CINCINNATI – The legend of Mike Tyson was built in smoky hotel rooms and small arenas on a fledgling all sports television network named ESPN. He faced a collection of boxing misfits and would throw punches with such outrageous force that they'd send his opponents ricocheting around the ring.
It was hard not to think of Tyson as Anderson Silva was decimating Rich Franklin Saturday at UFC 77 at U.S. Bank Arena.
Silva's outrageous power helped him to retain the UFC middleweight crown with a decisive knockout. He nearly stopped Franklin at the end of the first round and left the ex-champion in such a sorry state that he was literally dragged to his stool by his corner men.
But the man who is increasingly looking like the most complete fighter in the game didn't let Franklin survive much longer.
He popped Franklin with a right hand that seemed innocuous, but that had the force of an Adam Dunn (who was watching in the front row) swing for the fences.
Franklin crumbled into the cage, a goofy look on his face, as Silva moved in for the inevitable.
Silva's a better finisher than Alexander Ovechkin and Franklin learned the sorry truth. He's good – maybe the best middleweight in the other than Silva – but there is a gulf between Silva and the rest of the 185-pounders.
Silva presents UFC president Dana White with a curious problem. There is no one on his roster who figures to make it past two rounds with the affable Brazilian.
That might be optimistic, particularly if White chooses to keep Paulo Filho in the WEC and not move him to the UFC.
Perhaps the only man the UFC could feed to Silva and not have it be a one-sided beatdown is Dan Henderson, who was the Pride middleweight champion, but Henderson would prefer to fight at light heavyweight.
"I want to head butt him every time I talk to him because he wants to fight at light heavyweight," White said.
In order to get a truly big fight, there has to be a match in which the outcome is in doubt. But is there any doubt what Silva would do to Yushin Okami, who posted a non-descript victory earlier Saturday over Jason MacDonald?
Does anyone seriously think that, say, Dennis Kang, who recently signed with K-1 Heroes, could challenge Silva at this stage?
White suggested Thales Leites and Ricardo Almeida, but as good as they are, I'll believe it when I see it.
Silva, who has a playful nature, didn't hesitate when asked who he'd prefer to face next. "I wish I could fight a clone of myself," Silva said, beaming.
Silva is a sensation, a guy who has improved dramatically in the last five years and who at least has to be considered competition for Fedor Emelianenko as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
He's currently fourth in the Yahoo! Sports poll, behind Emelianenko, UFC light heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson and ex-UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
The new poll will be out sometime later this week and I have a feeling that Jackson and St. Pierre might be moving down.
White said he's convinced Silva is the best in the world.
"I say that with other fighters and other fighters don't argue with me," Whit said. Two fighters sharing the dais with him didn't disagree.
"Anderson Silva? Nah, he's a big wimp," Stephan Bonnar said, joking as usual. "No, come on, you saw it tonight. The guy is awesome."
Heavyweight Tim Sylvia was equally impressed.
"I thought Rich was going to do a lot better this time," Sylvia said. "Rich is one of my best friends, but this guy gave a great performance. He's first class."
He doesn't have the intimidating visage of a knockout artist, like Tyson did throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. He's lean and lithe and nearly always has a smile on his face. Earlier Saturday afternoon, he was in the food court at Cincinnati's Kenwood Town Centre mall, dragging along a lot of purchases from Foot Locker and chowing down on fast food.
He hardly seemed stressed by the prospect of facing a guy who was 22-2 coming into the fight and had rarely been challenged prior to meeting Silva last year.
Franklin was determined to turn around the result of his 2006 loss, when he came out with what White said was a deer in the headlights took on his face.
Silva stopped him in less than three rounds to win the title in a performance that stunned those who saw it.
But after watching Silva's performance in the last year, defeating Travis Lutter by submission, Nate Marquardt by strikes and then Franklin, it's hard in retrospect to consider anything Silva does stunning.
"This is what I do every day in the gym," Silva said. "I train hard and this is what I do. Nothing was new."
Silva's biggest concern Saturday was for one of his cornermen, who was ill.
The next person to get ill may be the one who puts his name on a contract to fight him.
Bonnar looked over at him and shook his head.
"He's one bad dude," Bonnar said. "He's a bad ass dude."