Tackling the talking points from the UFC's return to Brazil
UFC 134 was a memorable night, delivering a fantastic card of fights and perhaps the best crowd in company's history. It also gave us a great deal to talk about today. Here are the stories that piqued our interested after the UFC's weekend in Rio.
BEST EVER, PERIOD.
The gap between Anderson Silva and the rest of the pack just keeps getting wider with each virtuoso performance the Brazilian puts forth. Saturday night, he made another elite middleweight contender look like a rank amateur, dropping his hands before dropping Yushin Okami with a jab.
Silva is on another level, and has been for some time. We lost sight of that in his perplexing display at UFC 112 and uninspired bouts against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, but it has come back into plain view in his last two outings.
Forrest Griffin joked that Silva might need to face two men simultaneously to be challenged, and while we all laugh at the notion, the truth behind the comedy is that Silva stands in a class by himself, and there might not be anyone who can challenge him in the cage.
NOT TO BELABOR THE POINT, BUT…
It's sublime watching a focused and motivated Silva inside the cage.
As you watch him stick-and-move, figuring out his opponent's rhythm, growing more confident with each slipped punch, you're watching a master create a beautiful, violent symphony.
Some people see him effortlessly dodge Okami's punches as he did Griffin's two years ago in Philadelphia, and believe it can't be that he's that good; that much faster than his opponent, one step ahead of every strike.
He is, on all fronts.
There is no one like him in the sport today, and there might not be another like him any time soon.
SHOGUN NEEDS TO FIND SOME CONSISTENCY
Mauricio Rua looked solid in his first fight since losing the light heavyweight title to Jon Jones at UFC 128. The instant he caught Griffin and had him hurt, "Shogun" pounced, and pounded out the victory.
As far as sub-two-minute performances go, it was pretty solid. It was also true to Rua's pattern.
The 29-year-old Brazilian usually follows up a clunker with a strong showing. While it's great that he is able to bounce back after every poor performance, finding some consistency would be even better. Rua's on a short list of contenders in the 205 pound division, and against the competition he's set to face, he can't afford any lackluster outings.
Getting a quick and decisive win over Griffin is great, but what he does for an encore is more important. If he can remain healthy and repeat Saturday's performance next time out, he could be in line for another crack at the championship he lost in March.
While we wonder what's next for Silva and speculate if anyone will be able to beat him, the same question must be asked of Forrest Griffin from the opposite side of the win-loss ledger. Griffin was dominated on Saturday night, beaten clean and beaten quick, leaving many to wonder if he has any left in the tank.
After a week spent explaining the he hasn't enjoyed fighting for some time and admitting that his head was elsewhere, it showed in the cage. Now Griffin has to sort out where he goes from here.
This loss dropped him from being a true contender and put him into that purgatory-like state populated by the likes of Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin; too famous and perhaps too proud to fight unknowns and up-and-comers, but not quite good enough to still hang with the elite of the division.
Three years ago, he won the light heavyweight championship. He's been fading ever since. The question is can he stop the slide or is this the beginning of the end of "The Original Ultimate Fighter?"
NO LOSERS IN FIGHT OF THE NIGHT
The former TUF winner showed grit and continued development in going toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Brazilian. You could even make a case for him winning the fight; the fight stats have him coming out ahead two rounds to one. To some it looked like another case of flashy strikes earning slightly higher marks than their less showy siblings. For what it's worth, I had it 29-28 Barboza; Pearson won the first, without question.
High marks to Barboza as well. The undefeated Muay Thai practitioner fought a beautiful, technical fight, snapping out kicks with speed and power, showing why he is considered one to watch in the lightweight ranks. He also showed solid takedown defense, something he's going to need to keep improving as he climbs the ladder in the wrestler-rich 155 pound division.
Both Pearson and Barboza should get a step up in competition coming out of Rio. Or we could just let them do it again; I don't think anyone would complain.