MONTREAL – On a night when the Ultimate Fighting Championship's most popular fighter may have suffered a career-ending knockout, middleweight champion Anderson Silva retained his belt in a fight in which he set a record for consecutive UFC wins but had to listen to the boos of the crowd for a second consecutive outing.
Thales Leites didn't appear to want to fight and was very hesitant to exchange with the power-punching champion, leading to a long and drawn out affair in which Silva won a unanimous decision. The crowd of more than 20,000 began booing a minute into the fight and rarely stopped. In the final round, it began chanting an obscenity to express its displeasure.
The judges had it 49-46, 48-47, 50-46 for Silva. Yahoo! Sports had it 49-46 for Silva, who set a UFC record with his ninth consecutive win.
"It's unfortunate, but sometimes things don't work out like the public wants them to," Silva said. "Hopefully next time, I'll give a better performance. Thales Leites is a very tough opponent and comes from a great jiu-jitsu school I trained at. It's unfortunate. I wish I could have given a better show, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way."
Silva was coming off a bizarre performance at UFC 90 when he defeated Patrick Cote. Silva seemed to fool around with Cote in that fight and drew the ire of the Rosemont Horizon crowd, as well as UFC president Dana White, who called it "bizarro world."
This time, Leites was more to blame for the horrendous fight. A top-flight jiu jitsu specialist, he continually flopped to his back, hoping Silva would take the bait and come to the ground. Silva would simply back off and referee Yves Lavigne would order Leites to stand.
Silva's ninth consecutive UFC victory broke the mark held by Royce Gracie and Jon Fitch. Silva also tied a UFC record with his fifth successful title defense.
In the co-main event, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua may have put a cap on the long and successful career of ex-light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Rua connected on a hard left to the cheek that decked Liddell. Rua then finished him on the ground, as referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in to save him at 4:28 of the first.
White, Liddell's former manager and close friend, had said before the fight that Liddell may have to retire if he lost. Liddell came into the cage in great shape and was clearly intense, but he made the same mistake he's made in many of his recent losses.
He got caught by a big left that put him down and left him dazed. Rua immediately pounced on him and finished him with a solid ground and pound.
Liddell said he had a great camp and was in the best shape he has been in, but was at a loss to explain the defeat. He has now lost four of his last five, including three by knockout.
He said he would go home and think about his future before making any decisions.
"We'll see. Right now, I don't know," Liddell said.
Liddell is 39 and one of the most popular stars in mixed martial arts history. He was clearly beloved by the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre, who cheered his every move. But Liddell no longer has the iron chin that marked him in his early days and struggles to compete in the shootouts he once owned.
The win was significant for Rua, too, though at 28 he faced far less pressure than Liddell. But Rua hadn't looked good in either of his previous UFC fights, a loss to Forrest Griffin and a win over 44-year-old Mark Coleman.