The largely French-Canadian crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec booed as Anderson Silva toyed with a thoroughly-outclassed Thales Leites in their UFC 97 middleweight title showdown.
I predicted it would be a Silva "walkaway" but what I didn't realize is that I would find myself walking a lot away from the TV set as the fight proved to be another Anderson Silva disappointment. UFC fight fans will recall that Silva's last title defense in UFC 90 against Patrick Cote was another big disappointment as the French-Canadian challenger was unable to continue in the third round after pulling a muscle in one of his legs. In that fight, even the commentators were surprised at the way that Silva appeared to dance while fighting Cote. Prior to the Cote fight, Silva had disposed of all his opponents in overpowering fashion thereby establishing an aura of invincibility about him.
It's not that Silva failed to dominate his opponent this time; he did, especially when the match entered the fourth round when he repeatedly landed punishing kicks to Leites' left leg and unanswered blows. At one time, he even managed to deliver what appeared to be a Bruce Lee flying kick. Leites did have his moment early in the second round when he was able to take Silva down and for a few moments seemed poised to utilize his world-champion jiu-jitsu skills against his fellow Brazilian. But Silva is also a BJJ black belt and his skills were more than adequate to allow him to stand up with 2:18 remaining in the second round.
From then on, it was a one-sided lackluster affair as Leites repeatedly fell to the floor, obviously deliberate, in an attempt to lure Silva to the ground as well as escape the latter's superior stand-up hitting power.
I'd say that the highlight of the match, at least to the French-Canadian crowd, was when they started cheering "GSP," referring to UFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre, who watched the fight from ringside. GSP had just come off a brilliant definitive victory over long-time UFC rival BJ Penn on January 31 (February 1, Manila time).
Silva won the fight via unanimous decision and with his ninth unbroken win shattered the standing UFC record for most consecutive wins in the octagon.
What's happened to Silva? I believe he's become the victim of his own incomparable mixed-martial arts skills. Too good to be beaten but not good enough to prevent escape by opponents who seemed to have developed evasive skills ensured to beat the interest and patience out of even the most avid aficionado. Or maybe, he's just run out of opponents who are foolhardy enough to run into a barrage of devastating kicks and punches.
I'm sure UFC top honcho Dana White has reminded Silva that "The customer is king" and that he'd better start developing imaginative counter-evasion skills if he wants any further meaty bookings in the UFC. He'll need it if he wants his next fight to draw even half-excited audiences.
Link Update: 20 April 2009, 1:12pm Manila time
Michael David Smith created a link to this post yesterday and that somehow has been lost so I'm re-creating it here: UFC 97 Live Blog: Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites.