MMA fans everywhere were given an early Christmas present last week when Dana White revealed that longtime former middleweight champion Anderson Silva would return to action against Michael Bisping in the main event of February 27, 2016’s UFC Fight Night 83 from the O2 World in London, England.
It’s a fight that has been talked about as a potential match-up for years, but Bisping just couldn’t seem to get over the hump in crucial bouts to earn a title shot when ‘The Spider’ was champ. He lost to Chael Sonnen in their famously close bout back at UFC on FOX 2, and he was knocked out by Vitor Belfort at 2013’s UFC on FOX 7, opening the door for now-former champion Chris Weidman to make history by knocking out Silva at UFC 162.
Bisping has never got his chance at the belt, but he could certainly lock up an elusive title fight if he can beat ‘The Spider’ in his homeland in February. So while the odds certainly might not dictate that ‘The Count’ has much of a chance, he’s actually been on a roll as of late, and there are also several factors in play that could mean we won’t be witnessing the classically dominant Silva in their fight.
Let’s take a look why.
By the time Silva faces Bisping, he’ll be nearly 41 years old; far past the normal age where fighters begin to decline significantly in physical skill. While Silva is obviously no mortal man, it still has to be wondered if his advancing age will have an effect on his ability to still contend with the best middleweights in the UFC.
In his last fight, he outlasted a welterweight in Nick Diaz with a somewhat uninspired unanimous decision, which could have been due to Silva just not being the dominant force we’ve come to view him as. It happens to every athlete, and it could also be combined with the next reason on the list…
‘The Spider’ obviously suffered a gruesome injury that would end many fighters’ careers when he broke his left tibia throwing a leg kick against Weidman in their rematch in the main event of UFC 168.
It was a long road to recovery for Silva, who missed all of 2014 and was subsequently suspended for the remainder of 2015 for failing multiple drug tests for steroids leading up to and after his fight with Diaz. The general expectation is that Silva, although still denying he knowingly used anabolic steroids, used PEDs to help him recover from his horrific injury.
While that can’t be proven, there aren’t many that would truly be surprised if a 40-year-old fighter was on some sort of PED to help them return to fighting from a broken leg. Yes, it’s illegal and against the rules, but fighters have certainly used steroids for less. Regardless, Silva may have felt he needed something more to recover from his injuries, signaling that they may have sapped his ability in the Octagon.
3.) Bisping Has Been Active & Winning:
Although he’s not talked about all that often amidst the sea of ultra-dangerous middleweight contenders currently populating the top ranks of the division, Bisping has quietly put together a decent streak in the cage.
Since August 2014, Bisping has won three out of his four bouts, with his only loss a submission defeat to champion Luke Rockhold in a bout that some (mainly Bisping himself) would have you believe was affected by a head butt from Rockhold. Whether that’s true or not, Bisping has simply been getting a lot more cage time than ‘The Spider’ lately, and he’s been doing rather well even if he hasn’t been dominating. His hard-fought decision wins over previously streaking competitors Thales Leites and CB Dollaway proved that ‘The Count’ still has a lot left in the tank, and the same can’t be said for Silva based on his recent track record.
Silva might return with a huge knockout and show us why he can still do this, but Bisping’s more active schedule will undoubtedly lend him at least some form of advantage when they fight.
2.) Silva Hasn’t Officially Won Since 2012:
On the other side of the coin from Bisping’s recent activity level, Silva hasn’t officially won a UFC bout since his stoppage of Stephan Bonnar in October 2012.
His win over Diaz was changed to a No Contest, so MMA fans haven’t seen one of the greatest fighters of all-time take home a win for more than three years at this point.
That’s not to say that Silva has forget how to win; but he’s certainly underwent a trying series of time during the past few years, so the prospect of him rebounding from yet another long break against a solid fighter in his hometown is a difficult task even if it is a winnable bout for him.
Silva simply has a lot of momentum to gain back, and considering the lofty standard to which he’s held, that may not come early or easily against Bisping. It’s on him to prove to us he still has that kind of magic that made him the most dominant fighter the UFC had ever seen.
1.) Silva’s Steroid Failures Make Him A Big Question Mark:
As discussed earlier, Silva’s injury and failure for steroids have put some doubt on the rest of the 40-year-old ‘Spider’s’ career.
He and his legal team put up an absolutely unprepared and bizarre explanation for why Silva was caught using PEDs in an NSAC hearing earlier this year, where Silva apparently accepted a blue sex enhancer from a friend in Thailand that resulted in him testing positive for steroids drostanolone and androstane.
While the real reasons Silva did use steroids will never be admitted, obviously admitting his mistake and asking forgiveness from the commission, UFC, and finally his fans would have gone a lot longer than putting up this kind of defense that held absolutely no weight in the hearing.
That, coupled with the fact that he had failed multiple drug tests, brought into question Silva’s entire reign of dominance.
While that’s all in the past and question marks won’t affect his ability to beat Bisping in a direct sense, it’s hard not to wonder if Silva felt it necessary to use banned substances because he needed a little extra, and fighters who feel that way usually think they no longer have what it takes to fight like they once did.
That’s a big reason why we may not see the dominant Silva of old against Bisping, and only time will tell if he can make one last run at the middleweight title.