Commentary

Silva solidifies place as P4P best by blasting out Irvin

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva made his light heavyweight debut a successful one by knocking out James "Sandman" Irvin in Round 1 on Saturday.

Originally Published: July 20, 2008
By Franklin McNeil | Special to ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- If Anderson Silva is defeated anytime soon, it will take someone bigger and better than James Irvin. Silva, pound-for-pound the world's best fighter, made his light heavyweight debut at The Pearl at The Palms Saturday night a successful one.

The UFC middleweight champion wasted very little time disposing of Irvin. Silva dropped Irvin with a straight right, then proceeded to land eight more rights, forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to call it off at 1:01 of the first round.

"This was my first time going up there to 205 pounds," said Silva, who improved to 22-4. "But my responsibility is to defend the 185-pound title."

The idea of fighting at light heavyweight had not crossed Silva's mind until a few months ago. His thoughts were squarely on the middleweight division.

But simply beating 185-pound contenders two or three times a year no longer satisfied the UFC middleweight champion. He had beaten all the best middleweights -- Rich Franklin (twice), Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt and Chris Leben, to name just a few.

Victories over such accomplished fighters would satisfy most mixed martial artists. Not Silva; he craved greater challenges and wanted them to come more rapidly.

That's when he sat down with UFC president Dana White to discuss his future. White proposed Silva test his skills at 205 pounds; Silva agreed.

As a result, Silva stepped into the Octagon to face an opponent bigger and stronger than any he'd fought before. Irvin, a hard-hitting brawler, made a name for himself on April 2 by stopping highly touted Houston Alexander in a record eight seconds.

However, Silva proved it will take more than size and punching power to beat him. He delivered the first strike of the contest -- a kick that got Irvin's attention immediately. Irvin (14-5-1) answered with a kick of his own, but Silva just shook it off.

Then the fight started. And it was all stand-up. Surprisingly, it was the type of fight many expected to favor Irvin -- a punching contest.

But Silva has tremendous Muay Thai skills and good boxing-type head movement. He is a difficult target to hit.

When the fighters exchanged right hands, Silva's landed, Irvin's missed. The biggest difference in their simultaneous assault was that Silva had a hold of Irvin's right leg as he delivered his punch.

Irvin went down immediately and was unable to mount any defense. That was the end of any chance Irvin had of pulling off an upset.

"Basically I'm a Mauy Thai fighter; I've been doing it all my life, since I was a child," Silva said. "I didn't move up to 205 to disrespect any fighters. This is just what I do."

Edgar pounds out win over Franca

Frankie Edgar needed a victory on Saturday -- and he got it.

Coming off a unanimous decision loss April 2 to Gray Maynard, Edgar rebounded with a unanimous decision over veteran Hermes Franca.

Edgar, a standout wrestler, had no difficulty taking Franca down. Once on the ground, Edgar pounded.

The hard-hitting Franca possesses solid stand-up, but with each fight Edgar shows more advanced boxing skills. During the brief periods when they were on their feet, Edgar (9-1) avoided danger by moving his head and throwing hard left-right combinations.

And whenever Franca (19-7) went into a defensive posture to avoid strikes, Edgar took him down. After two rounds on action, Franca's left eye was nearly shut and Edgar had a comfortable 20-18 lead on the ESPN.com card.

Edgar dominated most of the third and appeared well on his way to an easy win, but Franca refused to quit. He nearly got an arm-bar and with seconds left in the fight landed a knee that momentarily stunned Edgar.

Edgar survived and was able to take Franca down once more. The horn sounded and Edgar was back in the win column.

Franca, who was fighting for the first time since serving a one-year suspension for steroids use, was greeted warmly by the crowd.

Burns earns controversial nod

In the night's most unpopular result, welterweight Kevin Burns was awarded a third-round TKO over Anthony Johnson. The outcome sent boos throughout the arena.

Fans expressed their anger after seeing replays that showed Johnson being poked in the eye by Burns' finger. The blow sent Johnson screaming as he fell to the canvas.

Unfortunately, referee Steve Mazzagatti did not see the inadvertent finger and ruled a knockdown. The fight, which Johnson led on the ESPN.com card (20-18) heading into the final round, was called off at the 3:35 mark.

Burns improved to 8-1. Johnson fell to 5-2.

Dolloway forces Taylor to tap

The bout many expected to see in "The Ultimate Fighter" championship finally took place. CB Dolloway and Jesse Taylor squared off in a middleweight fight which had ground game written all over it.

When the action started, the fighters relied on what each does best: wrestle. And that tactic favored Dolloway, who won with a first-round submission.

He controlled most of the action, using his superior overall skills to thwart Taylor's physical strength. But Dolloway (8-2) wasn't flawless.

While Taylor was on his knees, Dolloway landed a kick. The blow led to a point deduction, but it had no impact on the fight's outcome. Shortly thereafter, Dolloway applied a Peruvian necktie that forced Taylor (8-2) to tap at 3:58 of the opening round.

Franklin McNeil covers boxing and mixed martial arts for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.