For the first time in his UFC career, Silva, 33, was pushed past the second round -- and that had little to do with his opponent. Defending the UFC middleweight belt against Patrick Cote, expectations demanded a resounding performance. Instead, the dangerous champion strutted his way through two-plus rounds before Cote fell to the canvas when his right knee gave way 39 seconds into the third.
Perhaps this was Silva's way of guaranteeing the fans received their money's worth. After all, the Brazilian -- widely regarded as the top mixed martial artist in the sport -- has delivered his fair share of early finishes lately.
Despite a lack of offense, Silva (23-4) still connected with damaging shots. Standing three inches taller than Cote, the southpaw scored from the outside with a down-the-pipe straight left, and several hard low kicks. Though he tried, Cote, 28, couldn't muster much of a response.
Sitting on his stool prior to Round 3 -- a feat Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson and a host of others couldn't manage against Silva -- Cote informed his corner that his right knee was troubling him. In the second, an old injury manifested itself, hampering Cote's movement and virtually eliminating any chance he had of pulling off what would have been a tremendous upset. That news didn't deter his charged cornerman Mark DellaGrotte.
"Forget the knee, lock it down, believe in yourself," DellaGrotte screamed at Cote.
The French Canadian fighter, whose record dropped to 13-5, nodded and stood. Less than a minute later spirit gave way to physics, and he dropped in pain.
"Patrick came in to fight," said Silva, who lauded Cote for the effort. "He was exchanging. It was a fun fight."
Thiago Alves separated himself from a deep pack of UFC welterweight contenders with his dismantling of the talented and gutsy Josh Koscheck.
Stepping up two weeks ago after Diego Sanchez was forced out with torn cartilage near his ribs, Koscheck (11-3) faced a Muay Thai destroyer looking for his seventh win in a row inside the UFC. And though improved striking honed at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., kept him in the fight, Koscheck had little answer for Alves' heavy low kicks and power punches.
Midway through the opening round, Alves (16-3) dropped a counter left underneath Koscheck's right ear. The four-time All-American wrestler dropped the canvas as Alves went for a finish, but he gutted through to find his footing late in the period.
Throughout the fight Alves chopped away at Koscheck's lead left leg, coupling snapping kicks to the inside of the thigh with clubbing attacks to the quad. Alves punctuated the leg barrage by knocking Koscheck, 30, off his feet with a particularly brutal offering in the final period. Koscheck also endured a stunning knee to the face in Round 3, but he survived to hear a unanimous decision (30-27 twice and 29-28) go against him.
Thanks to impressive takedown defense, the 25-year-old Alves never touched the canvas. Alves picked his moments, adding maturity to game that's brought him to the cusp of a title shot versus the heralded Georges St. Pierre.
"I'm really excited," Alves said. "I'm looking forward to what's next."
Lightweight powerhouse Gray Maynard (6-0) trumped a wide-experience gap, out-pointing Rich Clementi (32-13-1) on the strength of his wrestling and control. Maynard, 29, actually beat Clementi, 32, to the punch, but it was his ability to get the fight on the canvas that earned him a shutout 30-27 score on each judge's card.
"I thought he'd slow down a little bit [over the course of the fight], but he was still trying to catch me with a lot of stuff," Maynard said. "I couldn't posture up. He tried to grab my hands. He's crafty, a vet."
UFC rookie Junior Dos Santos (7-1) stunned heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum (11-4-1) to score an early opening round knockout.
Appearing softer in the midsection than when he's been his best, Werdum circled early with Dos Santos, a 24-year-old well-built striker who said after the fight he wanted to avoid going to the floor. Werdum, 31, made that easy by never attempting a takedown.
An uppercut born from Dos Santos's hip met Werdum's face, dropping the Brazilian to the canvas, where the bout ended at the 1:20 mark.
In fighting style, physical presence and intensity, lightweights Sean Sherk and Tyson Griffin are nearly identical. So, too, was each man's performance Saturday.
"I felt like I was a little more active," Sherk said after winning a unanimous decision. "I felt like I landed a few more punches as well as a couple takedowns, and I got his back twice. It was a close fight. I did feel confident that I won the fight, though."
Willing to stand in the pocket and trade, the squat fighters offered a consistent stream of strikes to the head and body. While Griffin (12-2) mixed low and high kicks, Sherk scored points by changing levels in the first two rounds to finish takedowns. Griffin, 11 years Sherk's junior, stood without issue and was eager to trade, but he failed to land anything of significance.
Midway through the second, Griffin begged the former UFC champion forward with his hands, but Sherk (33-3-1) remained calm against the pressure of a younger contender. With the decision win (30-27 and 29-28 twice), Sherk rebound nicely from a stoppage loss to B.J. Penn in May, helping him avoiding consecutive losses for the first time in his career.