A lot has been made in the last few days about Anderson Silva’s legacy. There is a minority i.e. not bright group of people that have said that he hasn’t faced world-class competition or some stupid shit.
He’s had 16 fights in the UFC and gone 15 – 1. In a sport where only one of two men can win, that’s ridiculous. Given how much the sport has evolved since 2006, it’s even more so.
In 2006, Silva debuted. He beat the shit out of Chris Leben. He had 100% striking accuracy en route to being the first fighter to ever finish Leben who was 15 – 1 at that point in his career. Not exactly a total rookie. To retroactively take that away from Silva is ridiculous.
Next up, he dismantled Rich Franklin. He beat him up so bad that if you didn’t know any better you might think that Franklin was a complete rookie. Franklin was 22 – 1 at the time with his only loss being to Lyoto Machida at 214 pounds.
When the two fought again, Franklin counted himself lucky that he had made it to the second round.
The Ultimate Fighter 4 set up two match ups that looked like mismatches to most. Georges St-Pierre was to face talented but undersized Matt Serra. Silva would face Travis Lutter, an experienced wrestler and BJJ black belt who just hadn’t put it all together for a sustained period of time.
At UFC 69, Matt Serra shocked the world and knocked GSP out to claim the gold. It’s one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport and Vegas lost a ton of money on the fight.
The same cannot be said for Silva/Lutter. Firstly, Lutter missed weight. He looked like a corpse on the scale and the fight was changed to a non-title three-round fight. Lutter actually dominated the fight in round one. He got an early takedown and fucked Silva up something fierce. He got full mount and was dropping some bombs before the round ended. Silva however, for the first time in his UFC career showed that he could come back from adversity. After a badly gassed Lutter got the takedown again in round two, Silva locked on a triangle and as Lutter defended, he extracted the tap with a series of hard elbows to the head. His first submission win in the UFC.
Next up was Nate Marquardt. 4:50 is all it took to get in and out of the cage. Silva hit a lightning-fast switch off Nate’s double and pounded the shit out of him with terrifying accuracy.
After Pride folded, we were treated to a few champion v champion matches. In the first, an undersized Dan Henderson lost his 205lb title in an incredible five-round war with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in London. Henderson next faced Anderson Silva to unify the middleweight championship.
As Silva had only ever been beaten by submission and no one had outstruck him in a UFC bout, everyone had the same idea: Take him down, grind him out and work for a decision or a submission. Hendo was the most accomplished wrestler Silva had ever faced. If anyone could put him on his back, it was Dan. And put him on his back, he did. For one round Dan pounded, and pounded on Silva, hitting him harder than he had ever been hit in his UFC tenure. Hendo gassed himself out though and fatigue makes cowards of us all. The fight have us this image and that’s good enough for me.
When Affliction launched their first of two shows, UFC put on a hastily booked fight night to go head to head. They lined Silva up with a gimme appointed to basically say “Hey, we’ve got the best fighter of all time here! Fuck that Russian lad.” It did not work and the majority of media went to the Honda Centre to watch Fedor molest fat Tim Sylvia. Silva sill had a job to do. He went out and beat the fuck out of James Irvin in an uncomfortable manner in about a minute. Also, this was his first fight at light-heavyweight. He looked no different physically and was still lightning fast.
The middleweight scene around this time was pretty miserable. As of September 2008, the only Zuffa middleweights that Silva had yet to face were NUMBER TWO RANKED Paulo Filho (I know, amazing right?), Yushin Okami and Thales Leites.
Okami had lost his shot at Silva due to a hand injury and the only guy, THE ONLY GUY, that could fill his shoes was Patrick Cote. In my mind, he is the dirt worst middleweight on this list. Irvin is the worst fighter though, I haven’t completely lost it.
In his fight with Cote at UFC 90, Silva showed us the first worrying glimpse in to how he treats fighters that he doesn’t respect. He toyed with Cote for two rounds, occasionally hitting him with brutal lek kicks before Cote fakers an injury in the 3rd. to get out of the fight. *
He did face Thales Leites in April 2009 and danced around for 25 minutes infuriating the fans. Two straight fights without a finish? What was this bullshit? The fans were not happy and sensing this, Dana White booked Silva v Forrest Griffin for August 2009 in Philadelphia for UFC 101.Forrest would not be afraid to press the action you see, it would force Silva to fight you see. It wouldn’t go on last but it was the clear main event.
Silva was booed unmercifully by the Philly fans, the most notorious sports fans in the world. It took just 3:23 to send Forrest running from the cage in sheer embarrassment. He made the former UFC light heavyweight champion look like an amateur. He looked like a different species of fighter and everyone was fucking psyched to see him fight again.
Enter Chael Sonnen. At UFC 109 in Febuary 2010, Sonnen just beat the fuck out of Nate Marquardt for fifteen minutes. He didn’t give him an inch of space and hammered him from the guard position. It was incredible. He was expected to have been Silva’s next challenger for the title but his cut was enough to preclude him from April’s card in Abu Dhabi, where the Fertittas has promised the new 10% owners of the UFC two title fights. Anderson had to fight someone. But everyone was booked solid. Demian Maia was 12 -1 but not considered a top contender. He had an awesome submission game but had been brutally sparked out by Marquardt at UFC 102 in August 2009.
Silva just treated him with pure distain for five rounds. He punched him in the thigh, danced away and taunted Maia who was trying and failing to get the takedown. Dana White refused to present Silva with the belt after the bell and according to reports, nearly fired him after the show.
Chael Sonnen meanwhile went on the pro wrestling comedy tour and for four months verbally destroyed Silva, the Nogueira brothers and Brazil in general. It was all to lead to an August 2010 clash, in the Honda Centre, Anaheim for the World Middleweight Title and the greatest 45 minutes of MMA television that I have ever witnessed.
To the surprise of almost everyone, Chael had turned Anderson good. He talked so much trash that the crowd actually sided with Silva, the man who made his title defences in 2008 and 2009 so unbearable. Also to the surprise of almost everyone, Sonnen dominated the fight. He took Silva down at will, beat him up, passed his guard and beat him up some more. He even knocked Silva down twice. With two minutes to go in the last round, leading 4 – 0 and 40 – 34 on one judges scorecard, Sonnen let his guard down. Silva locked on a beautiful triangle choke to finish the match. It was the best, most emotional fight I have ever seen and one I never though could be topped.
Silva was promoted by the UFC as the greatest pound for pound fighter in the world after this and who could prove him wrong? He had beaten everyone that they had put in front of him, cleared out the middleweight division and beaten the former champion at the weight above.
Silva next faced off against Vitor Belfort, a talented but emotionally unstable fighter who ofter lost matches before a bell ever rang. Belfort, by virtue of being married to an Brazillain supermodel was the bigger fighter and celebrity in Brazil and their fight was gigantic in Brazil, leading to a return to Brazil later in the year fir the company.
Silva knocked Belfort out in the fist round with a front kick to the face to take the throne as Brazil’s most famous fighter. He cemented it by finally beating longtime top contender Yushin Okami in Rio later in the year, this time in two rounds. Okami had been training his wrestling with Chael Sonnen in the hopes of emulating Sonnen’s near success but he couldn’t get out of the blocks.
Chael Sonnen tried his luck again eleven months later but was finished in the second round. Silva, once again looked untouchable.
After every fighter on the planet got injured in the UFC’s 2012 Summer From Hell, Anderson stepped up and offered to fight anybody for three rounds at short notice. Forrest Griffin’s Ultimate Fighter opponent, Stephan Bonnar took the bait and the stage was set. The whole promotion of the fight was once again “See the greatest fighter of all time lash someone out of it!”. Even advertising featuring Bonnar had him openly asking how he would beat Silva. This was less an event and more a spectacle. After many unsuccessful attempts by Bonnar to take Silva down, Silva put his back to the cage and dropped his hands. He evaded almost al of Bonnar’s punches, sent him spinning with a trip and fucking destroyed the poor lad with a perfectly placed knee to the chest. Another one bites the dust.
So, going back to my first point, Silva has defeated EVERYONE put up against him with the exemption of Weidman. Look at Fedor’s record. You don’t think that he beat up cans for money a couple times a year? GSP in the same time period lost to Matt Serra and beat Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields and DAN HARDY. It just so happens that you can’t fight everyone at the same fucking time. You can only fight the dude across the cage from you.
* Conjecture and opinion, your honour.