UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (24-4) will return to the light heavyweight division to square off with Forrest Griffin (16-5) in a featured bout at UFC 101 on August 8th in Philadelphia.
Rumors of the matchup had been swirling in recent days, with MMAjunkie confirming on Tuesday that both fighters have now verbally agreed to the fight.
Griffin had been booked to fight fellow top contender Thiago Silva in the UFC 101 co-headliner in a bout that was likely to determine the next challenger for the 205-pound title. Now, however, he’ll take on one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world in Silva, who knocked out James Irvin in just 61-seconds in his light heavyweight debut last July.
The winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin won back-to-back fights over Hector Ramirez and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2007 to earn a light heavyweight title shot, then defeated champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson via unanimous decision to claim the belt. In his first title defense, Griffin suffered a third-round knockout loss to Rashad Evans and has not fought since after suffering a broken hand that required surgery in the December defeat.
Despite winning nine-straight UFC bouts, the most in the promotion’s history, Silva has been criticized recently after delivering two forgettable performances against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. Following stoppage victories over Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and Irvin, Silva’s October matchup with Cote ended in controversy after Cote was unable to continue in the second round following a severe knee injury. Silva returned to action on April 18th in the main event of UFC 97, winning a unanimous decision on the judge’s scorcards that was highly criticized by fans, the media, and even UFC President Dana White for its lack of action as Silva refused to engage Leites on the ground.
In light of Silva’s recent performances and with no standout contenders at 185-pounds, the UFC has turned to Griffin in hopes the pair will slug it out and deliver a “Fight of the Year” candidate that will further Griffin’s status as one of the UFC’s most popular fighters while allowing Silva an opportunity to re-affirm his status as one of the world’s best fighters.
Update: Kevin Iole at Yahoo! Sports has confirmed with UFC President Dana White that Griffin-Silva has been officially signed.
“Forrest loved the idea and said he’d do it right away, and Anderson told me he would fight anyone I wanted him to fight, no matter who it is,” White said. “So we got the deal.”