UFC: Ultimate Fighting Conversion

Last Saturday night, from the friendly confines of my living room, I experienced my first Ultimate Fighting Championship event. I had seen a few Mixed Martial Arts fights before, but had never watched a live pay-per-view. The show, it turned out, was spectacular. And that has a lot to do with the fact that I witnessed Anderson Silva deliver one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history

On 5 February Silva not only solidified himself as UFC’s top fighter, he may have cemented his legacy as the greatest fighter ever with a performance that left MMA fans foaming at the mouth. Silva knocked out Vitor Belfort with a single kick to the face at 3:25 of the opening round. “The Kick Heard Round The World” was one of the most impressive athletic feats I’ve ever seen.

Silva rolled into the ring just after midnight, leaving a trail of swagger in his wake as Bill Withers’  “Ain’t No Sunshine” played overhead. He’s a physical specimen—a long-limbed, sneaky panther ready to pounce at any moment.

As Silva began the fight, dancing around the octagon, it felt like I was watching a modern-day Muhammad Ali. Silva pranced around Belfort mockingly, literally laughing off the few punches that Vitor managed to land. He was toying with his opponent in a terrifying way. And then it happened. Out of nowhere. Just like that.

When Silva delivered “the kick,” it looked like it was headed for Belfort’s midsection. This is a common tactic used to control the ring and land a shot. But at the last millisecond, Silva jolted his leg upward and knocked Belfort square in the face. Vitor’s eyes immediately rolled back as his defeated body crumpled to the ground.

Nobody saw it coming; Belfort least of all. The high kick is rare enough, but when thrown with the intent of ending a fight, it’s less common than a Phil Kessel goal. It literally never happens. Silva was standing so close to Belfort that there shouldn’t have been enough room for him to physically carry it out. Furthermore, performing a kick of that nature is extremely risky because it makes the fighter very vulnerable. High risk, high reward. Silva performed it to perfection.

If my thorough satisfaction with UFC 126 is any indication, UFC, led by its brash, ingenious President Dana White, is poised to gain more and more fans by the day. The pay-per-view event itself was a joy to watch, with each fight having its own unique storyline that tied even a casual fan like myself into the outcome. It’s no wonder that MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world.

Boxing purists need to face the facts. The sport’s time has come and gone. Any hope boxing had of remaining relevant in the one-sided battle with UFC disappeared with the failure of the hyped up, tentatively planned Manny Pacquiao—Floyd Mayweather super-fight. Boxing, my friends, is done. UFC is here to stay.

The sport’s appeal is twofold. Of course, there’s the opportunity to see two men beat each other senseless. If you’re one of those people who believes that statement is pathetic and something a testosterone-filled sports junkie would say, you’re probably right. But what’s even more impressive about the UFC is that tactics play an incredibly underrated role in the fights. Many uneducated fans believe two guys get into a ring and street fight. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These athletes are versed in Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and countless other fighting disciplines.

The time is ripe to get on board the UFC bandwagon. With UFC set to make its debut in Toronto in April and a Georges St. Pierre-Anderson Silva superfight later this year, the future has never looked brighter.

Back in my living room, 10 guys sat glued to the screen as Silva entered the ring surrounded by an aura like nothing we had ever seen. When he landed “the kick,” our house reacted as if we were on the bench of the L.A. Clippers watching Blake Griffin posterize another hapless victim. We had just witnessed something historic. At the time, I didn’t realize its significance. I only saw some dude get knocked the f*@# out—it was awesome.

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