There is nothing wrong with the striking power of former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva. He can still knock out anyone with a well-placed punch. What's been been evident in his most recent fights, however, is that Silva doesn’t take a punch very well anymore.
Chris Leben punches just as hard as Silva; what sets them apart is the fact that Leben can still take one on the chin.
At UFC 132 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Silva and Leben weren’t expected to waste time feeling each other out. Each man has built his reputation by being a slugger. And everyone watching knew they would throw punches from the moment the first horn sounded.
They didn't disappoint.
As expected, Silva came out swinging and, moments in, connected square on Leben’s chin.
Silva hurt Leben briefly, but that only served to make "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1 participant go into attack mode.
It was then Leben’s turn to do some chin-testing -- and Silva failed to answer.
Several left uppercuts would connect and drop Silva. He would never get back to his feet without the help of cageside medical officials.
Leben finished Silva 27 seconds into the opening round; it’s the quickest knockout Silva has suffered as a professional.
“Where he messed up is he hit me right on the button,” Leben said. “He cracked me and I went into autopilot.
“It was a heavy shot right on my nose. I think my nose might be broken.”
Silva has now lost six of his past eight fights. In four of those losses, he has failed to go the distance. On three occasions, Silva (33-11-1, 1 no contest) fell victim to a punch on his chin.
He just isn’t taking punches well anymore. And for a man who turned 35 years old a couple of hours after getting KO’d in less than a minute, it might be time for UFC to take a close look at Silva’s fighting future.
And let’s not forget, Silva is now competing at middleweight; the former Pride 205-pound champion is getting hit and kayoed by men 20-pounds lighter.
For Leben (26-7-0), this might be the sweetest win of his career. And it comes after a disappointing TKO loss to Brian Stann in January.
Leben said he wasn’t 100 percent against Stann, that he felt under the weather minutes before entering the cage.
He had no physical ailments Saturday night against Silva and came away victorious. But in all his happiness, Leben saluted the man he’d looked up to for many years.
“Wanderlei, I love you,” Leben said. “You are my hero. Thanks for honoring me with that fight.”