There’s been no shortage of doubt cast over ‘The Spider’ and his claim to the pound-for-pound crown in recent times. This seems to have stemmed from his bout against Demian Maia in the UFC’s maiden voyage to Abu Dhabi. Many believed Anderson had lost his passion for fighting and his will to win, having put on a lacklustre (to say the least) performance against Maia which featured him running and dancing around the cage, much to the dismay of paying fans worldwide. However I think you would have to agree that it never looked like the jiu-jitsu specialist was a threat to Silva throughout the fight.
The fight against trash-talking wrestler, Chael Sonnen, only further fueled the fires of suspicion surrounding Silva’s abilities. While Sonnen’s performance against the champ was commendable and certainly provided the toughest test Silva has had to date, there are certain details which I believe detract from the supposed domination that Sonnen laid down. It wasn’t long after they fought that Sonnen’s positive testing for PEDs and elevated testosterone levels came to light, suggesting he had a physical advantage over the Brazilian before the fight had even begun. Another factor that played a big part in Silva’s performance that night was the alleged rib injury he took into the fight with him, something that certainly would have prevented him from performing at 100%. And finally, Silva has since stated that he took great offense at Chael’s pre-fight comments regarding the Nogueira brothers, which Silva claims inspired within him a determination to finish the fight by submission. This perhaps swayed Silva to allow Sonnen to take the fight to the ground so as to present him with an opportunity to tap him out, which he eventually achieved, and not a moment too soon. Submitting Sonnen in such a do or die situation is the kind of moment that really defines a champion. It was a testament to the heart, resiliency and never-die attitude that will help that fight go down in the MMA annals as one of the best in UFC history.
Last night we truly saw Silva back to his fighting best and perhaps most importantly, he was mentally prepared. This was probably the toughest matchup the UFC could have presented Anderson with at middleweight. Silva had already beaten every manner of grappler out there, from BJJ champions to Olympic level wrestlers. But Belfort would be the first fighter he would face who could truly be dubbed an elite striker. And as we all saw last night, this looks to have made no difference to The Spider. Belfort had never been knocked out before in his storied and illustrious career, but it only took Silva a little over three minutes to add Vitor to his highlight reel of devastating knockouts. A front kick to the jaw and it was all over. All the talk, and all the hype, was crushed in an instant by the inarguable greatness of this modern day Muhammad Ali of MMA.
So, what’s left for The Spider? Surely nothing at middleweight that would cause him any problems. Yushin Okami is next in line for a shot at 185 gold. But Anderson has already beaten wrestlers of an arguably higher caliber than Okami before. Not to discredit ‘Thunder’, a victory over him would certainly be a superb achievement but there are greater things beckoning for the champion.
In a few months, Georges St Pierre will defend his title against an opponent who also could be perceived as the toughest challenge available to him at welterweight, and the only man left for him to beat in the division, Jake Shields. If GSP can add a ninth consecutive win to his record, we may bare witness to the announcement of what has the potential to be the biggest fight in MMA history: Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva vs Georges ‘Rush’ St Pierre. This would be a fight for the ages. The two best fighters in the world going head to head to decide who is the most dangerous man on the face of the planet. Would Silva knock the Canadian out in the first round as devastatingly as he has done to so many other contenders? Or would Rush play on Silva’s weaknesses and take him down at will? There’s only one way to find out.
But let’s assume that Silva were to win. Would beating another all-time great, in his prime, be enough to solidify him as the greatest of all time? By doing so he would surpass the achievements of the once invincible Fedor Emelianenko, and that would be no mean feat. Ten years without a loss is certainly near superhuman stuff. Fedor has beaten heavyweight greats such as Cro Cop, Nogueira, Coleman, Randleman and Arlovski, all in their prime and in dominating fashion. On top of that he won the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, Pride Heavyweight Championship, Rings Openweight Championship, Rings Heavyweight and Absolute Tournaments, and the WAMMA Heavyweight Championship. However in recent years there’s hardly been a lack of criticism of the regularity at which he has fought and the quality of opponents he’s faced, which wasn’t helped by his loss to Fabricio Werdum last year. Were ‘The Last Emperor’ to win the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix he would become untouchable as the number one of all time. Perhaps he already is, but Anderson Silva still has plenty left to achieve in this sport.
Silva has the current record for consecutive wins and title defenses in the UFC and is yet to be beaten inside the octagon. And other than Chael Sonnen, none of those fighters have ever come anywhere close to defeating him. Eight times now he’s staved off those who have sought to take his belt from him, which is completely unheard of in the UFC and in most promotions worldwide. But who has he beat? Well his most prestigious wins have come against Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort, all of whom are former champions and MMA legends, and all of whom he finished with ease. Does it compare with Fedor’s achievements? Maybe not just yet but he’s already wrestled the pound-for pound throne from the Story Oskol native and doesn’t look like he’ll be relinquishing it anytime soon. If, hypothetically, he beat GSP, then perhaps he would consider moving to Light Heavyweight, easily the toughest and most talent rich division in the UFC. I’d warrant that upon moving up to 205, he would be granted an immediate title shot, considering he’s already embarrassed two fighters in that weight class.
Now, if Silva were to become Light Heavyweight Champion as well as having been Middleweight champ and having beaten GSP, there would certainly be a lot of weight on his side for being recognised as the best ever. What if he retired unbeaten? What if he increases his record of consecutive title defenses? The possibilities for a man so talented and still at the peak of his powers are limitless. Can he surpass Fedor? Well I think Fedor’s career would have to go downhill from here and Silva would have to beat GSP, as well as enjoy championship success at 205.
Whatever Silva does from now on will all go towards cementing his legacy. Realise that every time we see the Spider step in the cage, another piece of legendary MMA history is being written. Currently he looks unstoppable, perhaps the Canadian will prove to be his kryptonite, but only time will tell. For now all that can be said for sure is that he has solidified himself as one of the greatest Mixed Martial Artists of all time.