You really don't need to look further than the style matchup generated by Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin to get excited by their August fight. But if you did, it's not difficult to find scenarios that make Silva-Griffin meaningful beyond the mere potential of a great fight.
Before we go there: Who's going to win?
Silva's the better striker. We know this. He's accurate to the point of a pin. While he may not be a wrestler by trade, the Brazilian isn't one to go to his back without some effort. And on the off chance he needs to fight on the ground, his long limbs, sharp elbows and black belt in jiu-jitsu make the whole experience rather unappealing.
But Griffin is hardly a slouch. A fairly successful striking game melded with an inconsistent defense has been the recipe for many wars featuring one of the UFC's most popular stars. He isn't going to out-technique Silva, yet it's hard to imagine Griffin being overwhelmed by much of anything. And playing it smart on the canvas has been a key to his success, even if defense in the guard has failed him from time to time.
A noteworthy intangible: Silva will step into the cage the smaller fighter, making this a real test of his pound-for-pound status. How the UFC's middleweight champion copes with facing someone who could easily fight in shape at 225 pounds will be worth paying attention to. And though Thales Leites mentally handed his fight to Silva on the Friday before their bout in Montreal (he gave ground to Silva during the weigh-ins and seemed to signal then that he was incapable of handling the moment), don't expect Griffin to be intimidated in any way by Silva's skills, championships, or resume.
It all adds up to a compelling fight, which I like Silva to win. Skipping the 20-pound weight cut he needs to reach the middleweight limit should enhance his power, and Griffin isn't enough of a wrestler to threaten Silva with a prolonged stint on the canvas. At some point, I like the Brazilian champion to catch Griffin and put him away.
Regardless of the outcome, there will be important storylines that emerge because of this fight:
At the moment, it's hard to gauge just how much damage Silva inflicted on his career with consecutive performances that left media critical and fans perplexed. If he manages a snoozer against Griffin -- no easy feat -- the reputation that he's avoiding engagement to secure safe wins will have been cemented. That doesn't mean he needs to go out guns blazing. There just needs to be a real effort on Silva's part to hurt Griffin and finish the fight.
It's not easy to imagine a UFC lightweight title fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian, which headlines UFC 101 in Philadelphia, extricating itself from the giant shadow suddenly cast by Silva-Griffin. Yet, it will have to if the lightweights want to generate significant headlines prior to the UFC's foray into Pennsylvania.
Yes. The only way the UFC gets hurt by this fight is if its middleweight champ comes out with another disappointing effort.
Tons of factors here, but Silva and his camp are on record saying they want the most challenging, big-money fights the UFC can provide for the last four bouts on his contract, which he has repeatedly said could be his last in MMA.
We already know about Griffin. And it seems no matter what the result is on Aug. 8, Silva will return to middleweight to defend against either Nate Marquardt or Demian Maia.
Here is where it gets interesting.
A win over Griffin, and a loss by Lyoto Machida to UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans on May 23, sets up some seriously intriguing fights at 205. It's conceivable that a win over Griffin, a former UFC champion in his own right, would be enough to land Silva a shot at Evans. If it is enough, and he ends up defeating Evans, that would make Silva the first major three-division champion in MMA history.
Silva began his career at a slender 167 pounds. In fact, after winning the Shooto title in 2001 over Hayato Sakurai, Silva was supposed to come to the UFC and fight Matt Hughes. That didn't happen, Silva started campaigning at middleweight and the rest is history.
The big carrot, of course, is Georges St. Pierre. If the popular welterweight champion disposes of Thiago Alves in July, a blockbuster catch-weight fight between he and "The Spider" would seem to be an appropriate way to close out his contract.
A win for Griffin would make two victories against men who were arguably No. 1 pound-for-pound at the time (Mauricio "Shogun" Rua being the other), confirm his status as a big-money draw, and set him up to immediately reenter the title picture at light heavyweight. Let's not forget how much fans love Griffin, who to this day drives the same Scion he won for defeating Stephan Bonnar on the season finale for the first The Ultimate Fighter.
YOUR PICK:Who will win this UFC 101 bout?