Normally I don’t engage in speculation of “fight fixing” and the like because it’s generally the stuff of internet forums from the mouth breathing, low information voting, pro-wrestling loving types. Does it happen in combat sports? Of course it does; only an idiot would believe that combat sport is immune from the corruption of sport, proper. And with Chris Weidman’s devastating knockout of Anderson Silva has come speculation that the fight was somehow fixed. SI/Now managed to take that conversation to an absurdly low area. The fact that Sports Illustrated has fairly reputable MMA journalists on staff and didn’t bother bringing them in tells you everything you really need to know about this segment to start with.
I understand why people want to talk about being a fix. When our eyes see something that our heart determines to not ring true, like walking in a loving spouse in the embrace of someone else, we want to create an alternative reality to it all. We don’t want to believe the woman you called a wife, the man you called a spouse, would do something despicable and hurtful in the same way we don’t want to want to admit that perhaps the greatest fighter who ever lived could get caught and finished in dominant, decisive fashion.
We don’t want to accept what our eyes have just seen as real because we don’t want to admit the truth of the world. The truth is that Anderson Silva is on his way out of MMA, that this is the beginning of the end. There’s an eventuality in every sport that holds true: everyone grows old and fades. We don’t want to admit that Anderson Silva, who seemed immune to aging and slowing down, was finally caught by someone who was just better than he was. We don’t want to look at the fact that Weidman threw a perfect combination, something Silva wasn’t expecting, and landing a full power shot flush that finally damaged the champ.
Jack Slack from B/R broke it down in spectacular fashion, of course, and it’s illuminating in a lot of ways. The key to it is that some people want to think he somehow let himself get knocked out, if only because they don’t want to admit that Silva was going to wind up losing at some point.
No one expected it to be so quick … and violent. Anderson losing was supposed to be drawn out and epic, like the first fight against Chael Sonnen but without the big comeback at the end. He was supposed to go out on his shield in epic fashion to someone like Georges St. Pierre or Jon Jones in a super fight for the ages, not in just another title defense. The narrative was being written for him to be this legendary figure in the middleweight division, never having lost the title and never having been in danger. He was dominance, personified, and the story people wanted to write was of Weidman being just another fighter for him to finish.
The knockout was jarring and unexpected, the way reality truly is, and in the way children do many folks have tried to rewrite what did happen with what they wanted to happen so that they could maintain their perception of Silva on his pedestal.
It’s the same way in which people still speculate that Fabricio Werdum was given a submission win over the near god-like Fedor Emelianenko because the Russian didn’t want the strain of being undefeated anymore. He only lost to Werdum because he wanted to, or at least that’s what some have said over the years. He was perceived as being on such a high level that someone like Werdum was supposed to be another easy win. He couldn’t have lost, some have said, unless he wanted to. The reality is that it cost him a potentially larger UFC payday down the road if he’d remained undefeated, of course, and a win would give M-1 continued leverage in negotiations. Werdum caught him, pure and simple, but sometimes reality doesn’t match up to what want reality to be.
Reality and perception are two different things, of course, and that’s what UFC 162 ultimately is: Reality colliding with our perception of it.
The perception of Silva is that of this undefeatable being created for combat, a man without a contemporary, without ever having thought that he could be defeated. The only way you can beat him is to hold him down and not fight, doing just enough to score points but never really winning in the traditional, dominant sense of the word.
People are willing to scream that Silva threw the fight for whatever reason despite seeing him go unconscious from Weidman’s striking, unwilling or unable to admit that being knocked out in awful fashion isn’t something you can fake. Or something you’d want to do, either. His hubris caught up with him, however you want to call it, but on Saturday night he wasn’t the better fighter. It’s something that hadn’t happened in his UFC career and one can imagine it’s hard to accept.
The reality is that time waits for no man and Silva finally had it catch up to him like it does with so many other fighters. Fedor got caught in a triangle because Werdum took advantage of his over-aggressiveness early; Werdum’s exceptionally high level of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu allowed him to see the finish well before anyone else did. In a similar fashion Weidman took advantage of Silva by honing up on his boxing, waiting for the right time to use it. This wasn’t Silva throwing the fight for any number of reasons, most of them not passing the sniff test at a minimum; this was a fighter who had prepped for Silva for long enough to find himself in a perfect moment to pull off the impossible. And that’s exactly what happened.
This was the MMA equivalent of Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov, of a fighter who designed his entire game and career for one moment to pull the trigger and topple the king.