Though Anderson Silva wasn’t the heat-guided missile that fans have come to love, the UFC middleweight champion emerged with his crown Saturday in the main event at UFC 90 in Rosemont, Ill., after a freak knee injury took out opponent Patrick Cote in the opening seconds of the third round.
Silva was a little more show than substance in his fourth title defense. Based on his brutal body of work -- which includes a pair of dominating victories over former champ Rich Franklin, one over two-time Pride titleholder Dan Henderson and a 61-second destruction of James Irvin last July -- expectations were high for a knockout to punctuate a night of mixed performances.
The first round was underwhelming.
With both fighters taking a counter-striking stance, fans within the All State Arena quickly grew restless watching Silva circle away from Cote for the first half of the round. Nearly two minutes passed before Silva (23-4) tested his distance with a left inside kick, then followed with a substantial left body kick and a knee which cut Cote over his right brow.
Silva’s lanky jab caught Cote (13-5) out of the gate in the second round, but there was far too little leather in between attacks for the crowd’s liking. Silva later connected with another left body kick that persuaded Cote to shoot, but the savvy Brazilian reversed and briefly settled into Cote’s guard. The 28-year-old challenger, who outpointed Ricardo Almeida in July for his shot at gold, did his best to keep the muay Thai stylist off his feet. Silva wouldn’t bite, even offering Cote his hand to help him off the canvas.
Cote was able to crack Silva’s timing and grasped a kick mid-air, but he was unable dump Silva to the canvas. Instead, the 33-year-old Black House rep answered with a pair of knees in the clinch on the fence.
Cote became the first fighter in UFC history to drag Silva into the third round, though it was an accomplishment that lasted only 39 seconds. Bouncing his weight between legs, Cote’s knee suddenly torqued in an odd fashion. The former Canadian Army ranger collapsed to the mat cradling his right leg. Cote tried desperately to drag his leg back into action, but referee Herb Dean had no recourse but to end things there.
Both fighters seemed keenly aware that this wasn’t the finish that the masses had come to see.
“It was an old injury. I’m so sorry,” said Cote. “The fight was great before. I was chasing Anderson. … I’m sorry I didn’t put on a good show. It’s an old injury. I busted my knee in the second round and I tried to come back in the third and my knee just popped out.”
Silva echoed his fallen challenger’s sentiments.
“I came here and we were putting on the fight that the world wanted to see – an entertaining fight,” said Silva. “I came here to fight. Patrick came here to fight. He was exchanging. It was a fine fight, but unfortunately he got hurt.”
Silva, who continued to fuel thoughts of retirement in a recent interview with Sherdog.com, has five fights remaining on his contract but little opposition remains for him while the rest of the division races to catch up. A rematch with Yushin Okami lingers, though the Japanese fighter has been missing in action with a bum knee since his March victory against the late Evan Tanner.