by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – When Anderson Silva arrived in the UFC, many new fans to the sport didn’t know what to expect from the heavy-handed Brazilian striker, but after decimating Chris Leben and then taking the title from then champion Rich Franklin, Silva put himself on the map as one of the best 185 lb. fighters in the world. Due to an overweight Travis Lutter, Silva didn’t get his first title defense, but he did pick up a win. After doing away with Nathan Marquardt on Saturday night, Anderson Silva cemented himself as the true #1 middleweight in the world.

Many people questioned whether Silva could survive on the ground with such an experienced fighter like Nate Marquardt, but the champion didn’t shy away from the ground game as he threw a flying knee early in round one that Marquardt took advantage of and put Silva on his back. Silva worked to improve position and Marquardt could not get an advantage, so the fight was stood back up.

This time Silva reversed a takedown from Marquardt and ended up reigning down shots on the former King of Pancrase. One shot after another got through Marquardt’s weakening defenses and as he rolled to the side, Silva pounded him with punches and John McCarthy stepped in and stopped the fight. Anderson Silva once again takes his title home to Brazil, as it appears a fight with former champion Rich Franklin looms on the horizon.

Sean Sherk defended his title successfully in a five-round unanimous decision over Hermes Franca. Sherk showed his superior speed, power and conditioning throughout the fight as he took Franca down at will, passed his guard and worked for dominant position. Franca did manage a guillotine choke very early on that looked to end the fight, but Sherk persevered and powered out. A knee strike to open the second round from Franca to Sherk rattled the champion, but again he recovered and put Franca down.

The majority of the five rounds was spent with Sherk taking the fight down and by late in the fight, Franca had nothing left in the gas tank and the champion showed everyone why he trains the way he does. Sean Sherk successfully defends his UFC lightweight title for the first time and will now move on to a new contender.

In what had to be the most hyped fight of the evening, Tito Ortiz took on Rashad Evans in what unfortunately ended in the most disappointing finish fans could ask for.

Ortiz opened the fight by taking Evans down with little effort, but Rashad pushed off the cage and worked back to the feet. The first round was mostly spent with Tito going for takedowns and Rashad defending off the cage. The second round saw Ortiz dominating again with the clinch and better stand-up, but Evans did manage to turn the tables. As he attempted a takedown, referee John McCarthy stepped in and took a point away from Ortiz for grabbing the fence to stop the takedown. McCarthy had warned Tito earlier in the fight for the same offense, but after another occurrence, he had no choice but to take a point away. Ortiz still won the round, but because of the deduction, it ended 9-9 on all of the judge’s scorecards.

The third round saw the best Rashad Evans of the entire fight as he brought the fight to Ortiz, while the former light heavyweight champion looked like he was out of energy. Late in the round, Evans picked up and slammed Ortiz to the ground, but the fight was close to the end. After much mulling from the judges, the decision came back as a draw after three rounds. Most would credit the draw to Ortiz losing the point in the second round, but we are sure to see this fight rematched very soon. UFC President Dana White confirmed as much at the post-fight press conference.

The opening bout on the pay-per-view card saw former Pride Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira make his Octagon debut against Heath Herring. As everyone knew going in, Nogueira had already defeated Herring twice while in Pride, but this was the Texas native’s chance to get one of those losses back on his record.

The first round saw Nogueira with the more effective stand-up, but Herring kept throwing head kicks throughout the round. Late in the round, Herring caught Nogueira with a left high kick that sent the Brazilian crashing to the canvas. He followed up with punches on the ground, but much to everyone’s surprise, not only was the fight not stopped, but Herring stopped his onslaught and motioned for Nogueira to stand back up and the round ended.

With Nogueira still on wobbly legs, Herring failed to jump in early in round two to try for the finish. The former champion recovered and then mounted an offense that dominated Herring on the feet and the ground for the remainder of the fight. Nogueira went for multiple submissions, but was unable to catch Herring in anything. The fight ended with a unanimous decision win for Nogueira.

In what ended up being the most exciting fight of the night that we almost didn’t see due to the length of the previous bouts, Kenny Florian proved all of his detractors wrong by taking Alvin Robinson apart in their fight at UFC 73. Florian wanted to stand, but Robinson wanted nothing to do with that and tried to get the fight to the ground early on. Robinson did manage a nice arm throw to put Florian down, but that was the most offense he mounted in the entire fight. Florian took Robinson down a few times in the round and landed some very nice punches and elbows from inside his guard.

Florian kept working and late in the round got full mount. He started to hit Robinson with punches and elbows that rocked the UFC newcomer. Florian kept up the pressure and Robinson rolled to get out of the way of the punches and the fight was stopped due to strikes on the ground. Florian once again shows his ever improving skills and moves on to once again try to put himself as the #1 contender to the lightweight title.

Stacked ended up being stocked with decisions in many of the early fights, including a very disappointing draw between rivals Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans. Fighter of the Night goes to Anderson Silva, who defended his title with relative ease after dispatching of the #7 middleweight in the world in Nathan Marquardt. Honorable mention for Fighter of the Night goes to Kenny Florian who looked extremely dominant in his performance over Alvin Robinson. Fight of the Night is a toss up due to so many decisions, but the best overall fight to watch at UFC 73 had to be Anderson Silva and Nathan Marquardt. Kudos to both Anderson Silva and Kenny Florian for picking up the pace on an otherwise slow moving pay-per-view.