Monday, Oct. 16, 2006 | 7:27 a.m.
On a night that Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White chose to highlight the international flavor of his organization, it was appropriate that a Brazilian star who has fought mostly overseas won the main event in emphatic fashion.
"There was a changing of the guard tonight," White said after Anderson Silva scored a first-round stoppage against Rich Franklin to win the UFC middleweight championship Saturday at Mandalay Bay.
"Silva, a guy who we've been working on getting for over three years now, basically came in and destroyed our champion. It was very impressive."
Silva (17-4 in mixed martial arts) had carved out a reputation as a versatile fighter and a superb striker competing primarily in Asia and Great Britain.
He entered the octagon as nearly a 2-1 underdog against Franklin (22-2), one of the UFC's most popular and established figures. Silva showcased his Muay Thai skills, controlling his opponent with a clinch and breaking Franklin's nose on the way to a technical knockout at 2:59 of Round 1 in the 185-pound showdown.
"Muay Thai is what's taken me to where I am, and it's going to keep taking me," said Silva, 31, who was uncertain of his next UFC opponent and said only "if I had a clone, I'd like to fight myself.
"It's something I've been doing a long time, training Muay Thai. It just comes naturally to me."
The deciding shots came in a virtually unanswered flurry of vicious knees and high kicks that Franklin could not withstand.
"It was not necessarily strength, it was the technique," Silva said.
The top undercard bout generated the most excitement of the night among the crowd of 10,773 at the Events Center, as a bloodied Sean Sherk recorded a grueling five-round unanimous-decision victory against Kenny Florian for the lightweight (155 pounds) title.
Florian landed a right elbow in Round 2 that opened a deep, flowing cut on Sherk's forehead, but Sherk (35-2-1) otherwise controlled the action with a series of takedowns.
"I knew it was gonna be a battle," Sherk said. "I've watched a lot of videos of this guy, and every time he fights he seems to get better. A lot of people were underestimating him. Fortunately for me I did not underestimate him."
Florian, about a 5-2 betting underdog, said the blood streaming from the gash above Sherk's right eye prevented him from finding his rhythm.
"I've got to say, your blood tastes delicious," Florian (7-3) told Sherk. "I don't know what you eat, but it's very good.
"It was affecting my right eye the round I cut him. In the later rounds it was going into my left eye. It was in my mouth, it was in my ear. I changed shorts from white to red. In the end, it worked against me, I think."
Among other international fighters competing in featured matches on the pay-per-view card were heavyweight Cheick Kongo of Paris, who was upended by Carmelo Marrero, a 4-1 underdog, in a three-round split decision; and Tokyo's Kuniyoshi Hironaka, who lost a unanimous decision to Jon Fitch at welterweight.
"We were working hard to build the sport here in the U.S. and we're going international now," White said, noting that UFC recently opened an office in the United Kingdom. "We're going to be worldwide in the next couple of years."
UFC plans five shows in the United Kingdom next year, White said, with further European expansion on the horizon. The U.K. shows, slated for tape-delayed pay-per-view in the United States, would feature the organization's star fighters but would augment rather than replace the regular stateside schedule.
"MMA (mixed martial arts) isn't going anywhere," White said. "It's getting bigger and bigger and bigger."