By Thomas Gerbasi
UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s return to the Octagon after an eight month absence wasn’t as explosive as his previous battle with Forrest Griffin.
Not even close.
And though he retained his belt with a five round unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia in the UFC 112 main event Saturday night at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, it was a bout filled with more stalemates than submissions, and more posing than punching, forcing Silva to apologize more than celebrate after the final bell sounded. Watch post-fight interview with Silva
“Demain actually surprised me with some of his punches,” said Silva. “I apologize to everybody; I don’t know what got into me. I wasn’t as humble as I should have been. It was just the ring rust and a little bit of everything. I can guarantee that next time it won’t happen."
Scores for SIlva were 50-45 twice and 49-46.
The two southpaws touched gloves to start the bout, and Maia moved forward as Silva waited to counter. Silva opened the scoring 1:40 in with a kick to the leg that turned Maia around, and the crowd began chanting his name. Silva responded with a spinning back kick and some taunting of Maia, whose face didn’t change expression. The challenger wasn’t pushing the action though, relaxing the champion even more . With a minute left, Maia shot for a takedown but missed, and a left knee to the head from Silva put him on the mat. Maia remained on his back, hoping to draw Silva into a ground fight, but Silva wouldn’t bite, and he ended the round with more flash tactics that kept Maia on the defensive. Watch post-fight interview with Maia
Silva came out for round two with his hands down, and he proceeded to walk after his foe with disdain, not worried about any incoming fire. Silva’s leg kicks soon raised a welt on Maia’s calf, and subsequent takedown attempts from Maia continued to come up empty. After a third takedown miss, Silva taunted Maia and beckoned him to stand and fight, but there was still no sustained action, with Silva simply clowning and Maia missing with tentative jabs and takedowns as the champion put another round in the bank.
Maia, bleeding from a cut from the nose, moved at Silva to begin the third round, but he was still unable to score on the champion, who continued to peck and prod at his foe with leg kicks. Midway through the round, it looked like Silva was going to end things, but a lack of clean blows left Maia upright. In the final minute, Maia tried to make something happen with a couple strikes and a failed takedown attempt, but that was it, and the fans were getting more restless by the second.
Maia finally landed a clean shot on Silva early in round four, an overhand left that didn’t move the champion, but at least it was something. The crowd began booing again, and for good reason, but as the lack of action continued, they began chanting for Maia, hoping to see Silva get pushed for the first time in the fight. Then chants went up for welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre as referee Dan Miragliotta implored the fighters to begin fighting. Maia even stopped and called for Silva to fight in the final minute, but to no avail.
With his left eye closed shut, Maia trudged out of his corner for the fifth round, trying to make something happen, and he finally attacked with strikes and takedown attempts, and the crowd erupted, chanting the challenger’s name. Silva, for his part, refused to deviate from his fight plan, even as Maia pressed for takedowns. As the final 90 seconds approached, Silva began running around the Octagon, refusing to engage at all as the crowd booed. Finally, referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the ‘action’ with a minute left and warned Silva to stop running. But unfortunately, Silva didn’t take the warning to heart as he ran out the clock and capped off a disappointing sixth title defense.
With the win, Silva improves to 26-4; Maia falls to 12-2.