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OAKLAND, Calif. – Anderson Silva was only 110 seconds away from surrendering his Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight championship when he pulled off one of the most stunning finishes in mixed martial arts history in the main event of UFC 117 at Oracle Arena.
After taking more than four rounds of pounding from trash-talking challenger Chael Sonnen, a thoroughly beaten-up Silva (27-4) caught Sonnen (25-11-1) in a triangle choke. Sonnen tapped out at 3:10 of the fifth round, though Sonnen complained to referee Josh Rosenthal. He apparently was saying that he didn't submit, though replays indicated he clearly did.
Sonnen took Silva down early in each round and beat him terribly in each. Several times, Rosenthal was leaning in, apparently on the verge of stopping the bout.
The fifth round was no different from the other four. Silva, who was far behind on the scorecards, came out aggressively and tried to end it, but Sonnen took him down again. He was pounding away until Silva slipped on the triangle.
Submission defense has been Sonnen's biggest problem throughout his career, and it was again on his biggest night. But he made himself into a major star, not only with his trash talking but also with his gritty performance.
The victory was the UFC-record 12th in a row for Silva, the longest reigning champion in company history. He has held the title since October 2006.
On the undercard, Jon Fitch outwrestled Thiago Alves, repeatedly taking Alves down and then controlling him on the ground to earn another shot at the UFC welterweight title by winning a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Fitch, a one-time wrestler at Purdue.
Fitch, who also defeated Alves in 2006, has won five in a row since losing to champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 87 in 2008. He has won 21 of his last 22 bouts.
Just 45 seconds into the bout, Fitch dumped Alves on his back and would maul him for long stretches. The crowd booed frequently, as there were few exchanges and Fitch never got near a finish.
St. Pierre will defend the belt against Josh Koscheck – coincidentally, a close friend of Fitch's – at UFC 124 in December.
Fighting in his first bout since being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in May, former welterweight champion Matt Hughes pulled off an unlikely win over black belt Ricardo Almeida. Hughes hammered Almeida with a left hand, which essentially knocked Almeida out on his feet.
Hughes raced in for the finish and caught Almeida with a jiu-jitsu move, slapping on an anaconda choke that put Almeida to sleep. Referee Josh Rosenthal jumped in to stop the bout at 3:15 of the first round.
Junior dos Santos earned a shot at the UFC's heavyweight title by outslugging a game but overmatched Roy Nelson. Dos Santos hurt Nelson badly in the first with a series of strikes, but Nelson battled hard to the finish. Judges had it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
Dos Santos will meet the winner of the title match between champion Brock Lesnar and No. 1 challenger Cain Velasquez, which is scheduled for Oct. 23 at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif.
The roly-poly Nelson, who entered the Octagon to "Weird" Al Yankovic's "I'm Fat," tried for several takedowns, but he wasn't able to get dos Santos off of his feet. But Nelson took everything that the power-punching Brazilian could throw.
Dos Santos said he didn't care whether he wound up fighting Lesnar or Velasquez for the belt.
"I have no preference between those guys," he said. "I feel very prepared and I train very hard. I want to be champion and I know I am going to be champion."
Clay Guida pulled out a third-round submission victory over Rafael Dos Anjos, and the seeds of the win were sown in Round 1. It appeared that Dos Anjos broke his jaw from a straight right hand during a Guida flurry in the first round.
In the third, Guida took Dos Anjos down and had him pinned against the cage, pushing Dos Anjos' jaw back. Dos Anjos couldn't take it any longer and tapped at 1:51 of the third.
"I'm in here to win, I'm not in here to hurt my opponents. So I apologize for that, Raffy," Guida said to Dos Anjos in the cage. "You're a tough son of a gun."