Anderson Silva toyed with Stephan Bonnar. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
When it comes to Anderson Silva, all superlatives have been exhausted.
Silva moved up to 205 pounds for the third time and left his footprints on Stephan Bonnar in the UFC 153 main event on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 37-year-old Brazilian juggernaut became the first man to finish Bonnar with strikes, as he dispatched him with a wicked knee to the solar plexus and follow-up punches 4:40 into the first round. It was Silva’s 17th consecutive victory.
“The Spider” toyed with the overmatched Bonnar during the brief encounter; at one point, he pressed his own back to the cage while daring the Carlson Gracie protégé to exchange with him. Silva left his hands by his side, with his chin up and his head exposed. Bonnar flailed and occasionally connected. Silva and his iron jaw refused to budge. Ultimate, the middleweight champion scored with a trip, tracked Bonnar across the cage and fired a precision knee into his midsection. “The American Psycho” folded in agony, and, moments late, the fight was over.
Afterward, a jubilant Silva reaffirmed his desire to return to 185 pounds -- a weight class over which he has lorded for the last six years. Signs point to a potential catchweight super fight with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre sometime in 2013, provided the French Canadian can return to form and win his unification bout with Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in November. That could conceivably allow the Michael Bisping-Chris Weidman-Tim Boetsch triangle to resolve itself and provide Silva with his next contender in the middleweight division.
UFC President Dana White has also begun floating the idea of a Silva-Jon Jones blockbuster, though the two men have repeatedly claimed they have no interest in fighting one another. As always, money talks.
In the wake of UFC 153 “Silva vs. Bonnar,” here are half a dozen other matchups that need to be made:
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira-Stefan Struve: Nogueira taught Dave Herman a lesson in the co-main event, as he coaxed a tapout from the Team Quest export with a second-round armbar. Herman, who referred to Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a “useless” art, had never before been submitted. Clearly in the twilight of his career, Nogueira still has enough left in the tank to cause waves in the heavyweight division. Struve finds himself on a four-fight winning streak, having stopped the previously unbeaten Stipe Miocic on second-round punches at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in September. The 7-footer has begged for higher-profile opposition.
Glover Teixeira-Quinton Jackson: Outside of Jones, Teixeira may be the hottest commodity in the light heavyweight division. The 32-year-old Brazilian put a horrific beating on Fabio Maldonado in his second Octagon appearance, securing a stoppage in between rounds two and three of a fight that had many fearing for the latter’s safety. Teixeira wobbled Maldonado on the feet with a pair of left hooks, but he did his most significant damage on the canvas with merciless ground-and-pound. He was originally ticketed for a bout with Jackson before the former 205-pound champion withdrew with an injury. Once he was done with Maldonado, Teixeira made it clear he still wants the fight.
Jon Fitch-Jake Ellenberger: Fitch thumbed his nose at doubters with a unanimous decision victory over hyped Brazilian prospect Erick Silva. In his first outing since suffering a 12-second knockout loss at the hands of Johny Hendricks in December, Fitch was in vintage form. He has never been better than he was in the third round, where he dominated and nearly broke Silva’s will with his relentless aggression, stifling top game and damaging ground-and-pound. If nothing else, the performance proved that Fitch remains a serious player at 170 pounds. Ellenberger has won 11 of his last 13 fights, keeping his name on a short list of potential welterweight title contenders despite losses to Condit and Martin Kampmann. The 27-year-old Reign MMA product outdueled former International Fight League champion Jay Hieron at UFC on FX 5 on Oct. 5.
Phil Davis-Ryan Bader: Davis ran a grappling clinic on Wagner Prado, eventually submitting the previously undefeated Brazilian with a second-round anaconda choke. The onetime NCAA wrestling champion has rebounded nicely from his first professional setback, suffered in a unanimous decision defeat to Rashad Evans in January. At 28, Davis has plenty of room to grow and a clear to desire to improve. Bader finds himself on a similar career path, though a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC on Fox 4 in August interrupted the momentum he enjoyed from a two-fight winning streak.
Demian Maia-Josh Koscheck: Maia dazzled in his second outing at 170 pounds, as he submitted Brave Legion’s Rick Story with a neck crank 2:30 into the first round of their welterweight showcase. One of the world’s premier submission grapplers, Maia grounded Story early and made quick work of a man who had never before been finished. Koscheck has not competed since he came out on the wrong side of a disputed split decision against Hendricks at UFC on Fox 3 in May, but the abrasive 34-year-old has proven to be an excellent litmus test for would-be contenders in the welterweight division.
Stephan Bonnar-Forrest Griffin: One can only admire Bonnar’s courage in accepting a short-notice matchup with the greatest fighter on the planet. However, Bonnar had hinted at retirement prior to his ill-fated main event with “The Spider,” and his encounter with the middleweight champion’s knee may serve to hurry him down that road. Scheduled for a rematch with Chael Sonnen in December, Griffin also appears to be on his last leg as a professional mixed martial artist. Should Bonnar decide to re-enter the cage one more time and should the stars align, perhaps a third chapter with Griffin would provide the historic rivals with a fitting platform through which to bid farewell.