What’s next for the world’s best fighter?

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva choked out PRIDE middleweight champion Dan Henderson in the title unification match Saturday night, there weren’t a lot of people willing to argue his reputation as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

About the only person who would is Anderson Silva.

“I still don’t consider myself the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” he said after his second-round win via tapout with a choke, against the man whom most felt stylistically had the best chance to beat him. “Maybe when I retire, I can look back and then say I was the best pound-for-pound.”

Silva overwhelmed Henderson standing late in the round, putting him down after a hard knee and trade of punches. He got behind Henderson and threw numerous punches to the side of the head before he began working for a choke. With eight seconds left in the round, Henderson tapped out.

Henderson won the first round. After some wild action, he scored a takedown and connected with hammer fists to the side of Silva’s head for the remainder of the round.

Things changed in the second round, mostly standing, and it was Silva’s multipronged attack of punches, kicks and knees that overwhelmed Henderson.

Henderson had been finished only twice in his prior 28 matches, in a career loaded with foes who were top fighters and almost always bigger than him. Aside from the one takedown in the first round, and ensuing advantage period, the former Olympic wrestler wasn’t able to do a lot.

Henderson threw wildly, and Silva’s superior technical standup saw him score with many kicks, particularly in the second round as Henderson started to fade.

Fighters Jon Fitch, Diego Sanchez, Jorge Gurgel and Josh Koscheck were blown away by Silva and said his pound-for-pound reputation was deserved.

“Josh Koscheck and I shared a training room with him before the fight,” said Fitch, who put himself in line for a welterweight title match with a win over Chris Wilson on the show. “Watching him hit the (focus) mitts, I’ve never seen anyone, including pro boxers, with so much agility and hit with so much power.”

Koscheck said: “He’s a bad dude. I don’t want to fight him.”

Gurgel, the training partner of Rich Franklin, noted that he knows firsthand what Franklin can do, and it was scary how easy Silva made beating Franklin look in both of their previous matches.

The big question is who will face Silva next. At 21-4, Silva, who picked up $120,000 in added bonuses for both match of the night and best submission, feigned a frightened look when asked about moving to light heavyweight and facing Quinton Jackson, then said it wasn’t his immediate goal.

Another potential opponent at middleweight, Black House stablemate and unbeaten World Extreme Cagefighting champion Paulo Filho, was ruled out.

“It’s impossible,” Silva said through an interpreter. “We train together, and that’s not going to happen.”

UFC president Dana White said that in his mind, when the stars are aligned, any fight is possible.

Silva’s most logical next opponent for a UFC title match appears to be Yushin Okami (23-4). He knocked out Evan Tanner on Saturday night with a knee.

Okami is the last person to gain a win over Silva, in a Jan. 20, 2006, match in Honolulu, via disqualification for an illegal kick. Silva said that he didn’t have the rules properly explained to him, which caused the miscue. Silva has won seven fights since.

A crowd of 16,431 fans at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus were pro-Henderson when the match started. Even though Silva is from Brazil, he received only a smattering of boos when the match started and won over everyone by the end.

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Mar 2, 2008