Looking at Anderson Silva’s Place In Today’s UFC
This past Saturday at UFC 208 in Brooklyn, the 41-year-old Anderson Silva was able to best his 33-year-old opponent Derek Brunson in a hotly debated decision. Despite an MMA career that has spanned two decades, Silva is still able to co-headline pay-per-view cards and go toe-to-toe with top ranked middleweights. While his victory was questioned by many, including his own boss Dana White, the fact remains that Silva was able to pick up his first official victory in 5 years (a decision victory over Nick Diaz in 2015 was overruled to a No Contest because of Silva failed his drug test). Silva had been on the losing side of his 4 other bouts since his last win including two brutal stoppages against Chris Weidman for the middleweight title and two decision losses last year to current middleweight champion Michael Bisping and current Light-Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (that fight was on short notice and Silva fought at a weight class higher than his usual 185 lbs).
Silva was on a tough run before Saturday’s victory but in reality Silva had been facing some of the best competition in the sport at the two weight classes he has competed in. His losses to Weidman were two shockers and the latter defeat came about because of a freak leg injury that occurred when Weidman checked a Silva leg kick. The Bisping decision was a close one and the loss to Cormier was forgivable considering the fact that he stepped in on a few days notice as a favor to Dana White to salvage the massive UFC 200 card after Jon Jones was forced off due to a failed drug test.
“The Spider” is now coming off of a win and despite the fact that he is no longer the consensus top pound-for-pound fighter in the world he is still a viable contender in the middleweight division. For his doubters that say he is no longer the Knockout machine of old, you are right. Silva has gone to a decision his past four fights and before that he himself was stopped. But that Silva of old was considered the greatest of all time. A leg injury and several years off (he fought once in 2014 and 2015) takes its toll on a fighter. Father time catches up with everyone. But Silva still has fight left in him as evidenced by his scrap with Brunson. Not many fighters would have survived that flurry Brunson unleashed as Silva was looking to clinch the Jackson MMA product in round one. Silva not only survived, but arguably took the next two rounds as well.
Silva is an MMA legend that can still sell PPV’s and that is arguably more important than being a top-ranked fighter. That is why Holly Holm, the original Ronda Rousey slayer, was booked in a title fight in the main event of UFC 208 despite coming off of two losses. With Connor McGregor angling for a boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather and Ronda Rousey all but done in the sport, the UFC needs marketable stars to keep it afloat in 2017. What better story is there than the return of one of the most celebrated knockout artists the sport has ever seen?
The doubters will probably then point out that Silva is washed up and can not beat the top contenders in the middleweight division. If you look at who is ahead of Silva, a case can be made that he CAN hang with the 185 lb elite. The champion Michael Bisping is someone that Silva has stood toe to toe with and almost came out victorious. Their main event fight on Bisping’s home turf in London, England won fight of the night and a rematch holds marketability and intrigue. Regardless of whether he deserves the rematch, or a fight with Bisping’s likely next opponent Yoel Romero should he win, remember that the UFC doesn’t always operate based on someone’s merits.
Maybe Silva needs one more fight against a middleweight contender to earn a shot. Jacare is a dangerous fight for anyone, let alone an aging fighter with multiple injuries over the years, but Jacare more than likely will (or at least should) wait for the winner of Bisping-Romero. Elsewhere, a matchup with Luke Rockhold would make sense, although the UFC typically prefers booking fights between guys both coming off of wins or both coming off of losses. So perhaps a Brunson-Rockhold fight makes more sense.
That leaves Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman as the other two viable opponents. The winner of this fight against Silva can make plenty of sense for a title eliminator fight and would move the proverbial pay-per-view needle. Silva-Mousasi was always the biggest dream fight when Silva was piling up victories during his record 16 fight win-streak and Mousasi was building up his reputation as a member of Strikeforce and DREAM. Meanwhile, a redemption fight against Weidman can provide Silva with the opportunity to avenge his most crushing defeats.
If one last shot at the UFC Middleweight title isn’ Silva and the UFC’s goal considering how far back he theoretically is in the rankings (although Dan Henderson was outside the top 10 when he was given a shot last November) he could always partake in big money fights. The most intriguing fight will always be a showdown with Georges St-Pierre but who knows if GSP and the UFC will ever work anything out. Otherwise Silva can step up to 205 and battle with any big name fighter that would bring him a big paycheck and the UFC a good buy-rate. Silva has stated he is interested in money-fights so any range of opponents from Shogun Rua to Jon Jones to even Fedor (a major long-shot considering the Russian’s tepid negotiations with the UFC) wouldn’t be out of the cards for the Spider.
Either way Silva has a place in the UFC middleweight division, and if he wants, the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. The UFC is in no position to force out arguably the greatest fighter to put on a pair of gloves. We shall see whats next for the legend.
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