At Saturday night's UFC 64: Unstoppable pay-per-view event, Anderson Silva expertly worked a Muay Thai clinch and let loose with lethal knees to register a first-round TKO win over Rich Franklin to become the new UFC middleweight champion.
His win was decisive and destructive, and it reverberated profoundly throughout the foundation of the middleweight division, and even more so, throughout the foundation of fans that had high hopes for their favorite champion. There were rumblings amongst the UFC faithful that this newcomer could shake things up, but until they witnessed the devastating end to Rich Franklin, I don't think anybody really believed it could happen.
But it did.
You could feel the weight of the loss in the building immediately. While Anderson was gracious in his win, the result weighed heavily on the crowd. What's devastating about the loss is that Rich Franklin was more that just the middleweight titleholder. He was the quintessential champion: smart, well-spoken, handsome, and gentlemanly. Everything a fan could ask for.
For the UFC, from a public relations point of view, Rich Franklin meant new fans. New fans flocking to a booming new sport. New fans who haven't a clue who or what Anderson Silva represents. He remains an enigma to fans. A giant killer with only one fight in the UFC that lasted 49 seconds, which despite the highlight reel knock-out of Ultimate Fighter alumnus Chris Leben was not enough to suss him out as a fighter. Also, he is Brazilian and speaks through a translator, another barrier to communicating with the predominantly North American fan base.
Anderson's win will please the hardcore fans, though. He is a superb technician, with lethal Muay Thai skills, which he's already displayed, and Brazilian black belt jiu-jitsu skills from a highly respected school, which he's yet to unveil to UFC fans.
Some will speculate that Anderson will not be able to draw fans like Rich Franklin could. Perhaps. But give fans some credit. While personality can be persuasive, nothing beats a good fight. And you didn't have to be hardcore to understand that Anderson put on a good fight.
Although fans were quiet in their response, they took everything in. Especially, the new fans brought into the game by UFC stars the likes of Rich Franklin. While the UFC markets its fight cards as events, MMA (mixed martial arts) is after all a sport. A sport with athletes who bring with them an arsenal of techniques. On Saturday night, fans saw their champion taken down by a new fighter with potent techniques.
In the end, after all the marketing machine build-up of fighters' personalities is left by the side of the octagon, good fighters with effective technical skills are what make a good fight. For UFC 64, fans were introduced to a new, good fighter.
Chalk one up for the good fights, even though the other guy won.
Other UFC 64 Results
Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian – Lightweight Title Match
Sean Sherk wins by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-48)
Jon Fitch vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka
Jon Fitch wins by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Carmelo Marrero vs. Cheick Kongo
Carmelo Marrero wins a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Spencer Fisher vs. Dan Lauzon
Spencer Fisher wins by TKO at 4:38 of the first round.
Keith Jardine vs. Mike Nickels
Bout was cancelled due to injury to Mike Nickels.
Yushin Okami vs. Kalib Starnes
Yushin Okami wins by TKO (strikes from the back) at 1:40 of the third round.
Clayton Guida vs. Justin James
Clayton Guida wins by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:42 of the second round.
Junior Assuncao vs. Kurt Pellegrino
Kurt Pellegrino wins by submission (rear naked choke) at 2:04 of the first round.