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Legends Night at UFC 237

May 6, 2019 | Posted by Dan Plunkett
Anderson Silva UFC

Saturday’s UFC 237 card from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, leaves something to be desired. The main event, pitting strawweight champion Rose Namajunas against human wrecking ball Jessica Andrade is strong. As is a featured featherweight bout pitting rising star Alexander Volkanovski against former champion Jose Aldo. The rest of the card is barren of any must-see bouts, although the idea of seeing some familiar faces may entice some purchasers.

The most interesting part of the card is the age of some of its key participants, as four certified legends are slated to compete. Three of them are already past forty, and the fourth has stated his intention to retire this year. For all of them, save perhaps the 32-year-old Aldo, it will be among the final times we see them compete.

Anderson Silva, 44, has the largest legacy of the four. For a time, Silva would have been the popular choice for being the greatest fighter of all-time, but in a young sport that distinction isn’t meant to last. Today, he would be ranked somewhere in the three-to-five range.

He’s struggled to pick up wins over the past six years. There were the two Weidman fights, the second of which ended on a broken leg that kept him out of action for all of 2014. His January 2015 win against Nick Diaz was overturned due failed drug tests, which kept him out the rest of that year. Upon his return, he was outworked by Michael Bisping, and lost a wide decision to reigning light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Silva’s only win on the books since 2013 is a February 2017 victory over Derek Brunson, a decision that probably should have went the other way. This February, he fought commendably and excitingly against Israel Adesanya, but fell by decision.

Despite his age, Silva can still compete and hang in there. In brief spurts, he can even turn back the clock. But that is the best he is going to be going forward.

On Saturday, he fights Jared Cannonier, a 35-year-old that started as a heavyweight before finally landing at middleweight in his last bout. Considering the circumstances, it’s a well-matched fight. But it’s not much of an impactful fight. It’s not going to matter for Silva’s legacy, and it won’t shake up the division in any way. Apart from Aldo’s bout, this is the theme of Saturday’s legends bouts.

Antonio Rogerio “Minotoro” Nogueira, 42, has had a middling career in the UFC. He started as a contender, but soon fell a level below that. He’s 6-5 in the UFC, with his lone top-level win coming against Rashad Evans.

Nogueira made his name in Pride, where upon his debut his twin brother, Rodrigo “Minotauro,” was already the reigning heavyweight champion and considered the best heavyweight in the world. There, Rogerio defeated the likes of Guy Mezger, Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem (twice), and Dan Henderson. Perhaps his two most famous Pride bouts were losses. One of them, a 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix loss to Shogun Rua, used to be commonly brought up as one of the best fights in MMA history. The other still stands as one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, when the unheralded Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou knocked him out in 23 seconds.

Nogueira’s bout on Saturday is against the rangy Ryan Spann, who came in the UFC’s via Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Spann is 27 and has a chance to get a good win under his belt. Nogueira has the opportunity, perhaps the last of his career, to compete in front of his home crowd.

B.J. Penn has struggled inside the cage—and outside it according to media reports—for several years now. His last win came in November 2010 against Matt Hughes. Most of his losses after that have been dominant and devastating. Now he’s 40 with his fighting career lower than it’s ever been.

There is no reason for Penn to be fighting. Sure, he enjoys it and it probably gives him purpose, but guys shouldn’t be on the brink of losing seven consecutive fights in the UFC. This is the luxury—if you can be so generous to call it that—that Penn has been afforded due to his past accomplishments and stardom.

He was once the best lightweight in the world, once beat the best welterweight in the world, and for a time many thought he could end up as the best to ever do it. Now he’s fighting Clay Guida in a master’s bout on Saturday with nothing to gain and perhaps even worse, nothing left to lose.

Jose Aldo stands alone among the other legends on this card. His fight has significant meaning, and not just to his opponent that can make his name by taking out the former longtime featherweight champion.

Alexander Volkanovski is 19-1, winning all of his last 16 bouts. In December, he took out Chad Mendes in a fight that signaled his arrival as an elite featherweight. The Aldo matchup can put him next in line for a title shot, or the Brazilian great can knock him back down a rung.

Aldo has had a phenomenal career, but his definitive losses to Max Holloway signaled the end of his run at the top of the division. Even in the aftermath of those losses, he’s knocked off contenders in Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano. For Aldo to keep knocking off contenders after losing his title adds to his legacy as the greatest featherweight of all-time. Continuing that and beating someone like Volkanovski would be a major feather in Aldo’s cap.

Dan Plunkett has covered MMA for 411Mania since 2008. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Dan_Plunkett.

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Anderson Silva, UFC 237, Dan Plunkett