Sonnen helped bring best out of Silva

LAS VEGAS -- The greatest mixed martial artist of all time did his thing Saturday.

Anderson Silva conquered his most difficult adversary for the second time, defeating Chael Sonnen via TKO in the second round of their highly anticipated rematch at UFC 148.

A beautifully placed knee to Sonnen’s sternum, fit into such a tight spot it appeared illegal at first, highlighted what was a stunning finish. In a post-fight interview, Silva capped off one of the most bitter rivalries in UFC history in a truly unique way.

Just one week removed from a conference call during which he promised to break in Sonnen’s teeth, Silva extended a different kind of offer.

“If you’d like to come over for a BBQ, I’d love to have you,” Silva told Sonnen, still inside the Octagon.

Sonnen, who has spent the past two years verbally attacking Silva in front of every camera and audio recorder available, had no excuses or apologies for the outcome. He had said prior to the fight, "there can only be one.’"

He wasn’t the one.

“The better guy wins every time,” Sonnen said. “The better guy won tonight.”

And just like that, perhaps the greatest thing to ever happen to Silva during the six years he’s spent with the UFC was over. Say what you want about Sonnen, but the Silva picture had started to grow bleak before he came along.

Long revered as the greatest fighter of all time, Silva had hit a streak of truly awkward fights. Wins over Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia were easy -- but uninspiring.

At one point, UFC president Dana White referred to an Anderson Silva fight as the most embarrassing moment of his entire tenure with the promotion.

Enter Chael Sonnen. August 7, 2010. Sonnen accomplished what no other fighter in the UFC had before him -- he pushed Silva to the absolute brink of defeat. Ever since the beginning of that fifth round with Sonnen, Silva has been as untouchable as he was when he first entered the UFC and gained his reputation as the world’s best.

He demolished Vitor Belfort with a front kick in the first round of a title fight in February 2011. Six months later, he followed it with a one-sided TKO victory over Yushin Okami.

Saturday might have been the best of all, taking on and finishing an opponent with the only skillset perceived to give him problems. It was Sonnen’s skillset, White said, that sold the rematch; the very idea that another man might beat him.

“The crazy ass-whooping (Sonnen) put on Anderson in the first fight and the way that fight ended is what sold this fight,” White said. “After that fight, I said this is the type of fight that makes legends.”

Coming off the heels of the only challenge at 185 pounds that has given him a hard fight, many would love to see Silva move up in weight or meet another UFC champion -- welterweight Georges St. Pierre or light heavyweight Jon Jones -- in a super fight.

When asked if he’s considered a fight with Jones, Silva replied, “Nope.”

The Brazilian champion has shown no signs of slowing down, but has reached an age (37) where a realistic decline in his athleticism is expected.

White, while he sympathized with that concern, said Saturday that Silva has proven beyond doubt he’s the best in the world at 185 pounds. If that’s where Silva elects to finish his career, so be it.

“This is a young man’s game. It really is,” White said. “As you get up in age, one day you just show and you’re old. It happens that fast. You don’t move the way you used to. You see things coming but you can’t get out of the way. Anderson Silva has shown none of that.

“I don’t ever tell guys whether to move up or down. This guy does things to people that other people can’t do. He already did fight at 205 [pounds], he said he didn’t want to do it. If he’s that talented at 185; it’s the weight he loves and the weight he’s completely dominated.”