Silva -- the dominant 33-year-old middleweight champion of the UFC -- performed with equal parts skill, brutality and showmanship in 2008, winning each of his three fights to set himself apart from peers for the second-consecutive year. He is the most explosive talent in the most explosive sport and my nomination for Sportsman of the Year.
All arms and legs, the slender 6-foot-2 Brazilian conflates precision with power, agility with aggression. In March he beat
Henderson, an Olympic wrestler who adapted to become one of MMA's best, brought out Silva's greatness and showed just how destructive the champion can be when properly motivated. After ceding his only round in UFC competition, Silva came back to pummel the American. The victory validated Silva as the best middleweight in MMA and affirmed his place atop most pound-for-pound rankings. However, therein lies the problem for The Spider, who has said he plans on retiring by the age of 35. Without challenges, will he get bored?
Against Irvin, the UFC asked Silva (23-4) on a month's notice to bulk up 20 pounds and fight at light heavyweight. He did so with the riches of a new six-fight contract spurring him. Facing Cote, Silva danced more than he fought, and took criticism for not dutifully destroying another challenger as expectations demanded. (Cote succumbed to a knee injury in the third round, upon which he rejoiced for having lasted that long.)
Whether it was an unsuccessful attempt to box
The next time Silva is called upon, which won't be this year unless White rings unexpectedly, could make nine-consecutive wins inside the Octagon, besting the record held by legend