True all-time greats can never be counted out.
Wanderlei Silva was in vintage form, as he knocked out former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Brian Stann in the second round of their memorable UFC on Fuel TV 8 main event on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Silva polished off the 32-year-old American 4:08 into round two, temporarily quieting the retirement talk that seems to follow his every move.
Round one was extraordinary, as the two light heavyweights turned loose on one another in a series of wild, violent exchanges that set the venue and the MMA community ablaze. Both men were knocked off their feet at one point, and Stann exited the first frame bleeding heavily from a horizontal gash on the bridge of his nose.
With a little more than a minute remaining in the second round, Silva moved into range and clobbered his counterpart with a two-punch combination that put him on the canvas. Stann tried to shield himself from the Brazilian’s onslaught, but there was no escape. Still one of the game’s fiercest finishers, Silva sealed it with a serious of vicious right hands.
What comes next for “The Axe Murderer” remains anyone’s guess. He has kept a non-committal stance on whether he will stay at 205 pounds or return to the middleweight division. At light heavyweight, UFC brass could elect to pair Silva with Forrest Griffin, an opponent with an attractive name and bankable big-fight personality. If he moves back to 185 pounds, the Brazilian could be in position to make a once-unthinkable run at the top 10, perhaps against the winner of the forthcoming UFC on FX 8 showdown between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Constantinos Philippou on May 18.
In the wake of UFC on Fuel TV 8, here are seven other matchups that ought to be made:
Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson: No one knows how long Hunt’s fairy tale will last, but he recorded his fourth consecutive victory with a third-round knockout against Stefan Struve and rearranged the Dutchman’s face in the process. Hunt’s ground game and defensive wrestling remain glaring weaknesses and will likely keep him from ascending much further in the heavyweight division. With that said, he has earned the right to face a top 10 opponent inside the Octagon. Nelson will first need to get past French kickboxer Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 on April 27.
Brian Stann vs. Hector Lombard: Stann has lost three of his past four fights, squandering much of the equity he had built with consecutive victories over Mike Massenzio, Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago between Aug. 1, 2010 and May 28, 2011. The 32-year-old plans to return to the middleweight division after his one-off appearance at 205 pounds and will need to steady himself in order to stay relevant. Lombard finds himself in a similar position after setbacks in two of his first three UFC appearances.
Stefan Struve vs. Fabricio Werdum-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira loser: Depending on the extent of the damage to his jaw, Struve may someday look back on his encounter with Hunt’s left hook as a mere bump in the road. The promising 25-year-old Dutchman entered the cage on a four-fight winning streak and threatened to finish Hunt on more than one occasion. Though he has time to develop, Struve needs to make more pronounced strides and improve as a tactician if he wants to become an elite heavyweight. Werdum and Nogueira will tangle at UFC on FX 9 on June 8.
Yushin Okami vs. Luke Rockhold-Vitor Belfort winner: Okami may not move the needle in terms of public interest, but he has carved out quite a career for himself; his 13 victories inside the UFC now tie him for 11th on the all-time list. The 31-year-old judoka’s split decision win over Lombard keeps safe his place as one of the world’s top 10 middleweights. Okami may never again fight for the title, but he makes for a stellar gatekeeper at 185 pounds. Rockhold and Belfort will toe the line against one another at UFC on FX 8 on May 18.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Rory MacDonald: Kim steamrolled gifted Afghan striker Siyar Bahadurzada with a steady diet of takedowns and superior positional grappling. The brutish South Korean judoka has won six of his past eight bouts and remains a person of interest in a welterweight division ripe with contenders. MacDonald was forced to withdraw from his rematch with Carlos Condit at UFC 158 on March 16, but has the look of a future champion.
Diego Sanchez vs. Rafael dos Anjos-Evan Dunham winner: Sanchez failed to make weight for his three-round tussle against former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Takanori Gomi, but he managed to escape with a controversial split decision. He now must show he has the drive, determination and discipline to factor into the deep 155-pound division. Dos Anjos, who has quietly pieced together a string of three straight wins, will tackle Dunham at UFC on FX 8 in May.
Rani Yahya vs. Darren Elkins-Antonio Carvalho winner: Yahya ran circles around former Sengoku champion Mizuto Hirota for two rounds before fatigue forced him to hang on for a unanimous decision. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist wields a specialized skill that can pose problems for almost anyone at 145 pounds on any given night. On the outskirts of top 10 consideration, Elkins will put his four-fight winning streak on the line against Carvalho at UFC 158.
This item was updated at 8:45 a.m. ET on March 4.