COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Dan Henderson made it a little longer with Anderson Silva than anyone else has lately. His meeting with the UFC middleweight champion on Saturday before 16,431 fans at a sold-out Nationwide Arena, almost moved into the third round, but the result was the same regardless: another decisive victory for the most dominant fighter in mixed martial arts.
Silva submitted the two-time Olympian wrestler 4:52 into the second round of the UFC 82 main event.
Henderson won the first period, though. After throwing occasional kicks during the opening two minutes, Silva lunged in for a punch, but Henderson used a body lock to take him down.
The Brazilian was on his back for the rest of the round. He tied up Henderson's head, but the lifelong wrestler had room to throw short hammerfists from half-guard and side-mount.
Silva, 32, found his rhythm in the second. He cut off the cage and kicked to the body and legs of Henderson, who swung wildly in retaliation.
Following a brief exchange in the clinch, Silva stalked forward, nodding. His leg shot up for Henderson's head but missed. Next came another kick that hit to the body, and Henderson tried for a takedown. The 37-year-old veteran did not get it, but he worked his way back to the feet and again, wrapped his arms around Silva.
This time, however, he couldn't take him down.
The clinch broke, and Henderson leaned in with a good right hand. His mistake was following with haymakers, which threw him off balance and nearly allowed Silva to land a knee from his dangerous Thai clinch. A knee did connect and hurt Henderson when Silva threw a left head kick, and then a flurry ensued.
Henderson swung desperately. With crisper punches, Silva kept connecting on the feet until he stopped a takedown and resumed striking from the top on the ground. The fight slowed some while Henderson appeared to be recovering, but Silva hurt him again with about a minute left in the round.
Several right hands stunned Henderson, who gave his back. More punches and elbows followed before Silva secured a modified rear-naked choke.
"I needed to control the stand-up a little bit better," said Henderson, now 22-7. "I didn't pressure him that much. I should have kept him on the defense a little more. I kind of let him get his offense going by standing there a little too much. My game plan, I didn't execute it well enough."
Silva said he was not surprised that he had won with a submission.
"Not taking anything away from Dan Henderson -- he came, he fought very well -- but in my mind, the real champion other than myself that I have faced in the Octagon was Rich Franklin," said Silva, 21-4, who defended his middleweight title for the fourth time. "Not to take anything away from Dan Henderson, though."
Herring keeps Kongo in check
Kongo stood waiting, seemingly disinterested until a right hand had found his face. The 32-year-old resident of Paris staggered into the cage but soon executed a takedown.
In fact, Kongo scored several takedowns in the fight. Although he had out-struck Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic last September, he chose to engage Herring on the mat.
The strategy won Kongo the opening round. Despite absorbing that first big punch, he hurt Herring with strikes on the ground while the fighters traded numerous positions. Herring reversed twice, but Kongo kept winning the scrambles and inflicted more damage when he was on top.
In the second period, though, Herring took the top and did not relinquish it. That, perhaps, was the difference in the fight: Herring could get off his back, but Kongo could not.
The 29-year-old Texan moved from the north-south position to side-control, where he worked enough knees into Kongo's body to arguably take a second round that also saw him absorb his fair share of strikes. The third was similar. Herring escaped from underneath his opponent and mixed short elbows with more knees to Kongo's body.
One judge awarded the fight to Kongo 29-28, but the other two gave it to Herring 29-28 for a split decision.
"If I could have thrown [knees] to the head, this fight would have been over a long time ago," said Herring, who is now 2-2 in the UFC. "But here in the U.S., we don't have knees to the head."
Leben back in the mix
Chris Leben (18-4) and Alessio Sakara (12-7) walked out of their corners ready to trade in a middleweight bout. The similar strategies were expected, and the result might have been equally predictable.
Sakara, a 26-year-old Italian training at American Top Team in Florida, had the technically superior boxing style. He punched in combinations and connected more often than his freer-swinging foe.
Leben, 27, has a chin, however, and he hits hard. The chin lets him throw until he lands, which he did with a pair of left hooks behind Sakara's right ear midway into the round. Sakara folded to the mat and Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:16 of the first round.
"He actually hit a lot harder than I thought," Leben said of his opponent. "His footwork and movement was really well. He caught me with a couple clean shots that actually hurt. It takes a lot to hurt me, so more power to him. That's exactly what I did. I put him in the blender. I took him in the deep end. I said you want to swing, let's swing."
Okami owns Tanner
Yushin Okami (21-4) ruined the return of former 185-pound UFC champion Evan Tanner (32-7). After two minutes of tentative boxing, the Japanese middleweight contender threw a one-two that sat Tanner down. The 37-year-old veteran recouped fairly quickly, but mounted no significant offense in the round.
Okami, 26, continued his typically patient approach in the second period. Meanwhile Tanner looked out of sync on the feet -- understandable since this marked his return to fighting following a two-year absence from the cage -- and started eating more straight lefts as the round wore on.
The end came against the cage. Caught in the Thai clinch, Tanner tried to throw a right hook to the body, but the punch gave Okami just enough distance to deliver a knee to Tanner's chin that dropped him, then referee Mark Matheny called the fight 3:00 into the round.
Fitch earns the nod over Wilson
A 30-year-old welterweight who trains at Team Quest in Portland, Ore., Wilson won the first round in what was his UFC debut. He stuck a good right hand in Fitch's face and also connected with a jumping knee and a kick to the body.
"He's a long opponent, very good hands," the 30-year-old Fitch said afterward. "A lot of speed."
Fitch finished two takedowns in the first period and also took the top position off a scramble early in the second round. He passed to side-mount and mount before Wilson worked him back into the half-guard. Although Fitch failed to hurt his opponent, he controlled the ground game and earned the round.
The fighters traded for the first three minutes of the last round. Fitch, fighting out of San Jose, Calif., landed with a left hand and a right after Wilson had thrown another kick into his body. Another right hand then scored for Fitch, who may have sealed his win with a single-leg takedown. Regardless, Wilson was game, as he worked on a triangle choke until time expired.
All three judges awarded Fitch the fight: 30-27 twice and 29-28.
"I'm ready to fight for that title, whoever's got it," Fitch said. "Serra, St. Pierre -- whoever the best man is, I want to fight them. Once you have that belt, every fight you have is going to be the toughest. That's where I want to be."
Joe Hall is a contributor to Sherdog.com.