It was a peculiar scene in the MGM Grand at about 5.35am GMT as one of the most fearsome killers MMA has even seen dropped to the mat and began sobbing uncontrollably.
As he was set up for all week, Anderson the Spider Silva was victorious in the main event of UFC183 against Nick Diaz last night.
And who can blame him for the emotion? Just 13 months ago, the longest-reigning champion in UFC history was stretchered out of the same Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena after suffering a gruesome broken leg, one that most assumed to be career-ending.
At 39 years of age, he strolled into the MGM, the scene of his horrific injury 15 months ago, now adapted for battle with a titanium rod holding his fibula and tibia in place.
Silva marked a storybook comeback by picking apart Diaz, a man out of his weight class who just couldn’t overcome his speed and size disadvantage compared to the seven year Middleweight champion.
The judges’ scores were 50-45, 50-45, and 49-46 in favour of Silva.
“Thank you God, for giving me one more chance to stay here,” said Silva (34-6). “Thank you to my family and friends, my real friends.”
The bout got off to an interesting start, as Diaz, who was fighting for the first time since May, 2013, instantly attempted to goad Silva.
The Stockton bad guy, known for his satanic tongue and trash talking was weirdly quiet all of fight week, never raising the ire of anyone. A general presumption was that he simply respected Anderson too much to disrespect him with trash talk – but that theory was rebutted vehemently on Sunday morning.
Diaz came out acting as more of a WWE wrestler rather than a UFC fighter. He screamed trash, dropped his hands, at one point hit the mat and dared Silva to follow, and at another pushed his back into the cage and dared Silva to come at him. Eventually he was admonished by referee John McCarthy for his antics.
Diaz was attempting to get Silva to push forward and throw him off his game, knowing Silva typically acts as a counter-striker. While Diaz got in his fair share of punches as a volume striker, they just weren’t powerful enough.
This was obvious from when Diaz landed three leg kicks in a row without a flinch from Anderson. Silva simply landed better shots, including full-force kicks with the rehabbed left leg.
After three compelling rounds of this, the pace slowed in the fourth and fifth, as both guys began to look like fighters who had been out of the cage for extended periods. Still, Silva managed to do the bulk of the damage while making signature weaves, dodging from punches, as Diaz emerged from the bout a bloody mess.
“This was very important to me, this was a very important moment for my whole family, for the Brazilians. I went through a whole lot of suffering last year wondering if I’d come back.”
With Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman now out injured again from UFC184, one must question whether Dana White and the UFC will create an interim title opportunity.
Anderson Silva was cryptic and emotional in his post fight interview with Joe Rogan as to when the Spider will return to the Octagon once more.
Silva’s family have begged him to cease his career, however, as he said during the week – he is a fighter and this is his life. Already number one in the rankings, does the Spider deserve a title opportunity after one fight against a similarly ring-rusty guy, albeit an interim shot?
He could win that, then face Weidman, the man whom he broke his leg against, for their third bout with the title on the line. Now that would be the real storybook ending.
Garbh Madigan, Pundit Arena