Anderson Silva knew Stephan Bonnar had never been knocked out. He knew of his reputation for having an iron jaw.
So if stopping him at the head was going to be a problem, he decided to just go to the body.
Silva landed a perfectly placed knee to Bonnar's midsection and crumpled the Munster native. Then he swarmed on Bonnar on the canvas, landing several punches to the head as Bonnar covered up. The result was a TKO at the 4:40 mark of the first round in the main event of Saturday's UFC 153 pay-per-view in Rio de Janeiro.
It was the first time Bonnar (14-8, 8-7 UFC) had been stopped in 22 professional fights, save for two losses in which he was not allowed to continue due to cuts. Silva (33-4, 16-0 UFC), universally regarded as pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, continued his unprecedented run through the UFC, winning for the 16th straight time.
Silva, the promotion's middleweight champion, has been so dominant in his own weight class that Saturday, he moved up to Bonnar's weight class, light heavyweight. It was the 185-pounder's third UFC fight at 205 pounds, and his third first-round knockout stoppage.
"I'm not the best (in the world)," Silva said through his translator after the fight, which took place in his home country of Brazil at a sold-out HSBC Arena. "I just believe I can do things that people believe are impossible."
Once again, Silva had observers wowed with those impossible things. Bonnar came forward quickly, and took advantage of a momentary Silva slip on the canvas to push him against the cage. It was believed that Bonnar's advantage would be on the ground, where he would be the heavier and stronger fighter and would be out of the way of Silva's masterful striking.
But though Bonnar worked to bully Silva to the canvas, he never could get it there. Clinched up along the fence, the two traded short punches and elbows and reversed position. When they broke apart, Bonnar quickly moved back in and landed a couple crisp punches, but none that fazed Silva.
Then Silva took a surprising stance – and willingly backed himself to the cage, inviting Bonnar to come back in to trade with him there, a position that would clearly seem to benefit Bonnar more than Silva. Three times, Silva did this, and though Bonnar was able to get a few punches through, the 37-year-old Brazilian stood his ground.
As the round started to tick down, Silva got hold of Bonnar's arm while standing, and as Bonnar tried to pull away, he slipped. Before he could get back to his feet, Silva already was on him.
As Bonnar started to come back up, Silva landed the big knee to the gut that put Bonnar to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. There, Silva needed only a few seconds of landing punches with a turtled-up and covered-up Bonnar on his knees before the ref had seen enough.
The loss snapped a three-fight win streak for Bonnar, who took the fight on a month's notice, along with Silva, when the card's original main event fell through. Bonnar had been in a self-imposed retirement unless he got a fight with an opponent with a bigger name than him, and Silva was that opponent and then some.
Though Bonnar did not attend the event's post-fight news conference, he posted to his official Twitter account Sunday to let fans know how he was doing.
"Thanks to everyone for the support," Bonnar said. "I'm so sorry I lost. I feel so bad for letting my fans down, but I promise to make it up to you. (I'm) not injured, just caught with a perfect knee … and it paralyzed me. Was just getting movement back when (the) fight was stopped."