LAS VEGAS – Every kid who has ever been bullied had to be thrilled to watch Antonio "Big Foot" Silva knock out Alistair Overeem.
Overeem was extraordinarily dismissive of Silva in the buildup to their heavyweight fight before 10,275 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. He treated Silva as little more than a sparring partner and predicted an early finish.
As they posed for photos on Thursday following the pre-fight news conference, Overeem goaded Silva, saying, "I'm going to [expletive] you up."
Silva seethed, but managed to maintain his cool. And in the end, he got the best kind of revenge possible when he knocked the bully down and out in brutal fashion.
Overeem, who was promised a shot at the title if he won Saturday's match at UFC 156, won the first two rounds on all three judges' cards, even if he didn't look all that good in doing it.
Silva, though, did little more than graze the massive Dutchman.
"When he had me down, I talked to him and said, 'Come on, hit me harder,' " Silva said after the fight Saturday, a few hours after he stopped Overeem with an unbelievable flurry of punches and kicks at the start of the third round.
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Silva raced out of his corner in that final round, hit Overeem with a kick to the head and then landed two hard right hands. That sent Overeem, who was fighting for the first time since Dec. 29, 2011, staggering back toward the cage.
The lumbering Silva followed in hot pursuit. He fired two more rights and then a series of uppercuts. Referee Herb Dean jumped in to save Overeem, stopping the fight at 25 seconds of the third round.
"They called that a TKO, but let me tell you something, that was a [expletive] knockout," UFC president Dana White said at the post-fight news conference. "He was out."
Even as Dean jumped in, Silva wasn't about to go away quietly. The taunts of the last few months were still at the front of his mind and he remained angry at being disrespected.
As he was in camp, his anger rose by the day as he read news reports in which Overeem would disparage him and predict he would inflict all sorts of mayhem.
Dean struggled to get Silva away as the Brazilian shouted at Overeem, "Come on, get up! Let's fight! I want to fight! Come on!"
The Dutchman, of course, did nothing of the sort. Asked if he had a chance to speak to Overeem after the fight, Silva beamed.
"Yeah, now he wants to be my friend," he said.
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Overeem's words pushed Silva to train harder than he'd ever done before. On Christmas Day, he was at the gym. On New Year's Day, he was at the gym. He worked harder, ran farther and concentrated more.
He wasn't going to lie down and simply allow Overeem to walk all over him.
Aggressiveness, Silva knew, would be a key, though he didn't show much of it early. When he needed it, though, it was there.
"When he's the one punching, he's a lion," Silva said. "But when he's taking the punches, he's a [kitten]."
The shocking finish threw the heavyweight picture into a mess. Champion Cain Velasquez obliterated Silva last year in Las Vegas, tearing him apart and stopping him in one very dominant round.
There is no other heavyweight near the top of the division who doesn't have a fight lined up who'd make a good potential opponent for Velasquez.
White said several times Saturday, "I'm not going to make fights here at the press conference," but he said he wasn't opposed to giving Silva a shot at the title.
"[Silva] and Cain Velasquez had just fought recently, but I'm telling you, the way he looked in this fight and what he did to Alistair, maybe we do the [Velasquez-Silva] fight again," White said.
It was a stunning turn of events, considering Overeem was nearly a 4-1 favorite and few forecast that Silva outburst.
Silva showed, though, that questioning a fighter's heart is never a good thing.
"He didn't respect me," Silva said. "He talked a lot of [expletive] before the fight. He forgot, the fight is in the cage, not outside of it talking."
Silva made that point very clear Saturday.
In a sport where passion and determination are nearly as important as skill, a fired-up Antonio Silva spoke volumes Saturday without saying as much as a word.
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