Jeff Chiu / AP
Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva’s last two fights haven’t produced his proudest moments.
Silva, who is 12-0 in the UFC and often considered the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world, only beat Chael Sonnen last August at UFC 117 after securing a near-miracle triangle choke late. Sonnen was two minutes away from snapping Silva’s streak for most consecutive title defenses before becoming only the third fighter in UFC history to suffer a fifth-round submission.
Before that, Silva faced Demian Maia at UFC 112 and spent most of the bout running away from contact to assure a victory after hurting Maia. The performance prompted UFC President Dana White to vow he would release Silva from the organization if he ever acted like that again.
After those two performances, it would make sense if Silva felt a twinge of nervousness heading into this weekend’s UFC 126 bout against Vitor Belfort, who on paper creates a more dangerous matchup than both Sonnen and Maia.
“I just checked my blood pressure and everything is normal,” Silva said through a translator on a recent conference call. “I don’t feel any extra pressure.”
Silva (27-4) will go for his eighth straight title defense when he enters the octagon to face Belfort (19-8) Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Belfort, who like Silva is a Southpaw, could create a tough matchup with his size and powerful punching ability.
“I’m really excited to see how things are going to fall because it’s just another chance,” Belfort said. “There’s not a lot of people in the whole world of UFC and mixed martial arts that have this chance I have and privilege to fight one of the greatest fighters.”
Belfort is clearly not turned off by either of Silva’s last two outings. He expressed great respect for his fellow Brazilian and noted the injury Silva dealt with in the Sonnen fight.
After beating Sonnen, Silva revealed that he had a bruised rib. Doctors discovered the problem a week before the bout.
“They recommended that he pull out of the fight,” said Ed Soares, Silva’s manager. “But Anderson said ‘the show must go on’ and fought through the injury.”
Belfort admired that resolve and said Silva “overcame everything and did a great job.” Belfort sounded more impressed by the feat than Silva himself, who said the near-defeat opened his eyes on areas he needed to work on.
“I made a few adjustments but have pretty much been on the same track,” Silva said. “I’ve maintained the same training camp I always have, a very intense training camp.”
There’s symmetry on the UFC 126 card that most events lack. In the light heavyweight co-Main Event, Rich Franklin (28-5) fights Forrest Griffin (17-6).
Franklin was the last middleweight champion before Silva and has fought both him and Belfort. Franklin said their similar approaches would make for an exciting Main Event.
“They’re both fast and they use good footwork and all that stuff,” Franklin said. “Stylistically on their feet, they’re different fighters. They’re both effective in their own right and it’s going to be interesting to see them coming to the ring and if this ends up being a stand-up fight how it plays out.”
White added extra intrigue to the bout at a Q&A session during the UFC’s last event, Fight For The Troops 2. White said that a Silva victory combined with a Georges St. Pierre win at UFC 129 in Toronto would probably bring about the long-awaited megafight between St. Pierre, the current welterweight champion, and Silva.
Belfort wants to prevent that from ever happening. But at the same time, he acknowledges how difficult it will be to overthrow Silva.
“He always evolves,” Belfort said. “I think he’s an amazing fighter and can bring inspiration to all of us. He has all the tools.”