Though Anderson Silva wasn't the heat-guided missile that fans have come to love, the UFC middleweight champion emerged with his crown Saturday in the main event at UFC 90 in Rosemont, Ill., after a freak knee injury took out opponent Patrick Cote in the opening seconds of the third round.
Based on Silva's brutal body of work -- which includes a pair of dominating victories over former champ Rich Franklin and another to two-time Pride titleholder Dan Henderson to pepper performances like his the 39-second destruction of James Irvin in July -- expectations were high for a knockout performance to punctuate a mixed night of performances.
The first round was underwhelming.
With both fighters taking counter-strike stances, fans within the Allstate Arena quickly grew restless watching Silva circle away from Cote for the first half of the round. Nearly two minutes passed before Silva (23-4) tested his distance with a left inside kick, then followed with a substantial left body kick and a knee that cut Cote over his right brow.
Silva's lanky jab caught Cote (13-5) out of the second-round gate, but there was far too little leather in between attacks for the crowd's liking. Silva later connected with another left body kick that persuaded Cote to shoot, but the savvy Brazilian reversed and briefly settled into Cote's guard. The 28-year-old challenger, who outpointed Ricardo Almeida in August for his shot at gold, did his best to keep the Muay Thai stylist off his feet, but Silva wouldn't bite, even offering Cote his hand to help him off the canvas.
Cote was able to crack Silva's timing and grasped a kick mid-air, but was unable to dump Silva to the canvas. Instead, the 33-year-old Team Black House fighter answered with a pair of knees in the clinch on the fence.
Cote became the first UFC fighter to take Silva into the third round, though it was a short-lived accomplishment, as it only lasted 39 seconds. Bouncing his weight between legs, Cote's knee suddenly torqued in an odd fashion. The former Canadian Army ranger collapsed to the mat, cradling his right leg. Cote tried desperately to drag his leg back into action, but referee Herb Dean had no choice but to end things there.
Both fighters seemed keenly aware that this wasn't the finish that the masses had come to see.
"It was an old injury, I'm so sorry," Cote said. "The fight was great before. I was chasing Anderson I'm sorry I didn't put on a good show. It's an old injury. I bust my knee in the second round and I tried to come back in the third and my knee just popped out."
Silva echoed his fallen challenger's sentiments.
"I came here and we were putting on the fight that the world wanted to see -- an entertaining fight," said Silva. "I came here to fight. Patrick came here to fight. He was exchanging. It was a fine fight, but unfortunately he got hurt."
Silva, who continued to fuel thoughts of retirement in a recent interview with Sherdog.com, has five fights remaining on his contract, but little opposition remains for him while the rest of the division races catch up. A rematch with Yushin Okami lingers, though the Japanese fighter has been missing in action with a knee injury since his March victory against the late Evan Tanner.
Loretta Hunt covers MMA for Sherdog.com.