His slow start against Chael Sonnen. His fast finish. His next step. His lasting legacy.
Anderson Silva sure is on people's minds.
He always has been, I suppose, at least since he began reeling off victories -- he's at 16 straight and counting -- upon arriving in the UFC six years ago. But in so many of those trips inside the octagon the middleweight champion appeared to be bored with his job, and fans seemed no more enthusiastic. What was there to say about a man who, while showing enough flashes of grace and marksmanship to win fight after fight, at times seemed to be a prisoner of the cage? Where was the
Silva found it in the days prior to UFC 148. Sonnen's nonstop barrage of nastiness finally got to "The Spider," and his stoic demeanor burst into flames. I thought Anderson's uncharacteristic pre-fight explosions would haunt him, my theory being that his quiet manner had always served him well in the octagon, and maybe carrying so much venom inside would poison him. Maybe he wouldn't be the same fighter.
So much for that hypothesis. Silva withstood the best that Sonnen could dish out in the first round a couple of weekends ago, then took him out swiftly and violently in the second.
And we were on to the next frontier waiting to be conquered. Or not. Maybe there's a superfight in Silva's future, or maybe we'll have to settle for seeing his super skills on display against the best that the 185-pound weight class has to offer. Whatever the future holds, fans are on board. If the UFC 148 main event drove anything home for the fight-game public, it's that we're witnessing someone special at work. Someone to talk about.
Readers have had much to say about Silva on all fronts, from the Sonnen fights to the proposed (dreamed about?) superfight with Jon Jones. Emails and tweets have been pouring in ever since fight night, most of them getting into Silva's business. Let's start with a nice one:
I am printing your kind note, Aric, not to give myself a pat on the back but simply to prove to myself that MMA fans do have a sense of humor. I was having my doubts shortly after "A Viewers' Guide to UFC 148" was published. The format for those preview pieces includes a "Fighting Words" section, where I feature any trash talk that the main eventers might have exchanged. But with Chael Sonnen having basically backed a garbage truck into Anderson Silva's driveway and dumped a smelly pile of trash into the champ's yard every day for months, and with Silva having finally put away the stoic mask and responded with the most biting venom I could remember, I was on trash talk overload. We'd heard it all, over and over and over. Did we need to hear it again? So under the "Fighting Words" headline I wrote, "Sorry, folks, we have nothing to offer you, as these two gentlemen have spoken of each other with nothing but the utmost respect." I thought that was funny. Not everyone agreed.
Yes, Jack, it's true. Ben Fowlkes did pick Chael, as did some other writer whose name slips my mind at the moment. And then there was this omission ...
Fair point, Kyle, one also made by several other readers, most of whom were not as civil -- and creative -- in expressing their feelings about Sonnen and his 2010 suspension for not properly disclosing his testosterone replacement therapy. I did mention that situation in some of my pre-fight stories, but it should have found a way into my main fight preview. That oversight should prove that I am not on a performance enhancing drug.
Well, if Steven Seagal said it, it must be true ... if by "true" we mean "self-serving bull." I feel comfortable being so frank with you because I get the feeling that you had your tongue planted firmly in your cheek with the "sensei" reference. You did, didn't you? Hello?
True, there's no
I understand what you're saying, Rob, but I don't agree. (Go ahead, call me stupid.) If Silva and Jones stepped into the octagon together, I have no doubt that their competitiveness would take over and they'd put it all on the line. I'd love to see them go at it.
I don't feel comfortable calling Silva and Jones "great men" simply because they've declined to fight each other. They have their reasons, and I respect that. But I don't see greatness being any part of their decision. Let them fight and donate to charity the millions of dollars the bout would generate, and then I'd call them great.
Jones pretty much confirmed your theory, Joel, when he spoke about a concern over sponsorships being a factor in his decision not to pursue a Silva fight. I will say this: Silva is surely in the discussion when assessing who's the greatest of all time, and yes, avoiding a slip-up against Jones would keep him in the discussion. But if he were to beat Jones, that'd be the end of the discussion. The mountaintop would be all his.
I think you basically did call Silva a coward, Hilario. Or maybe a bully, for picking on someone smaller than him. And all the facts you laid out are true. But I take no issue with him declining to pack on extra pounds to challenge the light heavyweight champion while at the same time welcoming the welterweight belt holder to come up to meet him if he so chooses.
Let's get it on. (Hope I didn't just violate a "Big" John McCarthy trademark.)
I don't think this is the time or place for a greatest-of-all-time debate, but as I said before, Silva's 16 straight victories are enough to qualify him for the discussion. Another selling point for Anderson: He hasn't been diminished in fans' eyes, as Emelianenko was in his final fights. Just as my lingering remembrance of the great Willie Mays is of him stumbling around the Mets outfield in his final days, it is difficult to set aside Fedor's career-ending doldrums -- three straight losses, followed by three money-grab wins over irrelevant opponents.
I don't know if adding Strikeforce talent is the solution for the UFC. But maybe a reversal of that feeder flow would work. Know where I got that idea? I got it from where all good ideas come: from one of you guys. Read on:
That sounds like so sensible a plan that it'll probably never happen. At this point, Strikeforce seems to have no direction. How are we supposed to look at a guy like Gilbert Melendez, for instance? He's considered one of the best lightweights in the world -- Nate Diaz, his training partner and the UFC's No. 2 contender behind Frankie Edgar, says Gil is
The UFC is not only the sanctioning body that awards championship belts but also the promoter that makes money by making fights that will sell. To the credit of Dana White & Co., that conflict of interest actually doesn't derail the fight-game meritocracy as much as it potentially could. For the most part, the UFC gets it right.
On that note, I do have to put in a good word for Urijah. It's true that he's lost four of his last nine fights, but look at his conquerors' names: They've all been champions.
You're clearly a history buff, Patrick, so you'll surely appreciate this little-known fact: Greg Jackson's great-great-grandfather was in Gentleman Jim's corner that night.