For the first time in his UFC career reigning UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva, 36, was defending his title on his home turf at the HSBC Arena in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Saturday night. His 30-year-old challenger, Yushin Okami, from Japan had to face a man whom he had already defeated thanks to Silva’s disqualification at Rumble on the Rock 8 ten months before he began his reign as the longest-lasting UFC champion ever with eight successful title defenses in five years. At UFC Rio, however, Silva grew larger than life before the fight even started as he was feeding off the amazing energy in the arena that seemed to be filled exclusively with his loyal fans.
Nevertheless, Okami seemed confident and composed as Silva entered the octagon. With a fight record of 27-5 he could certainly hold his own against Silva’s 28-4– at least on paper. His game plan consisted of using his superior physical strength against Silva. But as it turned out, over-powering the champion would take way more than brute force.
Silva completely skipped the theatrics last night. Instead he appeared calm and collected, like a man on a mission. Avenging his disqualification-loss to Okami due to an illegal kick in 2006 certainly made his to-do list for the evening. Even more importantly, however, Silva clearly had no intention to let anyone take his belt on his home court.
With the precision of a brain surgeon Silva was strategically landing kicks and blows to keep Okami on his toes in round one. In an effort to get out of the line of fire Okami attempted a take-down. But Silva stayed true to his well-established preference for stand-up battles and skillfully avoided being taken out of his element. As the round came to a close, Okami landed a few shots that did little to faze Silva. In fact, Silva ended up having the last laugh with a powerful head kick.
After a rather cautiously-played first round, Silva instantly turned up the heat in round two. He attacked Okami’s legs to weaken his defense further, then followed up with punches to the face. Okami threw a few counter-punches to slow Silva down, but failed to infuse the power he based his game plan on. As a result, Silva just kept coming after him with increased speed and intensity. After about two minutes of taking this kind of physical punishment Okami seemed overwhelmed enough for referee Herb Dean to call the fight at 2:04 of the second round.
Silva jokingly stated in the post-fight interview that he would have to fight his own clone next in the absence of worthy challengers. In a sport where champions are often dethroned within weeks or months of taking reign, Silva without a doubt remains an enigma.