UFC 126: Silva destroys Belfort, Jon Jones Sets His Sights On Shogun
By Matthew DeGonzaque, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 22, 2011)
Anderson Silva once again proved himself as the best middleweight fighter in the sport with a devastating first round knockout victory over Vitor Belfort. Belfort was the 8th middleweight challenger to fall to Silva and may be remembered as the most memorable. Silva finished Vitor with one of the most impressive highlight knockout victories the sport has ever seen.

The fight started off with a feeling out period with Anderson circling as Vitor pursued him around the cage. It continued this way until Vitor landed a left hand and quickly took Silva down. Silva got up and, after a few brief exchanges, delivered a devastating push kick to Vitor's face that put down the challenger and ended the fight at 3:25 into the first round. Silva won the fight after throwing only nine strikes.

It was a dominating win over an opponent people thought was someone who could hold his own against the champion on the feet. The win helped restore the damaged reputation of Silva after some lackluster performances in title fights against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Demian Maia and Chael Sonnen. The crowd was tired of the antics of Silva and even booed him during the weigh-ins and during the fight. Against Vitor, Silva finally performed like the dominant middleweight fighter that the sport knows he is.

Silva (27-4) has tons of momentum and now he can set his sights on Georges St. Pierre as long as GSP defeats Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April. Silva-St. Pierre would be the biggest fight in the history of the sport, a true dream match up between the two best fighters that the sport has seen up until this point. Silva has done his part to make sure the fight happens, now it’s up to the Welterweight Champion to do the same.

As for Vitor (19-9), once again he was completely dominated by a top level fighter. Vitor is a former UFC champion and considered an MMA legend but he has never been able to get a major win that justifies all of the hype bestowed upon him during his career. The story is always the same, Vitor looks good against journeyman or overmatched opponents, the announcers howl “Vitor's Back!!!” and everyone jumps on the bandwagon only to watch him get dominated the next time he goes in tough.

His move down to middleweight was supposed to reinvigorate his career and he defeated Terry Martin, Matt Lindland and Rich Franklin (which was at 195lbs) in a row by knockout. Afterwards, an injury kept him out of action for over a year. Silva is the wrong guy to make your return to the cage with after a sixteen month layoff and Vitor paid for it. Maybe one day Vitor will live up to being the fighter that everybody thinks that he is supposed to be, but as for right now it’s back to the drawing board.

Despite the impressive finish, Anderson's victory was overshadowed because of what happened on the undercard. After Jon Jones (12-1) defeated Ryan Bader (12-1), it was announced in the cage that Jones was going to replace an injured Rashad Evans and challenge UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua for the title at UFC 128 on March 19th in Newark, NJ.

The announcement, which came as a surprise to Jones, was contingent on Jones actually beating Bader. Jones came through for the UFC in spades and dominated his undefeated opponent. Jones came close to finishing the fight in the first round with a north-south choke, but Bader escaped and was able to get up and survive. He wasn't so fortunate in the second round though, as Jones submitted Bader with a guillotine from side control at the end of the second round to get the victory.

Afterwards, Rogan made the announcement and offered Jones the fight. Jones quickly accepted and Shogun entered the cage to congratulate the challenger. The UFC really came through after Rashad's injury and in this case, they actually found a replacement who fans would rather watch fight for the title than the original opponent. Shogun-Jones is an intriguing match up that is going to be very hard to predict. Shogun has shown himself to be an excellent muay thai striker with excellent Jiu Jitsu on the ground, while Jones may be the strongest wrestler in the UFC with some unorthodox striking to go with it.

The similarities between Shogun and Jones are also interesting as Shogun received the same hype earlier in his career that Jones is now currently getting. Now, Shogun is older, although still only 29 years old, and is the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and now he has a 23 year old phenom nipping at his heels looking to take his spot. Who’s going to come out on top and prove themselves as true 'future' of the 205lb division?

The main fight on the undercard was a battle between former UFC champions as former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin defeated former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin by decision. It was a fight many were predicting to be the fight of the night, as both fighters usually come out looking to stand up and brawl with their opponents.

Instead of a slug fest, though, Griffin fought a much more tactical match up than anticipated. He opened the first round by immediately taking Franklin down and neutralizing Franklin's game. Griffin spent the entire round in Franklin's guard landing small punches while Rich tried in vain to execute a submission.

The rest of the fight was fought mostly on the feet, with Forrest landing a right leg kick to Franklin's left arm which broke Franklin's left arm about ninety seconds into the second round. In Rich's last fight, against Chuck Liddell at UFC 115, his arm was broken in the exact same manner. Franklin knocked out Liddell with the broken arm in the first round, but tonight he wouldn't be so fortunate. But despite the broken arm, Franklin was able to keep striking with Forrest. But Griffin was still in control and won the second round by continuously using his reach to pepper Franklin with punches and kicks including a left hook on Franklin that stunned Rich with about 1:35 left in the round.

The third round was arguably the closest of the three rounds, with Franklin continuing to push the pace despite a broken left arm, landing right hands and a few leg kicks on Griffin, but he wasn't doing enough to Forrest. Forrest was using his superior size and reach to keep Franklin back and land on him with out risking getting caught. Griffin outlanded Franklin throughout the third round with punches and kicks to the body which sealed the round for Griffin and the fight.

I had Griffin winning all three rounds with a scorecard of 30-27. The judges gave it to Griffin 29-28 on all three cards. Griffin's record improves to 18-6 while Franklin's drops to 28-6 w/1 NC.

The fight didn't quite live up to the hype that was bestowed upon it but it was still a solid fight. Griffin hadn't fought in 14 months, taking 2010 off to recuperate from shoulder and foot injuries, and got a sorely needed win that puts him back into the mix at 205lbs. A good fight next for Griffin would be Ryan Bader or a rematch against Rampage Jackson should he win his next fight.

The future of Rich Franklin is more uncertain. First off, his arm was injured in the fight so he isn't going to be fighting anytime soon. If the arm injury from the Liddell fight is any indication he could be out another 6-8 months. Maybe more, since the same arm was broken by the same move as before it is possibly Franklin came back from injury too early and may take more time off this time. Even when he does comeback, it’s hard to imagine where Franklin fits in the division. He hasn't advanced his career since moving to Light Heavyweight and he isn't a serious contender at this point. Franklin's at the end of a great career, what can he do before his time ends?

The rest of the live card featured Miguel Torres (39-3) handily defeating Antonio Banuelos (18-7) by unanimous decision (30-27 on all three cards) and Jake Ellenberger (23-5) defeating Carlos Rocha (9-1) by split decision.

It was a great PPV card, the second in a row after UFC 125. You had Anderson Silva prove his dominance once again. While Jon Jones continued to look like the superstar that everyone believes he is going to be, now its time to see if he can actually defeat the best the division has to offer.

The next card is February 26th when UFC goes down under to Sydney, Australia for UFC 127. BJ Penn continues his latest foray into the welterweight division when he takes on Jon Fitch.

Questions or comments,
Matthew at: mdegonzaque@hotmail.com

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