Well, that was 4 minutes and 40 seconds of my life wasted.
No, I'm not talking about the 4:40 it took Anderson Silva to become the first man to finish Stephan Bonnar on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro. True, the main event of UFC 153 was an another-night-at-the-office performance by the middleweight champion, who stepped up on short notice to take on the rugged light heavyweight in a nontitle bout that played out as the mismatch everyone knew it would be. But "The Spider" did show us a new twist, standing with his back against the cage for a spell and inviting Bonnar to wail away, which had the appearance of an homage to the Ali rope-a-dope but was more likely just a show for the crowd. The 16,844 fans at HSBC Arena loved every second of it, and I'll go along with that. Any time you get to watch the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artist of this time and perhaps any time perform, and he's inventing stuff on the spot for your enjoyment, it's no waste of time.
Really, the main event was anticlimactic only because of the great fighting that came before it. We saw Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira debunk a man's worldview. We saw Jon Fitch turn back the clock and Demian Maia live up to his trophy case. We saw Glover Teixeira paradoxically both dominate and get tested and Phil Davis just dominate. Watching UFC 153 was an evening well spent.
So what was the wasted time, then?
That would be the 4:40 I spent surfing the Internet earlier in the day seeking out all of the references I could find to the biggest upsets in sports and beyond, anything that might provide a nifty analogy so I'd be prepared if Bonnar pulled off the improbable. But "The American Psycho", though willing, was nowhere near able. He came right at Silva from the start, muscled him against the cage and accepted Anderson's hands-low invitation to take his best shot. But Silva was toying with him the way a house cat paws around a doomed mouse before the kill, which in this case came via a thudding knee to the solar plexus that crumbled Bonnar (15-8). At that point, this man who'd never been stopped in 22 previous professional fights just turtled up on the mat and waited for referee Marc Goddard to save him.
And I just crumpled up the list I'd compiled -- everything from Namath's Jets over the NFL establishment's Colts to How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane -- and tossed it.
Then I listened to Anderson Silva (33-4) try to put himself in perspective. "I'm not the best. I'm not the best," the winner of 17 straight fights insisted through a translator in an interview in the cage. "I just believe I can do things that people think are impossible."
Tap, tap, excuse me, care to reconsider?: Dave Herman has made waves by insisting that jiu-jitsu doesn't work against him. And for a while his seemingly absurd assertion was looking pretty good. Twice he escaped submission attempts by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, one of the top jiu-jitsu guys in the heavyweight division. Of course, given the Brazilian's credentials, it wouldn't have been going out on a limb to predict that "Big Nog" eventually would get a hold of a limb.
And sure enough he locked on an armbar and elicited a satisfying tapout at 4:31 of the second round. Then, moments after making "Pee Wee" eat his words, Nogueira had a few of his own words to feed the big American and his delusion of invincibility. "I feel so happy because this man says jiu-jitsu doesn't work," Big Nog said in his postfight interview in the cage, sparking a cheer from the crowd. "And jiu-jitsu is a Brazilian art!"
Not-so-fast work: It took Glover Teixeira barely 10 seconds to land a stinging left hook, then five more to send Fabio Maldonado to the mat and just another 10 seconds to secure full mount. So less than 30 seconds into the fight, Teixeira was well on his way to his 17th consecutive victory. From dominant position, he started landing elbows to the head of Maldonada, and the elbow count easily reached the dozens as Mario Yamasaki hovered.
Good thing the ref didn't jump in, though, because with just over a minute left in the round, Maldonado managed to get Teixeira off of him and climb to his feet. Then he caught Glover with a left hook and, wobbly and bloody but suddenly emboldened, landed another a few seconds later that had Teixeira doing a two-step. Maldonado can punch, as his 22-0 boxing career with 21 knockouts would attest. And he also takes a good punch, as he did over and over once Teixeira recovered and took the fight to the ground. But after the second round the cageside doctor, no doubt with the Hippocratic Oath in mind, decided that Maldonado had taken enough punishment, and Yamasaki waved off the bout.
Afterward, Teixeira, who landed 85 significant strikes, many of them landing flush while he was on top of Maldonado, had a smile on his face when he said, "This guy's not human, man." Then he repeated it in Portuguese for the home crowd.
Remember me?: A lot of people wrote off Jon Fitch and I can't deny that I was one of them. Allow me to quote myself from the SI.com predictions for his fight with Erick Silva: "In Fitch's heyday, he would have smothered the young Brazilian and grinded out a decision. But Jon hasn't fought in nearly 22 months, and he's being welcomed back to the cage by a beast aiming for the evening's most exhilarating performance by a Silva."
So what does Fitch go out and do? He smothered the young Brazilian and grinded out a decision. Apparently the 34-year-old's heyday is today.
Now, while Fitch's way of grinding out decisions in the past has drawn more yawns than cheers, on this night he put forth a thrilling performance. He avoided any early damage by the usually quick-starting striker, then took Silva to the mat and punished him for the better part of the first round. In the second he got reversed, and Silva locked in a tight rear naked choke. No problem for Fitch, who patiently escaped and turned the tables on the Brazilian. Then, in the third, Jon dominated and nearly finished his exhausted, overwhelmed opponent, earning a unanimous decision, some grudging cheers from the crowd and probably another big fight down the road.
Blanket coverage: First, a fan tried to steal Wagner Prado's hat as the undefeated light heavyweight was walking to the cage. Then Phil Davis stole away his "0." In a rematch of an August bout that ended prematurely in a no contest after a Davis eye poke left Prado unable to continue, the big Brazilian stayed out of poking range early on, but that left him out of punching range, too. And once Davis closed the distance, Prado swiftly ended up on his back, where he was manhandled and mauled.
The only person who was nice to Prado was referee Marc Goddard, who watched the grounded striker desperately grab the fence around a dozen times, warned him repeatedly but did not take a point away. Truthfully, a point deduction would have been a worthwhile investment if the fence grab had enabled Prado to get back to his feet. But no such luck against the 2008 NCAA Division I wrestling champion, who was a lead blanket before clamping on an anaconda choke to end the fight -- and Prado's unbeaten run -- at 4:29 of the second round.
Submitted for your approval: Oh, so that's what that mile-long list of grappling championships in Demian Maia's bio is referring to. Though he's been a winner at the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships and other prestigious tournaments, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt hadn't submitted anyone in the octagon in over three years. But that changed in a hurry after Maia took Rick Story to the mat within their fight's first 20 seconds, quickly secured dominant position and elicited a tapout via neck crank at 2:30. It was the second straight finish for Maia since dropping to welterweight, after seven straight bouts at middleweight went the distance.
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