyn. In an a best-case scenario, GDR didn’t hear the horn before drilling Holm in the head after the end of the second and third rounds -- the former of which might have been the biggest blow she landed in a fight. A worst-case scenario would be that she knew exactly what she was doing and took advantage of an inexperienced referee. Only she knows the true answer.
But then de Randamie compounded matters in her post-fight interview by referencing a ligament injury suffered three fights ago, when asked about fighting Cyborg Justino any time soon. And she didn’t show for the post-fight press conference, even though a battered Holm did. If there’s been a less auspicious start to a UFC title reign, we can’t remember it.
Down: Holly Holm. This is a tough one to hand out, since 1. Holm was on the wrong end of poor officiating and poor sportsmanship; 2. If referee Todd Anderson had docked de Randamie for even one of the two infractions, we’d be looking at a draw this morning; 3. You can make the case Holm won rounds three through five, anyway, which would make the rest moot. But facts are facts and Holm is now 0-3 since defeating Ronda Rousey. I’m not going to say Holm’s done, considering she was winning her fight against Miesha Tate until she got caught and last night was a cluster. But she’s 35, she had a long pro boxing career before getting into MMA, and its undeniable her window for turning things back around is shorter than most.
Up: Jacare Souza At least one fighter did what they were supposed to do at UFC 208. Faced with a tough and unpredictable foe in Tim Boetsch, Souza took care of business, earning a first-round submission for his 10th win in his past 11 fights. Most of the momentum for the next middleweight title fight still seems to be tilting toward Michael Bisping vs. Yoel Romero, but Souza, the former Strikeforce champ, will be damned if he doesn’t do everything in his power to make sure he makes the title conversation an uncomfortable one.
Down: Derek Brunson. Brunson probably should have gotten the call against Silva on Saturday night. But he also performed in a manner that left a path open for the judges to give the call to Silva. Brunson, coming off a knockout loss to Robert Whittaker, started off too tentative, as if he was standing in front of the Silva of 2006 and not the fighter who will soon be 42. He found success in the clinch but didn’t follow up. So by stuffing most of Brunson’s takedown attempts and throwing enough flashy strike attempts to wow the crowd, Silva was able to take the decision. Should Brunson have gotten the call? Probably. But nor did he do himself many favors along the way.
Up: Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller. Finally, let’s end with some words for two fighters who just about always deliver, win or lose. Poirier and Miller threw down for a wild 10 minutes over the first two rounds of their lightweight, main-card opener. Then Poirier adjusted to a leg injury suffered through Miller’s wicked leg kicks and took the fight to the ground, where he sealed a decision win. The duo took Fight of the Night honors. They’ve combined for 15 postfight awards, and last night demonstrated why.
Remember back at UFC 205, when a score-reading snafu marred the end of the Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson welterweight title fight? We were willing to give the New York State Athletic Commission a bit of a pass there because it was their first major mixed martial arts event.
But three months later, there’s no excuse for not having the kinks worked out. UFC 208 was, quite frankly, a sh*tshow and an embarrassment for a place that fancies itself one of the world’s fight capitols. Bad scorecards were the norm throughout the night, and the evening was topped by the inadequate performance by referee Todd Anderson, who lacks big-fight experience. Anderson let GDR get away with clobbering Holm after the end of back-to-back rounds, then stopped in too soon near the end of round five.
NYSAC is making a substantial chunk of money off last night’s $2.3 million gate. We routinely see smaller states with far smaller budgets fly in top-of-the-line officials like John McCarthy and Herb Dean to handle the main fights on smaller shows. There’s absolutely no valid excuse for New York to refrain from doing the same.
Finally, reviews seem mixed on the UFC’s three-man booth of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Joe Rogan. That it will take time for chemistry to form is understandable. But one positive that jumped out immediately: With three people looking to make points, it forced Rogan to up his game. Rogan can be among the most astute and knowledgeable commentators in the sport, but he often coasted with former partner Mike Goldberg. In a three-man booth, there’s less room for Rogan to go off on tangents, and that led to more concise and cogent commentary Saturday night.
Fight I’d like to see next: GDR vs. Cyborg Justino
So what do you do with a division which consists of three fighters: A champion who says she needs to get surgery on an injury from 2015; the fighter nearly everyone considers the best in the world, but currently has a USADA cloud hanging over her head; and a competitor who has lost three in a row? I’d say, let’s pretend last night didn’t happen and start a 125-pound division instead, but that’s not among the options. The bottom line is, for all the baggage that comes attached, Cyborg is the world’s best women’s featherweight, and until she competes for the title, GDR’s reign will have an asterisk attached, so the sooner we get on with this, the better.
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