by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
The UFC’s “Big Man” is back. After years filled with ups and downs Tim Sylvia has regained the UFC Heavyweight Championship and has put a cap on one of the most successful career resurrections in recent memory.
After coming out of almost nowhere to defeat Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41 to claim his first UFC Heavyweight Championship, things have been a very mixed bag for one of the most engaging personalities in MMA.
Shortly after Tim’s first, and currently only, successful title defense against Gan McGee at UFC 44, Sylvia admitted to faltering to society’s views of what an athlete should look like and taking steroids to alter his physique.
Tim’s revelation came as a big shock to the community who had only previously been involved in something similar with Josh Barnett in 2002. Sylvia relinquished his title and served a mandatory suspension.
Upon returning to action at UFC 48, it appeared as if Tim was ready to put things behind him and regain his title. Against Frank Mir things looked to be going well for Sylvia until and arm bar broke multiple bones in his right forearm, putting an end to the fight and Tim’s title aspirations.
For the second time in two years Tim would miss time and lose the momentum he had built up for himself.
After winning his comeback fight in late 2004 over Wes Sims, Sylvia would be given the opportunity to once again compete for the Heavyweight Championship at UFC 51 against a fighter he had been slated to face the year prior, Andrei Arlovski.
Admittedly apprehensive about submissions after suffering a broken arm months previous, Tim tapped out to a straight ankle lock just 47 seconds into his fight with Arlovski. After the fight it seemed as if many lost faith in Sylvia and wondered if he’d ever return to the top of the division.
One person however refused to lose faith in Tim, himself, and after taking a tune-up fight in the IFC, Sylvia returned to the big stage at UFC 54 against fellow hard-hitter Tra Telligman.
In what would become one of Sylvia’s most complete fights, Tim used his range effectively against Telligman, keeping Tra off of him most of the fight. Then as round 1 came to a close Tim unleashed a rare high head kick and provided one of the highlight moments of the year knocking out Telligman.
Sylvia would again prove successful in his next fight, battling illness as he took a unanimous decision over Assuerio Silva at Ultimate Fight Night 3. In the process Tim would gain the top contender’s spot ensuring a rematch with Arlovski.
Relishing the role of the underdog, Sylvia came into the fight in the best shape of his career and kept Andrei at bay much of the first round. Then as he was hit cleanly on the jaw and sent back to the canvas Tim remained poised and quickly back up to his feet, preventing a repeat of their last fight.
With Arlovski firmly focused on ending the fight, Sylvia showed a great veteran move, slipping his head back just enough to avoid an oncoming right hand from Arlovski. With Andrei’s jaw exposed from over extension of the punch Tim made his move, countering with a quick left uppercut, sending Arlovski down.
In a move that mirrored Sylvia’s earlier match with McGee, Tim quickly pounced on Andrei, peppering him with shots to the head, forcing referee Herb Dean to step in and stop the action with Arlovski unable to intelligently defend himself.
On the verge of tears, Sylvia graciously accepted the title belt and had all just the span of a few moments silenced his critics and once again proved that he is indeed The Big Man in the UFC.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride the last few years for Tim Sylvia. He went from obscurity to being the champ then through controversy, injury and doubt he climbed the mountain back to the top of the UFC heavyweight division.