The event from Abu Dhabi got off to a nice start with some young fighters notching wins. Rafael Dos Anjos and Mark Munoz both did well for themselves. Dos Anjos staved off a game Terry Etim and prevailed with a beautiful armbar. Munoz survived a first round scare from Kendall Grove to gain an impressive TKO victory.
Matt Hughes employed an intelligent, deliberate gameplan to stop Renzo Gracie late in the fight. Gracie's lead leg suffered a beating at the hands of Hughes. He was almost immobilized by the end of the fight, and he had nothing left. For a time, I thought Hughes was content to coast to a decision victory. However, the former UFC welterweight champ reminded us why he held that title for so long. When the time was right, Hughes turned it up, rendering the judges' scorecards unnecessary. Renzo Gracie is one of my favorite fighters, but he looked his age about halfway through the fight. It's really difficult to lay out of fighting for an extended period of time and then return against one of the better welterweight fighters in the UFC. Modern MMA evolves at such a rapid rate that one takes a breather at his own risk. We'll see what Renzo shows us in the future.
Frankie Edgar put on a superb performance. The big knock on Edgar thus far has been his size, or lack thereof. Well, he continued what he started against Sean Sherk, utilizing his speed and stamina to make a seemingly dominant lightweight champion in B.J. Penn appear beatable. I'm sure there will be talk for a long time about whether or not Edgar deserved the decision nod, but no one can legitimately deny that Edgar gave Penn his stiffest challenge as lightweight champion. Honestly, I didn't know how to score it. The fight was just that close in my eyes. A rematch seems inevitable, though with B.J. Penn being part of the equation, it's hard to predict what will ultimately happen. Penn might rather bulk up to light heavyweight and rematch Lyoto Machida instead. Who knows?
It's difficult to properly express my dissatisfaction with Anderson Silva through written word. Demian Maia, an absolute wizard on the ground, was completely outclassed by Silva. Silva clowned and connected at will. Maia appeared to be moving in slow motion though that wasn't the case; his counterpart was just that much quicker. The chance was remote that Maia could get the fight to the mat, and aside from connecting out of nowhere with a miracle punch, Maia's only route to victory was via his jiu-jitsu.
The clowning from Silva got old after a while, but his unwillingness to engage in the last two so-called championship rounds was both mystifying and disappointing. Showmanship definitely has a place in MMA, but Silva left showmanship behind somewhere in the second round. He's obviously a superior mixed martial artist to Maia. Silva served up a gourmet meal but forgot to provide silverware. For one reason or the other, he didn't finish things off, and that's regrettable. Maia did what he could against a far better athlete. Maia worked with only one functional eye throughout the entire final round. He still a attacked, and Silva still failed to finish a man he tormented with his speed and precision for the better part of three rounds.
I doubt Silva will get a shot at Georges St. Pierre anytime soon, and I think that's appropriate. Part of being a showman is putting on a show that fight fans want to see. Silva fell well short in that respect against Maia. The fans in attendance made their feelings regarding Silva's performance evident by chanting both "Maia" and "GSP" during the course of the middleweight title fight. Personally, I'd like to see Chael Sonnen get a shot at Silva so we can see if the standout wrestler can get the champ on his back and cut the clowning and evasion to a minimum.