RIO DE JANEIRO - Anderson Silva surprised no one on Saturday night.
The UFC middleweight champion earned his record 16th-straight UFC win with a devastating finish of fan-favourite light heavyweight Stephan Bonnar in a non-title bout that headlined UFC 153.
A 10-to-1 favourite entering the event, Silva (33-4 MMA, 16-0 UFC) did exactly what he was expected to do, and yet in a manner fitting of "The Spider," he did it with unmatched flair.
Bonnar (15-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC), who was semi-retired before receiving the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight Silva, opened the fight in fine fashion as the moved forward with punches and worked hard for a takedown.
Silva defended well against the cage but was unable to find any space to strike as Bonnar smothered him against the fence. Everything seemed to be playing out perfectly for Bonnar, but it all went downhill very quickly.
When Bonnar finally pulled away, Silva didn't try and strike in the centre of the cage. Instead, he went right back to the spot where Bonnar had put him on the fence and dropped his hands. He invited Bonnar to engage him again against the fence and even seemed to allow his opponent to land a few strikes, even if only to demoralize him when they were woefully ineffective.
Bobbing and weaving with movements rarely seen in the octagon outside of his own fights, Silva simply toyed with the overmatched Bonnar.
When Silva did finally move off the cage, he defended another takedown, and as he scrambled free from the attempt, the Brazilian landed a crushing knee to the body that sent Bonnar to the ground and clutching his torso. Silva pounced with a few punches to the head that left referee Marc Goddard no choice but to halt the bout with 20 seconds left in the opening round.
As Bonnar laid on the canvas, Silva scaled the octagon walls and waved a Brazilian flag as his countrymen erupted in applause.
After the win, Silva admitted his cornermen weren't exactly thrilled with his risky strategy, but "The Spider" said he never felt in danger.
"All my corner was trying to kill me, but I just felt comfortable with my back against the cage," Silva said in his native Portuguese. "And as I'm from a lower weight division, I was much quicker than he is, so I could forecast his strikes before he made them."
Despite his success at 205 pounds, where he is now 3-0 in his career, Silva insisted middleweight will remain his home – even after UFC President Dana White teased the longtime champion with a massive payday were he willing to face light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
"When I started, there was no money in this and I didn't fight for money," Silva said. "Obviously, the money is important. We all need money, but I don't fight for the money. This is not something I would like to happen because the times I've seen Jon Jones, he's also mentioned that he would not like to fight."
Meanwhile, at 35-years-old, Bonnar might possibly be calling it a career.
In the night's co-feature, Brazilian MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueia (34-7-1 MMA, 5-3 UFC) brought the HSBC Arena to its feet with a rousing submission win over Dave Herman (21-5 MMA, 1-3 UFC), a man who has openly claimed that Brazilian jiu-jitsu "doesn't work."
Things didn't start out well for the Brazilian, as Herman looked both quicker and more powerful as he delivered kicks and knees to the body and tossed Nogueira to the mat. But as the action continued, Herman adopted an oddly passive approach to the matchup, and Nogueira was able to gain both confidence and momentum with an aggressive boxing attack.
In the second, Nogueira floored Herman with a left hand and set the tone for the forthcoming ending of the fight. While Herman returned to his feet, he again seemed uninterested in resuming the aggression with which he began the contest.
Nogueira capitalized by working into a clinch and bringing the fight to the floor, where he secured mount and then latched on to an armbar. Herman defended well to start, but after a few rolling attempts failed to free his appendage, he had no choice but to tap with 29 seconds left in the frame.
"I feel so happy," Nogueira said after the win. "This man said jiu-jitsu doesn't work. Jiu-jitsu does work, and it's an art. It was a beautiful position."
With the win, Nogueira rebounds from a December 2011 loss in which he suffered a broken arm at the hands of Frank Mir. Meanwhile, Herman has now suffered three-straight defeats in the octagon.
In a highly anticipated contest between two Brazilian light heavyweights, Glover Teixeira (19-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) earned an impressive second-round stoppage of a durable Fabio Maldonado. Teixeira dominated the fight form the opening round with powerful strikes and a smothering ground attack, but Maldonado (18-7 MMA, 1-4 UFC) showed incredible resiliency as he continued to scramble and look to return fire, but it was simply not his night.
A cage-side physician was summoned to inspect a Maldonado cut during the second round but allowed the fight to carry on. However, when Maldonado had difficulty standing upright at the end of the round, the doctor re-entered the cage to wave off the matchup.
Additionally, perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch (24-4-1 MMA, 14-2-1 UFC) earned a hard-fought unanimous-decision win over top Brazilian prospect Erick Silva (14-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC).