by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com (Photos by Jeff Cain)
(Photos by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In front of a packed house of 16,431 fans, Anderson Silva solidified his position as the No. 1 ranked middleweight fighter in the world after finishing Pride champion Dan Henderson by rear naked choke in the second round.

In the first round, it seemed as if California native Henderson was determined to work a ground attack as he landed a takedown partway through the round and worked a methodical attack keeping the champion under him. Silva kept a solid defense and stayed composed throughout the attack as the first session came to a close.

Henderson came out willing to stand up with Silva much longer in the second round, which eventually led to his downfall. As the two exchanged blows, Silva caught Henderson with a knee and punches and the champion got top control on the Team Quest member. Silva maintained control working to mount and then locking on a body triangle to which Henderson rolled, allowing the Brazilian to sink in the fight-ending choke.

“Basically with my training camp, everything in this training camp prepared me for that,” said Silva after the win over Henderson. “Once again, I feel who won was the sport and I congratulate Joe Silva for making the fight happen and my boss, Dana White.”

Now the questions will center around who in the world will challenge Anderson Silva for the middleweight title.

Silva earned Submission of the Night honors, which is accompanied by a $60,000 bonus check, and he and Henderson scored Fight of the Night and another $60,000 bonus check for each.

Heath Herring pulled off a split decision win over Cheick Kongo in an extremely exciting fight between two heavyweights working towards a future title shot.

Kongo surprised Herring early on as he took the Texan down and continued with that strategy throughout the fight.

The fighters exchanged takedowns and reversals in almost every round, but Herring seemed to gain favor with the judges when, in the latter parts of both the second and third rounds he took side control, pounding Kongo with knees to the body while maintaining the dominant position.

Herring admitted after the fight that Kongo’s game plan was sound as he didn’t train for the ground game at all going into the bout, but will call old friend Marc Laimon from Cobra Kai Jiu-Jitsu to work on that for his next trip to the Octagon.

“I wanted this to be a stand-up battle,” said Herring. “I wanted to duke it out with this guy, I didn’t think he was going to take me down. I didn’t train ground at all for this fight.”

Chris Leben and Alessio Sakara provided a slugfest for the fans in attendance as both fighters looked to strike for the entirety of their bout.

Sakara caught Leben repeatedly early on with great boxing, but Leben persevered and kept coming forward on the new middleweight competitor. Leben moved in on Sakara just past the middle part of the first round and landed a number of uppercuts before putting him down with a big left hook. He followed up with punches on the ground before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.

“He caught me with a couple clean shots that hurt,” said Leben of the early part of the round. “I put him in the blender. I took him to the deep end and gave these fans what they came to see. This is the UFC right here. This is what you come to see… slangin’ and bangin’.”

Leben earned Knockout of the Night and a $60,000 bonus check for the victory.

Yushin Okami spoiled the return of Evan Tanner by knocking out the former middleweight champion with a knee strike after battering him for the better part of their fight.

Okami looked crisp with his stand-up and stayed on the attack much more than he has in many of his recent fights, possibly campaigning to be the next in line for a middleweight championship bout. Tanner kept coming at Okami, but after moving in to clinch during the second round, it was the Japanese fighter who secured a Muay Thai clinch, followed by a huge knee strike that sent Tanner crashing to the canvas.

“If they feel I am ready for a title shot, I’d be honored,” said Okami after the fight. “If they want me to take on another tough opponent before getting a shot at the belt, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Jon Fitch started out the pay-per-view card picking up a win by unanimous decision over UFC newcomer Chris Wilson in a largely uneventful fight.

Wilson looked good early striking with Fitch, but after a takedown from the American Kickboxing Academy standout it seemed he became tentative to let his hands go.

Fitch worked a strong ground attack throughout the entire second round, keeping Wilson underneath him and pounding away.

Fitch controlled the biggest parts of all of the rounds earning the nod from the judges, and announced he’s ready for his shot at the welterweight title.

“I’m ready for that strap. I’m ready to fight for the title,” said Fitch. “Whoever has it, Serra or St. Pierre, whoever the best man is, I want to fight him.”

In undercard action, Andrei Arlovski fulfilled the final fight on his current UFC contract with a win over Jake O’Brien, ending the fight with strikes from mount in the second round.

Josh Koscheck returned to form after a loss to Georges St. Pierre by finishing Ohio native Dustin Hazelett in the second round of their fight. He landed a thunderous high kick that put Hazelett down before rushing in and ended the bout with punches on the ground.

Diego Sanchez also impressed the Columbus fans by dominating UFC newcomer David Bielkheden, forcing a stoppage in the first round after mounting his opponent and reigning down punches.

Adopted Ohio son Jorge Gurgel also got back on the winning track, picking up a unanimous decision win over John Halverson. American Top Teamer Luigi Fioravanti put on a takedown clinic, winning a decision over Matt Serra student Luke Cummo.

-Anderson Silva def. Dan Henderson by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:52, R2
-Heath Herring def. Cheick Kongo by Split Decision, R3
-Chris Leben def. Alessio Sakara by TKO (Strikes) at 3:16, R1
-Yushin Okami def. Evan Tanner by KO (Knee) at 3:00, R2
-Jon Fitch def. Chris Wilson by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Andrei Arlovski def. Jake O’Brien by TKO (Strikes) at 4:17, R2
-Luigi Fioravanti def. Luke Cummo by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Josh Koscheck def. Dustin Hazelett by TKO (Strikes) at 1:24, R2
-Diego Sanchez def. David Bielkheden by Submission (Punches from Mount) at 4:43, R1
-Jorge Gurgel def. John Halverson by Unanimous Decision, R3