“Ace” is Up: Silva Takes UFC Belt in Full House

By Mike Sloan Oct 15, 2006
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 14 — Two champions were crowned inside the Octagon tonight, but how each man was able to capture his title greatly differed between bouts.

The main event at the Mandalay Bay Events Center saw the UFC middleweight title change hands when Brazilian bomber Anderson Silva had a surprisingly easy time dispatching defending champ Rich Franklin (Pictures). The evening’s other title affair for the vacant UFC lightweight belt saw muscle-bound Sean Sherk (Pictures) dominate Kenny Florian (Pictures) for five full rounds en route to a well-deserved unanimous decision.

UFC 64 was dubbed “Unstoppable” and after witnessing Franklin get clobbered and knocked out in just under four minutes, it appeared Silva was deserving of the moniker.

Franklin said before the bout that he was going to trade with Silva, even if it meant fighting him in the clinch. Franklin did just that and he paid for it dearly.

Silva avoided virtually everything Franklin threw his way and shook off the few solid straight lefts that “Ace” was able to land. But once Silva entrapped Franklin within his vaunted Thai clinch, the end was just around the corner.

Silva refused to allow Franklin, a veteran of over 20 fights, to escape; the champion appeared to have no idea to how to break free of Silva’s clinch. Sensing that his foe was in deep trouble, Silva unfurled his attacks and immediately began firing knees to both Franklin’s body and face.

The Cincinnati-based middleweight withstood the first few knees that infiltrated his defense, but with an expert striker the caliber of Silva teeing off it was only a matter of time before the lights were turned out.

And turned out Franklin’s lights Silva did.

The new champion hurt Franklin with a knee from inside his Thai clinch and Franklin staggered away toward the fence. It was the last time Franklin would be free from Silva’s clutches until he was felled.

“Spider” quickly closed the gap and pinned Franklin along the fence, uncorking a thudding knee to Franklin’s face. The force of the blow broke Franklin’s nose and prompted him to flee, but his equilibrium was shattered beyond repair and he stumbled back toward the fence again.

Silva landed a glancing high kick to Franklin’s face and then followed with another crippling knee to the face that dropped Franklin onto the canvas for good. The fight was immediately halted, and at the 3:59 mark of the first round there was a new UFC middleweight champion.

“This is a dangerous fight for me, my biggest challenge to keep my belt,” Franklin said in the pre-fight interview that aired on the jumbo screens throughout the arena. “The first person to make a mistake will probably lose.”

Franklin certainly made the first mistake by opting to fight within Silva’s Thai clinch. That decision not only allowed Silva to wrest the title from Franklin, but it also resulted in the Brazilian warping and twisting Franklin’s nose similar to Nathan Quarry (Pictures)’s profile after Franklin knocked him out last November.

Sean Sherk (Pictures) didn’t have it as easy as Silva, as the Minnesotan had to endure five grueling rounds against the ultra tough Kenny Florian (Pictures) to walk away with the vacant UFC lightweight belt.

While on paper it seemed as though Sherk would whip Florian easily for five rounds, that wasn’t the case. Sherk won a unanimous decision in what actually was landslide scoring, but Florian made him earn every second of victory.

Florian opened a nasty cut along the right side of Sherk’s hairline in the first minute of round two that oozed blood until the final bell. Unable to properly defend Sherk’s shot, the Boston lightweight fought off the bottom for the vast majority of the contest, though it was from his back that “KenFlo” was able to lacerate Sherk. Still, Florian’s offense was greatly nullified by the new champion, who basically had his way with the slender Florian.

Florian landed several stinging kicks to Sherk’s body, but once KenFlo seemed to find a groove the new champion simply darted in slammed his foe to the mat. The Ultimate Fighter alumnus’ renowned jiu-jitsu skills were kept in check by Sherk’s tremendous power and keen wrestling ability, as the welterweight-turned-lightweight easily avoided the rare submission attempts.

After five rounds Sherk was awarded a unanimous decision — 49-46 from Tony Weeks and Jeff Mullen, and a 50-48 tally from Cecil Peoples — to become the first UFC lightweight champion since Jens Pulver (Pictures) vacated the belt in 2002.

Jon Fitch (Pictures) won a deserved and hard-earned unanimous decision victory over Japanese warrior Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures). The fight itself wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, as it was fought mostly on the ground with moderate action.

But the rugged Fitch did everything in his power to win and his determination paid off. He wound up winning the fight thanks to 30-27 scoring on all three score cards.

UFC newcomer Carmelo Marrero almost had a victory stolen from him as he squeaked past promising heavyweight Cheick Kongo (Pictures) via split decision. In what was probably the least exciting bout of the evening, Marrero continuously scored takedowns and controlled the pace of the fight on the canvas.

Kongo couldn’t secure any submissions and was unable to let his strikes go thanks to poor takedown defense, yet judge Tony Weeks thought he did enough to win the bout, giving the Frenchman two of three rounds. The other two judges saw it 29-28 in favor of Marrero.

Spencer Fisher (Pictures) was victorious in the night’s best fight, as stopped Dan Lauzon at 4:38 of the first round. It was a back-and-forth war that saw both men flirt with defeat. But it Fisher’s experience paid off.

Lauzon, only 18, did well against the older Fisher until about the four minute mark. From within a clinch, Fisher landed a brutal knee to the sternum, stealing every ounce of breath from Lauzon. From there, Fisher delivered a vicious knee-punch combo that dropped Lauzon. Once Lauzon collapsed in agony, the fight was called off.

Under Card Results

The Ultimate Fighter 3 semifinalist Kalib Starnes (Pictures) fell short against Japan’s Yushin Okami (Pictures), as the popular Canuck was stopped at 1:40 of the third round.

After a relatively dull fight for the first 10 minutes, Okami hurt Starnes with a left uppercut and then followed up with a barrage of strikes after Starnes was taken down. Starnes rolled over onto the canvas and Okami bombarded him with more punishment until the referee stopped it. The win was the first in the UFC for Okami and a devastating loss for Starnes.

Clayton Guida (Pictures) impressed as he and Justin James (Pictures) took turns tearing into each other for most almost 10 full minutes. Late in the second, Guida took over and ended things with a beautiful rear-naked choke.

Guida pummeled James from the guard with Mongolian chops and eventually forced James to roll over. Guida pounced with more strikes and seized back-control for the choke. James quickly tapped out at the 4:42 mark of the second, giving Guida an impressive win in his UFC debut.

Kurt Pellegrino (Pictures) made quick work of opponent Junior Assuncao, taking him out at 2:04 of the opening round. Pellegrino rocked Assuncao with a huge punch and when the fight hit the canvas, the Florida-based lightweight moved from the crucifix position into a slick rear-naked choke, eventually forcing a dazed Assuncao to tapout.

Keith Jardine (Pictures)'s scheduled bout against Mike Nickels was cancelled Saturday after Nickels withdrew due to a reported back injury.
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