Anderson Silva sent a message to anyone who aspires to end his 2,094-day reign atop the middleweight division: punches, kicks, knees and elbows still carry far more weight than words.
Silva recovered from an awful start to defeat Chael Sonnen and retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown in the UFC 148 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Sonnen succumbed to blows 1:55 into round two.
An errant, ill-advised spinning backfist from the challenger, combined with a perfectly placed knee to the chest and follow-up ground-and-pound from the champion wrote the ending to one of the promotion’s most-talked-about rivalries.
Few can argue about Silva’s current place in the historical hierarchy. The 37-year-old Brazilian has won 16 consecutive bouts, 15 of them inside the Octagon, 10 of them 185-pound title defenses. His list of victims since he won the middleweight belt on Oct. 14, 2006 includes a two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder, an Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, a King of Pancrase and three former UFC champions.
Silva has little if anything left to prove at 185 pounds, a division he has thoroughly ravaged for the past six years. The fact that he has done some successful moonlighting as a light heavyweight provides the intrigue here.
Fellow pound-for-pound luminary Jon Jones will defend the 205-pound championship against Dan Henderson in the UFC 151 headliner on Sept. 1. Silva’s overt dominance has earned him the right to shoot for something special: the chance to become the first man to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes simultaneously. Throw him the Jones-Henderson winner in the promotion’s first cross-class super fight in more than three years.
In wake of UFC 148 “Silva vs. Sonnen 2,” here are six other matchups that need to be made:
Chael Sonnen vs. Lyoto Machida-Ryan Bader loser: Sonnen rewrote the book on self-promotion in MMA over the last several years, transforming himself from a lightly regarded journeyman into a two-time UFC title contender. At 35 years of age and with testosterone replacement therapy making his weight cut more and more difficult, his days as a middleweight might be over. If that is indeed the case, the UFC has plenty of options available to him at 205 pounds, starting with the loser of the Machida-Bader matchup at UFC on FOX 4 in August.
Forrest Griffin vs. Glover Teixeira: Mauricio Rua wanted no part of Teixeira and his 16-fight winning streak. Perhaps Griffin, fresh off his unanimous decision over the retiring Tito Ortiz, will take the bait. He has spoken candidly about his willingness to test some of the up-and-comers in the 205-pound division. Teixeira would provide him with just such an opportunity.
Cung Le vs. Jake Shields-Ed Herman winner: Le was accurate and efficient in securing his first UFC victory over Patrick Cote, slamming violent kicks into the Canadian’s legs, body and head. Now 40, the acrobatic middleweight has a limited shelf life, and there is no guarantee, with his burgeoning movie career, that he will return to the cage again. Should he decide to do so, perhaps a date with fellow former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields or resurgent “Ultimate Fighter” finalist Ed Herman would be in order.
Chad Mendes vs. Ricardo Lamas: Mendes remains part of the cream of the crop at 145 pounds, his knockout loss to champion Jose Aldo at UFC 142 notwithstanding. The Team Alpha Male representative re-established himself in scintillating fashion, as he put away “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alum Cody McKenzie with punches in just 31 seconds. Though a rematch with Aldo seems distant at best, Mendes has plenty to offer others climbing the 145-pound ladder. Lamas notched the most significant win of his career at UFC on FX 4, defeating the talented but enigmatic Hatsu Hioki. Another top contender should come next for the Chicagoan, and no one fits that bill better than Mendes.
Demian Maia vs. Rick Story: Maia received a bit of a gift in his welterweight debut, when opponent Dong Hyun Kim suffered an apparent rib injury while being taken down and was forced to exit their fight less than a minute after it began. Nevertheless, it goes down as a Maia victory in the books. Story has publicly called for a bout with Matt Brown, but maybe the Brave Legion standout should aim a little higher. A matchup with Maia, a former title contender at 185 pounds, seems far more appropriate.
Mike Easton vs. Eddie Wineland: In taking care of Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision, Easton showed off his dynamic blend of speed and power. Arguably the most physically gifted fighter at 135 pounds, the Alliance MMA representative has pieced together an eight-fight winning streak since 2007. Wineland was spectacular in knocking out Scott Jorgensen at UFC on FX 3, and would serve as a fitting next step for the man they call “The Hulk.”