UFC

Silva knocks out Okami at UFC 134

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)

Anderson Silva defeated Yushin Okami by knockout with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left in the second round, winning his 15th straight fight and successfully defending his middleweight title at UFC 134 on Saturday.

Silva sent Okami to the ground with a right-handed shot to the jaw, then pounded him with strikes to the head to force the fight to be stopped.

The 36-year-old Brazilian, touted as the MMA’s best pound-for-pound fighter, improved to 29-4 (14-0 on UFC), while Okami is at 27-6 (10-3).

Silva’s last loss had been against Okami in 2006, when the Brazilian dominated the bout but was disqualified after an illegal kick.

Silva now has defended his title a record nine times and is the longest-reigning champion in UFC history.

“I’m so happy,” Silva said.

Silva now has defended his title a record nine times and is the longest-reigning champion in UFC history since winning his belt later in 2006.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is making a much-anticipated return to Brazil, the country where mixed martial arts came to life in the early 1990s. There hadn’t been a UFC event in Brazil since 1998, when the sport was not nearly as popular as it is now.

Known as “The Spider,” the phenomenal striker struggled to get to Okami in the first of the five-round fight, but he came out attacking in the second and dominated.

He struck a right-handed shot with 4:17 left to send Okami to the ground for the first time. The Japanese recovered, but not after the second charge by Silva in front of more than 15,000 fans who packed the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

The 30-year-old Okami had won six of his last seven fights.

Brazilians won four of the five fights on the main card.

In the light heavyweight division, Brazilian Mauricio “Shogun” Rua knocked out American Forrest Griffin in the first round with a series of strikes to the head. Rua had lost to Griffin in his UFC debut in 2007, and the crowd celebrated the victory by chanting “‘Shogun’ is back, ‘Shogun’ is back.”

In the heavyweights, home-crowd favorite Minotauro Nogueira defeated U.S. fighter Brendan Schaub by knockout despite not having fought in 18 months because of a series of injuries, giving Brazil its first win of the night in the main card. The emotional victory gave the 35-year-old Nogueira a 37-6-1 record.

Bulgary’s Stanislav Nedkov made his UFC debut by defeating Brazil’s Luiz Cane by knockout in a light heavyweight fight to improve his record to 12-0, while Brazil’s Edson Barboza reached 9-0 by beating England’s Ross Pearson with a split decision in the lightweight division.

UFC still isn’t as big in Brazil as it is in the U.S. and in Canada, but it is quickly making its way into the mainstream, attracting widespread attention from the media and gaining unprecedented space across the country, including among soccer enthusiasts.

UFC has seen a huge growth in popularity in Brazil especially after Silva’s memorable knockout of countryman Vitor Belfort on UFC 126 in February. His spectacular kick to Belfort’s jaw was extensively replayed throughout the country, including in programs usually devoted only to soccer.

Rumble in Rio

Miss any action from UFC 134? We've got you covered with Saturday's best shots.

Saturday’s event was broadcast live on network TV for the first time in Brazil, and it was also available in movie theaters in six Brazilian capitals. This year, UFC began offering about 300 licensed products in the South American country, and pay-per-view numbers were up by nearly 50 percent in the first semester alone.

The tickets made available for Saturday’s event were sold in less than two hours as 300,000 people tried to secure a place at the historic fight in Brazil.

The fans constantly chanted during the fights, and even some soccer-stadium songs made their way into the fights.

In 1998, Frank Shamrock defeated John Lober in the main fight in front of about 8,000 in an event that went virtually unnoticed in the country. Only the hardcore fans and specialized media paid attention then.

There hadn’t been this type of hype in Brazil over a fight since Acelino “Popo” Freitas was in action. The popular boxer won two lightweight and two super featherweight titles before retiring in 2006 with a 38-1 record.

UFC President Dana White has already said he plans to return to Brazil soon and increase the number of events in the country of 190 million people. There is even talk of a possible fight at a football stadium, which could attract a crowd of nearly 100,000 fans.

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