Anderson Silva’s Legacy is on the Line
The Big Cheese himself Scott Sawitz outlined his thoughts on why regardless of the result Anderson Silva’s legacy is secure. And the reality is that he’s right, 16-1 is just like 17-0, it’s a standard that no fighter will ever surpass within the Octagon. But a defeat at the hands of Chris Weidman would in most people’s mind raise a far bigger question mark against the champion’s legacy than a mere defeat.
Middleweight has long been my favourite division. Partly that’s intrinsic to the weight class. Much like welterweight in boxing, it’s at that perfect point where the fighters have near enough the power of the heavier boxers without losing too much of the technique or conditioning of the lighter ones. Unlike heavyweights you can still expect regular all-out wars that go the distance but without sacrificing the possibility of knockouts as in the lighter weight classes.
However, more than that the UFC’s middleweight division has long had the broadest range of fighting styles. Whereas in other divisions’ whether a wrestler decides to stand and bang or go for the takedown is the extent of the tactical diversity in middleweight there’s a genuinely broad range of fighting styles. Look at who’s Silva’s defended his title against:
- A highly-regarded Judoka (Yushin Okami)
- A Greco-Roman Olympic team alternate (Chael Sonnen) … twice
- A two-time Greco-Roman Wrestling Olympic team member (Dan Henderson)
- A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion (Demian Maia)
- Numerous high level black belts in BJJ (Thales Leites, Travis Lutter)
- A former UFC light heavyweight champion who made his debut in the NHB days (Vitor Belfort)
- Whatever Patrick Cote gets qualified as these days
No other division could boast such a wide-range of styles, and that’s what makes middleweight such a welcome antidote to an increasingly homogeneous UFC.
But too many people are wedded to the idea that wrestling is the be all and end all of mixed martial arts. Anderson Silva feeds that by the fact that his victories against wrestlers tend to come not from sprawl and brawl but by fall and submit. Despite his sky-high takedown defense rate of 81% and the failure of any wrestler to even take him to the distance the idea that he’s no better than a stuck pig against a NCAA veteran endures. And this myth has fed the accusation that Silva has stayed at 185Ibs to avoid having to face the bigger, stronger wrestlers that rule the roost at 205Ibs. If Weidman defeats Silva it will fuel the narrative that Silva’s streak was secured on the basis of settling for a division where wrestlers were thin on the ground. Conversely if Silva manages to defeat Weidman it’ll confirm the argument of those of us who think that Silva would’ve have dominated light heavyweights just as he did middleweights if he had ever chosen to move up in weight.
Anderson Silva Shouldn’t Fight the Wrong Jones
Talking to the press on Thursday Dana White dropped the bombshell that not only is Anderson Silva still grinding on facer sure-fire future boxing Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr. but that he had flown his ‘friend’ Jones Jr. to Vegas to discuss the possibility of making that fight.
Words cannot convey what a terrible idea this is.
Roy Jones Jr. is beyond being simply a shot fighter. The last time I saw him fight was in 2011 where he put in a slovenly, limited performance against rudimentary Russian light heavyweight Dennis Lebedev. Anyone who has heard his commentary on HBO can tell that the guy is punch drunk. For a promoter that has made such a fuss about his own ageing legends needing to retire to put another sport’s punch drunk icon in against his best fighter is taking promotional politics too far.
More than that, the risk reward ratio is all wrong. Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter MMA has ever known and even at thirty-eight years old still one of the three best fighters in the sport today. Not only has Roy Jones Jr. never meant as much to his sport as Silva does to MMA but today he’s a befuddled and bankrupt joke. I think Silva would manage to knock him out in a boxing match but what happens if he doesn’t? As good a MMA striker as Silva is previous flirtations with boxing were unsatisfying enough to the point where one couldn’t rule out Jones Jr. grinding out a victory. If Silva wins the UFC proves nothing but if Jones Jr. wins then they hand a nuclear bomb’s worth of ammunition to their pugilistic adversaries.
What Happens If Anderson Silva Wins?
Per Dana White we know what happens if Chris Weidman ‘shocks the world’, we get an instant rematch between him and the champion he wasn’t meant to beat. Because that attitude worked so well for the lightweight division when the UFC matchmakers reacted to BJ Penn losing to Frankie Edgar by rubbing their eyes, shaking their head and decrying “say it ain’t so”.
But that begs the question, what happens if (as expected) Anderson Silva successfully retains his world middleweight title? The obvious candidate for the title shot is Vitor Belfort. As TFI Fighting! has previously explained he’s clearly been positioned for a title shot by recent UFC matchmaking and he’s by far the most marketable opponent for Silva. But White made clear that he doubts he can convince Silva to accept the match after he knocked out his fellow Brazilian so decisively. And he’s right, Silva has made it more than clear that he likes rematches even less than the average brain-damaged Sherdog forum poster.
So where does that leave a victorious Anderson Silva? There’s no one else in the division that could step up to face him. Look at the UFC Top Five; Both Michael Bisping is trying to rebuild himself after being knocked out by Vitor Belfort. Hector Lombard is shop-worn after twice within the Octagon, Yushin Okami has already been destroyed by Silva on a low-selling pay per view while Jacare Souza is both a teammate of the champion and unproven against top competition.
So if the UFC cannot convince Silva to make the Brazilian Fight of the Century II then it’s clear that the middleweight division will have to call in a favour from the light heavyweight division that has plundered its roster for the last two title challengers at 205Ibs. White himself raised the possibility of Dan Henderson challenging Anderson Silva but to me Rashad Evans is the obvious candidate. Defeating Henderson doesn’t change the fact that he’s still miles off the pace when it comes to the light heavyweight title picture following his comprehensive defeat at the hands of Jon Jones. He’s also small enough to easily move down to 185Ibs. Anderson Silva vs. Rashad Evans was the direction they were moving towards before Little Nog got in the way and it makes perfect sense they’ll resurrect the idea if Chris Weidman doesn’t get in the way.