UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva enacted his revenge and definitively defeated bitter rival Chael Sonnen.
Even if it initially looked like a controversial ending to the long-awaited rematch.
However, the knee strike that set up the second-round TKO stoppage – one that initially appeared to hit Sonnen’s head illegally – instead landed legally to the chest, and Silva avenged the only real blemish of his record-setting UFC career.
The title fight headlined Saturday’s sold-out UFC 148 event, which aired on pay-per-view from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Silva (30-4 MMA, 15-0 UFC) and his outspoken rival Sonnen (28-12-1 MMA, 6-5 UFC), who had insulted the champ and anyone associated with the Brazilian during the build-up to their heavily-promoted rematch, first met two years ago at UFC 117.
Silva had already emerged as the UFC’s seemingly indestructible champion, but heavy underdog Sonnen dominated him for four-and-a-half rounds before the champ’s miraculous submission comeback in the final few minutes of the fight.
The rematch had shades of the first meeting when Sonnen, a decorated amateur wrestler, scored an early takedown, took top position and controlled the action for nearly the full round. But in the second, after Sonnen slipped following an ill-advised spinning-backfist attempt, Silva pounced with a jarring knee to the chest. A seated Sonnen fell to his side, and Silva unloaded a flurry of punches to force the TKO stoppage at the 1:55 mark of the second round.
Sonnen, who was suspended after their UFC 117 meeting for failing to disclose his use of testosterone-replacement therapy, had to defeat contenders Brian Stann and Michael Bisping to get the rematch. After making bold predictions and nearly coming to blows with Silva during media events throughout the week, Sonnen was uncharacteristically reserved after the fight.
“They gave me the opportunity,” he said. “Nobody owes me anything. I’m very grateful to be here and have the chance. He’s a true champion, man. He got me with a good knee.”
Silva, who popped Sonnen with a shoulder strike at Friday’s weigh-in, showed rare intensity and emotion leading into the fight. But after it, he played the role of peacemaker.
“Chael disrespected my country, but it’s fine,” he said. “Yeah, I have big emotions. … (But) let’s show that Brazil has manners. I want everyone to applaud Chael. If you’d like to have a barbecue at my house, I’d love to have you over for a barbecue.”
Silva now has won 16 consecutive fights, including a record 15 straight in the UFC. He also scored his UFC-record 10th title defense to cement his status as the greatest fighter in MMA history.