Sylvia Decisions His Way to Heavyweight Title Shot

By Josh Gross Jan 17, 2006
Former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia (Pictures) used his significant height and reach advantage to keep Brazilian Assuerio Silva at bay for much of their 15-minute fight Monday in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 3 inside The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sylvia never allowed his challenger to bring the fight to the canvas and had the Brazilian hurt late in the first round. Though an overhand right from Silva in round two would open a cut above the 6’ 8” Sylvia’s left eye, the damage did little to sway the large heavyweight off his game plan. A solid third round, where he peppered a slowing Silva with long jabs and right crosses to the face, sealed the deal.

Judges at ringside scored it unanimously (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) for the former champion. The victory guarantees Sylvia a title shot against UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (Pictures).

“[I’m] very excited about that,” Sylvia said afterward. “[I’ve] been wanting to fight Arlovski for a long time. Him and I had a short fight the first time. He did a real good job and took me out. But I had three good wins and I’m coming for you Arlovski. I hope you’re going to be ready.”

A veteran of PRIDE and upper-echelon Brazilian events, Silva faced the daunting task of taking on a man nearly 30 pounds heavier and nine inches taller. The 31 year old did well, though he showed no real capacity to endanger the Pat Miletich (Pictures)-trained heavyweight.

After a cautious beginning, where Silva employed an unsuccessful tactic of wrapping his arms and legs around Sylvia in hopes of bringing the fight to the floor, the 29-year-old American scored on the outside with right hands in the latter half of the round.

“I think I hurt him a couple of times,” said Sylvia, whose heavy hands and knees met their mark more than once. “I saw him wobble [but] I just couldn’t capitalize on it.”

Silva, a former member of Chute Boxe, the famed Brazilian gym, responded with a high kick that backed his adversary off and a low kick that gave him a moment’s respite. Yet the damage done easily earned the American the opening stanza.

An overhand right opened a cut above Sylvia’s left eye as action resumed in round two. With blood covering the left side of his face and his tempo slowing, Sylvia was mostly ineffective in the middle period.

“He never hurt me,” Sylvia said. “Like I said, he was a little quicker than I thought he was on doing a few shots.”

Punches that had snapped Silva’s head back in the first round, did little more than push their way into the stocky Brazilian during this stretch. Walking back to his corner, Sylvia — unknowingly up two rounds to none on two judges’ cards and even on a third’s — was greeted by UFC champions Matt Hughes (Pictures) and Rich Franklin (Pictures), who warned that his jab had gotten lazy.

While the UFC rookie appeared to be in the fight, Sylvia changed that by reverting back to the successful tactics that had won him the first round.

He also got away with one.

With the best chance of the fight to put Sylvia on the floor in his grasp, Silva clinched the giant heavyweight from behind, where it looked like he’d secured the right position to lift up and plant him down.

Whether it was simply a reaction to the position or a crafty tactic from a veteran of the Octagon, Sylvia’s lurching forward and grabbing of the cage fence ended any shot the underdog had of fighting on the ground. Referee John McCarthy missed it and by the time he shuffled into position Sylvia had already stymied his foe’s takedown attempt.

The final two minutes of the fight were Sylvia’s, as he picked apart the Brazilian from the outside.

“He’s a great fighter,” Sylvia said of the Brazilian, “a lot tougher than I gave him credit for. We had a pretty good idea he was going to try and take us down, but obviously he wasn’t successful doing it and I came out the victor.”

Bonnar Dominant, Wants Griffin Rematch

The Ultimate Fighter season one finalist Stephan Bonnar (Pictures), 28, employed a masterful game plan to submit highly-touted light heavyweight James Irvin (Pictures) 4:30 of round one.

Scoring an early takedown, Bonnar put the 27-year-old Californian in a bad position, eventually securing a change at armbar from side-control, which failed when Irvin exploded up and out of it.

Another quick takedown placed Bonnar, fighting out of Chicago, Ill., in side-mount a second time, where he interlocked his upper limbs around Irvin’s left arm. Bonnar aggressively went after the Kimura, contorting Irvin’s jab arm into a painful position.

A bit of torque and some maneuvering finally created pressure enough so that Irvin, who in 2005 scored one of the most brutal knockouts of the year versus Terry Martin (Pictures), would tapout.

After the surprisingly easy victory, Bonnar let it slip that he’d enjoy a chance to repeat the war he participated in with Forrest Griffin (Pictures) in April of 2005.

No Joshing, Burkman’s Good

Josh Burkman (Pictures) refused to give Drew Fickett (Pictures), his welterweight challenger Monday evening, an inch, forcing the Tucson, Ariz.-based fighter into the cage before tossing him to the ground and capitalizing on a mistake.

“I feel good,” said Burkman after scoring a submission victory 1:07 of the opening round. “I feel confident coming into the ring. Dropping down to 170 pounds, I feel I can take on anyone.”

Fickett appeared to have no chance. After getting pushed into the cage, he was tossed to the floor and countered by going for a single-leg. Burkman, who said he was thinking about firing a knee, went for a guillotine choke.

Though the fighter out of Salt Lake City failed to wrap his legs around Fickett’s body, the choke was deep enough that the welterweight could not defend and was forced to tapout early in the first round.

Leben Continues UFC Roll

Entering the Octagon on the strength of three wins in three UFC bouts, middleweight Chris Leben (Pictures) opened the night’s televised action versus veteran slugger Jorge Rivera (Pictures) by pounding out an impressive victory.

In Rivera, who came into tonight having won his last UFC appearance versus Dennis Hallman (Pictures), Leben faced the kind of fighter he’s repeatedly asked for: a no-nonsense-stand-in-front-of-you-and-bang brawler.

No pretense. No flash. All brawl.

Scoring a takedown in the fight’s first 20 seconds, Leben showed just how much respect he has for Rivera. But he couldn’t keep the Puerto Rican down and as the slippery Rivera returned to his feet the fight intensified.

A right hand from the 33-year-old Rivera appeared to daze Leben, who recently made the move from working in Oregon with Robert Follis to Washington and Matt Hume (Pictures).

“He landed a couple really good shots,” Leben said, “had me worried. Actually, I usually don't feel ‘em. I actually felt those.”

With both Follis and Hume in his corner, Leben kept his composure. After tasting another Rivera right cross, Leben, 25, answered with a short left hook that caught the Framingham, Mass. resident on the chin. He went down and Leben followed, pounding down shots until the referee jumped in to end it 1:44 of the first round.

“This guy is a tough guy,” Leben said of Rivera. “He’s gone the distance with a lot of guys. The champ couldn't finish him. Loiseau couldn't finish him. I put him out in the first round.”
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