PHILADELPHIA – Anderson Silva pulled a move from Muhammad Ali's playbook when he landed a hard shot while going backward to knock out Forrest Griffin in a dramatic light heavyweight bout at UFC 101 at the Wachovia Center.
Silva toyed with Griffin, the former light heavyweight champion, throughout the heavily hyped bout. He fought with his hands at his sides and was making faces at Griffin.
But Silva, who had back-to-back lackluster performances in wins over Patrick Cote and Thales Leites while defending his middleweight title, showed the skills that make many believe he's the pound-for-pound best mixed martial arts fighter in the world.
He was clearly faster and far better on his feet than Griffin. The end came in the center of the ring, as Griffin was pushing forward. Silva was backing away and landed a right that connected on the cheek.
Griffin collapsed in the center of the ring in obvious trouble and referee Kevin Mulhall jumped in at 3:23 of the first to stop it.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White personally picked Griffin to face Silva because he knew Griffin would come to fight and force Silva to display his skills. Both Cote and Leites appeared intimidated and Silva didn't put on the kind of electric performance that had vaulted him to legendary status.
On Saturday, he knocked Griffin down twice and demonstrated the power, hand speed and boxing skills that have made him such a dangerous striker.
The win over Griffin was his record 10th in a row in the UFC and his 11th in succession overall.
He was so good that he overshadowed the lightweight championship fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian.
Penn retained the title in the fourth round of a gritty battle, slapping a rear naked choke on Florian and forcing him to submit at 3:54.
Penn had gotten in mount and from that point forward, Florian was in big trouble. Penn took his back and managed to sink in the choke in his first lightweight fight since UFC 84 in May 2008.
Penn was winning most of the exchanges in what was more of a tactical fight rather than the toe-to-toe scrap many expected. Penn, who had spent a training camp working with Marv Marinovich, was clearly in much better shape than he's been and was able to push hard throughout the fight.
Penn's hands were better than Florian's, who came into the fight on a six-bout winning streak. Penn was able to keep Florian either at the end of his punches or they grappled along the cage.
Florian was rarely able to use his Muay Thai as Penn negated those skills expertly.