Since losing to Lyoto Machida at UFC 94 in 2009, UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva had managed only one win in the UFC. With two banned substance suspensions to his credit, the Brazilian has seen two UFC wins overturned and ruled “No Contest’ over the past two years.
On Saturday night in Fortaleza, Brazil, after six months of inactivity due to an aforementioned suspension, Silva defeated former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante via first round knockout, effectively rejuvenating his career.
Round one saw the Sao Paulo natives meet in the Octagon without touching gloves. Silva had his usual stone-faced look of determination, as UFC newcomer Feijao stood with a postured look of calm confidence.
The opening bell sounded and Cavalcante pressured early looking to land a powerful right hand. Silva backed away, and in the opening seconds looked rigid and slow.
As the frame wore on, however, Cavalcante’s pressure began to slow, and Silva’s momentum increased. Silva peppered Feijao with an assortment of jabs and distracting leg kicks.
In a moment of pure resilience, Feijao landed a wicked spinning-elbow that had Silva dazed and on the retreat. Silva composed himself after the elbow, and began working his range with a steady jab.
As Cavalcante became increasingly winded, Silva upped the pressure on the 32-year-old. With only a couple minutes left, Silva breaming with confidence motioned toward Cavalante to “bring it,” as he stalked him to the back of the cage.
With a flurry of partially blocked hooks, and one crushing right hand lead uppercut, Silva dropped an exhausted Feijao to the canvas at 4:29 of the round, scoring his first knockout victory since beating journeyman Keith Jardine at UFC 102 in 2009.
After the fight, an elated Silva proclaimed his love for the hometown fans. Something he had not been able to do since last fighting in Brazil in 2006, a year before making his UFC debut.
“I’m very happy after six years to be fighting in Brazil again with all this crowd around me,” said the 30-year-old.
When asked about the vicious lead uppercut that ended the fight, Silva thanked his trainers for giving him the confidence to succeed, “I have a great camp, I have a great manager, and when I saw the opportunity, I just took it.”
(Follow @RyanMcKinnell on Twitter)