At UFC 64 Anderson Silva defeated Rich Franklin to become the new UFC middleweight champion. Franklin had been the champion for a year and half before the loss to “The Spider”, and many thought the loss was a fluke. After Franklin won two straight fights and Silva turned back challengers Travis Lutter and Nate Marquardt, Dana White booked the epic rematch for UFC 77: Hostile Territory in Franklin’s hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio on October 20, 2007.

Franklin had been one of the top guys in the UFC from 2004 to 2009 when the promotion was growing by leaps and bounds. Having grown up in Hamilton and graduating from the University of Cincinnati, it was pretty obvious who the crowd would be cheering for. And with his unique backstory of being a math teacher in the Queen City before turning to MMA full-time, Franklin was so popular he wouldn’t have to go to for a date if he was lonely. But his popularity and orange and black Cincinnati Bengals shorts wouldn’t help him once the doors of the octagon closed and he was face to face with Silva that night.

In their first bout Silva used his superior muay thai skills to batter the former champ early and walk away with a first round TKO win. That night in Cincinnati it was more of the same except it just barely went to the second round. As the first round was winding down Silva dropped “Ace” with a huge right hand but as soon as Franklin hit the ground the bell rang and the round was over. But when the second round started it was all Silva. At the one minute mark the champ delivered some nasty knees to Franklin’s face that sent him to the mat. The ref had seen enough and jumped in ending the bout.

After that night in Cincinnati there was no doubt that Anderson Silva was the real deal and would be a force in the UFC for years to come. In his next outing he submitted for PRIDE champion Dan Henderson. Silva would then follow it up by taking a fight at light heavyweight against James Irvin. It took barely over a minute for “The Spider” to get a knockout in his first fight at 205 pounds.

After the move up to light heavyweight Silva defended his title successfully against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites before going back up in weight to take on former champion Forrest Griffin. Griffin was outmatched as soon as the bell rang and it took barely over 3 minutes for Silva to get his second knockout win at 205.

At UFC 112 on April 10, 2010 Silva set the record for most consecutive title defenses with a win over jiu jitsu ace Demian Maia. But in his next bout “The Spider” would pushed into the deepest waters he had ever faced in his UFC career.

Chael Sonnen wasn’t a household name at UFC 117, but after an upset win over Nate Marquardt to earn a title shot, “The Gangster from West Linn” was born. Sonnen channeled his inner-Ric Flair and quickly turned the heads of hardcore MMA fans with his new pro wrestling persona that promised “a one sided beating”. And when the two met up in Oakland Sonnen delivered on his promise and dominated Silva for four and a half rounds until Silva caught him in a triangle armbar that ended the fight. The fight was an instant classic and the two men would rematch two years later with a rejuvenated “Spider” getting a second round TKO to end the rivalry once and for all. In fact, after the first Sonnen fight Silva finished Yushin Okami, Vitor Belfort, Stephan Bonnar, and Sonnen.

After a perfect 16-0 record in the octagon Silva’s unbeaten streak would come to an end with two controversial losses to Chris Weidman. But for six years “The Spider” was unstoppable and the bar was set for future UFC champions.

Silva may not be the dominant champion he once was but his legacy will live on forever and it’s only a matter of time before he is inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

By: Allen Sircy

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