I’m a fan of Anderson Silva, but in order to protect myself I have decided every time I write that I will be adding an asterisk. I don’t know why, but I go back and forth on Silva more than any other fighter past or present. It really makes no sense if I am basing it purely on skill and success. Silva has a record of 30-4 (17 KO’s) and has won an amazing 14 straight fights. I remember the first time I saw “Spider”; it was just over 5 years ago when he destroyed the always tough Chris Leben in less than a round.
I love Leben, but you knew it was going to be a long night before they had rung the bell. Leben looked like a boy fighting a man, and Silva treated him like a kid giving him a brutal beating leaving “The Crippler” dazed, confused and face down on the mat.
I made a lot of money off friends who thought Rich Franklin would cruise by Silva in the first of their two match-ups. Like the Leben fight, the result was as brutal as it was fast. Who can forget the look in Franklin’s eyes as Silva locked in that Muay Thai clinch just before the end. Franklin looked like a guy who knew he was done even before Silva landed the series of crushing knees that broke Franklin’s nose and gave Silva the middleweight championship.
The result was almost identical a year later when Silva again used his knees to TKO Franklin. As a Franklin fan it was tough to see a guy who had done so well in his other fights, look so over matched against Silva.
Unless you were a total idiot, you knew you were watching a star in Silva*. The way he was walking through some of the toughest guys in the UFC while never breaking a sweat or appearing to be in trouble was unlike anything we were used to seeing.
Somewhere along the line Silva’s image changed. Maybe it’s just typical of sports fans where we build somebody up for the chance to tear them down, but I’m not sure that was the case with Silva. The easy smile seemed arrogant and phony, and we felt justified in feeling that way after the champ showed a total lack of respect for Damian Maia. “See! That is the real Silva! A jerk disrespectful of his opponents, that’s not what MMA is supposed to be!” Dana White said he was ready to fire Silva belt or no belt based on what he had seen, a lot of fans had seen enough and jumped off the Silva bandwagon. Hence the asterisk.
I won’t say I jumped too, but I’d be crazy to say I wasn’t ready. Then came his fight with Chael Sonnen. A fight in which Silva was being dominated for four and a half rounds before finding the smallest of openings to lock in a triangle arm-bar and steal the victory. It was an amazing fight with one of the greatest endings I have ever seen.
Next was a title defense against another of my favorite fighters Vitor Belfort. I couldn’t wait to see this fight, and I wondered which Silva would show up. I got my answer 3:25 into the first round when Silva used an amazing front kick to end the night. “What the hell was that?” I remember screaming like an idiot as a bunch of us watched the fight in the Clinch Gear offices. When Silva gave credit to Steven Seagal in his post fight interview I was a fan again *. I felt like we were back watching the wrecking machine of 2006 and felt dumb for questioning his heart.
Has “The Spider” changed his attitude? Did Dana White’s threat (real or not) shake Silva out of his funk? Was the idea of a super-fight with George St Pierre enough to get him back on track? Who knows. What I do know is his last two performances have been excellent and when you consider he is fighting the last man to beat him in Yushin Okami, it’s safe to expect more of the same……isn’t it?
If Silva beat Okami Saturday night in Rio, he could finally meet St Pierre (assuming GSP gets by Nick Diaz) or maybe he has a rematch with Dan Henderson who is riding a hot streak and appears headed back to the UFC. Either of those would be huge fights. Maybe he fights both. I know I am getting way ahead of myself, but if Silva were to win those fights, forget Liddell, Couture, Hughes and Penn, Anderson Silva would have to go down as the best to ever enter the octagon*.
Think of all the athletes you have watched over the years. If somebody is described as “good” that is pretty cool. Who wouldn’t want to be known as “a good NFL or NBA player”? Now think of all the players who have earned the right to be called “great”. It’s a much smaller group and again one that any of us would love to be a part of. Anderson Silva is a great fighter.
Now I say this assuming we see the same Silva we saw in the Franklin and Belfort fights. If he comes out and sleep walks to an easy decision win over Okami I’ll be back here ripping him a week from now. Derek Jeter can strike out three times, but if he hits a sac fly to win the game Yankee fans won’t shut up. A-Rod hits a two run homer in the first and they complain that he can’t do it in the clutch.
Same rules apply to Silva. We have grown to expect so much from him, that anything less than awesome just isn’t good enough. I have no doubt after he has retired, Silva will be remembered as one of the best to ever put on the gloves. What happens between now and then will be interesting to watch.