Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter on the planet, and in all likelihood the history of MMA. By the end of this article the common "reasons" to disagree with this statement will hopefully be disproved. For some reason people are almost programmed to hate greatness. Whether it is jealousy, or for no reason other than enjoying seeing others fail, something about greatness brings out the hate within people. Unfortunately this leads blindness from pure hate and prevents them from truly appreciating what is right before their eyes. I intend to break through this blind hate and disprove it with facts, not outlandish opinions. In order to streamline the process the article is divided up into common excuses from many who try to delegitimize Anderson's accomplishments.
"Anderson Silva is a pussy who should be fighting at light heavyweight but likes to duck real challengers" is probably the most overplayed, common, and completely asinine excuse that is used to delegitimize Anderson. Anderson Silva is NOT a huge light heavy weight. In fact, he isn't even a huge middleweight and has actually competed at 168 lbs before! People try to argue and make claims that he weighs 220 lbs, but can never acknowledge that this is his walk around, out of shape weight. This is similar to when Rampage is said to have gotten to almost 250 lbs during his time off from training, and this is actually common in MMA. It should also be well known that almost every fighter acknowledges to weighing more outside of camp, rather than in the middle of training. The concept is really not hard to grasp. But, here are hard numbers to show that Anderson is in fact not "a pussy" who cheats by cutting weight, nor is he a "coward", etc. etc. etc.
Anderson Silva - weighed 202 lbs at UFC 153 for his light heavyweight match against Stephan Bonnar, and it's highly doubt that he would cut weight below the 205 lbs mark for no reason other than "to do it".
Chael Sonnen - weighed 205 lbs the day before Silva vs. Sonnen II according to Mike Dolce who was managing Sonnen's weight. This required 20 lbs to be cut before the day of weigh ins and the process and details are documented.
Vitor Belfort - weighed 205lbs hours before his UFC 142 middleweight bout with Anthony Johnson, after weighing in at 186 lbs the day before (weigh ins). Also before UFC 152, Mike Dolce stated that the Monday before Belfort's light heavyweight fight with Jones, he would be between 210-212 pounds.
Those were to compare Anderson to past opponents, and other middleweights. Let's highlight a few of the other champions:
Jon Jones - Stated in an ESPN chat that he is 224 lbs in the months before Jones vs. Evans. Jones also says that if he were to fight at heavyweight, he would realistically fight at 240 lbs.
George St. Pierre - According to Firas Zahabi, GSP walks around at 194 lbs and was expected to weigh 192 or 193 lbs during his fight with Jake Shields.
Benson Henderson - According to head coach Jim Crouch, "Smooth" walks around at 175 lbs.
Jose Aldo - I couldn't find a hard number, but I did find a video of him struggling to make weight against Mark Hominick. In the video it is discussed how he must cut an additional 6.6 lbs from his normal weight cut. Also in the video he breaks down about his struggle with the weight and at one point tells his coach that he is done and will not cut anymore. It also shows a technique and cream used to help the weight cut that I've never seen before. It's really interesting stuff.
Dominick Cruz - In the video he states that he is 160 lbs outside of camp (@ 56 seconds) and 149 - 150lbs 5 days away from the fight.
Demetrious Johnson - Here I again failed to find a definitive number, but there is an article where "Mighty Mouse" attributes his poor 3rd round performance against Ian McCall (first fight) to a bad weight cut in his first experience with the 125 lbs division.
This shows that literally every other champion (barring Junior dos Santos) cuts weight to get in their respective class. Data was also provided that Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, and Chris Weidman (all middleweights!) have very similar weights compared to Anderson Silva's "walk around" weight.
"But...but...Silva has a bigger body frame!" is the next argument to usually be used.
This little table shows that in reality Silva is pretty evenly matched with his competing counterparts. These fighters were chosen based on their contender status, but middleweights under 6' was not that common. Kendall Grove was included because since his frame is "bigger" he should obviously be the best fighter and the middleweight champion based on the "logic" used to discredit Anderson.
This should disprove the "theory" of Anderson winning purely based on his size and there is no opinion about it. Silva is fighting people that are his size, and he definitely does belong in the middleweight division. Surely some people will still say "look at him next to Forrest" but that is purely an opinion that he "looks" large. If the claim of Silva being so much larger than all of his opponents is true, then there will surely be measurable data that can be used as your "eyes" don't count based on the numerous optical illusions that can deceive visual judgment.
The next claim to delegitimize Anderson Silva is that he isn't facing real competition and that middleweight is the weakest division. This question can be answered by the effects of greatness. Let's take a step back to analyze the light heavyweight division from roughly one to two years ago. The division was one of the most stacked in the UFC and the evenly matched competitors lead to a revolving door of champions that seemed would continue on forever. Not only was the belt regularly changing hands, but the fights were exciting and also had finishes. After the dominance of the "Iceman" had ended we saw the belt go from Rampage to Forrest to Rashad to Machida who eventually fell to Shogun. In addition to this great stable of fighters, there were rising stars in Jon Jones, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, etc. Then a new era of greatness began in the form of Jon Jones. After putting out the star of Ryan Bader, brutalizing Shogun, submitting Rampage, choking Machida out cold, and dominating a UD against Evans, the light heavyweight division has now been labeled "weak", "old", and "shallow". This is simply just not the case. The same fighters as before exist, they just are not on the level of the current champion and this creates the illusion of having a weak division. Anderson Silva has done that and more to the middleweight division.
Anderson's reign of dominance over the middleweight division has forced people to believe that the division is weak so that they can rationalize and reason his greatness. The division is in fact home to many great fighters and it would be considered a strong division if Silva were to retire. Fighters such as Bisping, Belcher, Okami, Weidman, Boetsch, Sonnen, Belfort, Lombard, Munoz, and Franklin would provide evenly matched battles where the belt would frequently change hands. Unfortunately this is just not apparent due to the gap in talent between Anderson and everyone else.
Just to point out the irony, it is also common for those who claim the light heavyweight division to be "weak" to demand that Anderson fight there for a "real" challenge. This then brings about the point of Anderson's recent opponents receiving title shots at light heavyweight. Vitor Belfort was labeled as an opponent who didn't deserve a title shot and was supposedly not a legitimate win for Silva who knocked him out in devastating fashion. Well, Belfort didn't get the memo that he is a "can" and came closer to defeating light heavyweight champ Jon Jones than any other fighter by locking in a deep armbar that has the latter in rehab, and out of action. Chael Sonnen has been booked to face Jones in April of 2013 for the light heavyweight title, and prior to his knee injury Dan Henderson was labeled the number 1 contender to Jones (all of these opponents Anderson has beat decisively).
After joining the UFC Anderson Silva has been an unprecedented 16 - 0 beating the following fighters: Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, James Irvin, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami, and Stephan Bonnar. His resume is impressive, despite what others try to disprove by stating that the middleweight division as a whole is weak. Maybe a case can be made that some of Silva's opponents have been weak, but the same thing can be said about every fighter's resume. Anderson Silva has been beating the best fighters the middleweight division has to offer and at this level winning 16 fights without a loss is extremely impressive regardless of the division, but let's take a closer look.
Overall Record: 29-8-0
Record Prior to Silva: 17-6-0
Streak Entering: Lost a light heavyweight title fight with Rampage, prior to that had beaten Wanderlei and Vitor in Pride.
Record After Silva: 7-1-0
Accomplishments: 1st fighter to simultaneously hold PRIDE Middleweight and Welterweight titles, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. Also US Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling team member.
Overall Record: 21-10-0
Record Prior to Silva: 19-8-0
Streak Entering: 5 fight win streak with final victory over Rich Franklin.
Record After Silva: 2-1-0 (Lost to Jon Jones at UFC 152)
Accomplishments: Won UFC 12 heavyweight tournament. Former UFC light heavyweight champion. Also as a side note he has faced 7 former UFC/PRIDE champions.
Overall Record: 27-7-0
Record Prior to Silva (UFC fight): 26-5-0
Streak Entering: 3 fight win streak, but having won 12 of his last 14. UFC record: 11-4-0
Record After Silva: 1-1-0
Accomplishments: Holds victories over Alan Belcher, Mike Swick, Mark Munoz, and Nate Marquardt.
Overall Record: 27-12-1
Record Prior to Silva (I): 25-10-1; (II): 27-11-1
Streak Entering: (I): 3 fight win streak and 5 out of 6 (II): 2 fight win streak
Record After Silva: (I): 2-1-0 (one loss coming to A. Silva); (II): 0-0-0
Accomplishments: 2x University National Champion. NCAA All-American. US Olympic Team alternate.
Overall Record: 19-7-0
Record Prior to Silva: 16-5-0
Streak Entering: 1 fight losing streak, but having won 3 of his last 4, including winning the light heavy weight title from Rampage.
Record After Silva: 3-1-0
Accomplishments: Former UFC light heavyweight champion. The Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner.
Overall Record: 15-8-0
Record Prior to Silva: 15-7-0
Streak Entering: 3 fight winning streak
Record After Silva: 0-0-0
Accomplishments: 2002 and 2004 Chicago Golden Gloves Super Heavyweight Champ.
Overall Record: 29-6-0
Record Prior to Silva: (I)22-1-0 ;(II) 24-2-0
Streak Entering: (I) 8 fight winning streak; (II) 2 fight winning streak
Record After Silva: (I) 2-0-0; (II) 5-3-0
Accomplishments: Former UFC middleweight champion. Former IFC light heavyweight champion.
Overall Record: 32-10-2
Record Prior to Silva: 25-6-2
Streak Entering: 6 fight win streak
Record After Silva: 7-3
Accomplishments: Multiple King of Pancrase accomplishments and current Strikeforce welterweight champion.
Overall Record: 22-8-0
Record Prior to Silva: 15-1-0
Streak Entering: 6 fight win streak
Record After Silva: 7-6-0
Accomplishments: Inaugural WEC middleweight champion.
Overall Record: 10-6-0
Record Prior to Silva: 9-3-0
Streak Entering: 3 fight winning streak
Record After Silva: 1-2-0
Accomplishments: Aside from his grappling credentials, there are not many to speak of.
Overall Record: 17-10-2
Record Prior to Silva: 14-4-1
Streak Entering: 2 fight win streak, and 5 out of his last 7.
Record After Silva: 3-5-1
Accomplishments: Former WEC heavyweight champion, vacated the belt to move to light heavyweight.
Overall Record: 20-4-0
Record Prior to Silva: 14-1-0
Streak Entering: 5 fight win streak
Record After Silva: 6-2-0
Accomplishments: Rumble on the Rock champion for MMA and various grappling accomplishments.
Overall Record: 17-8-0
Record Prior to Silva: 13-4-0
Streak Entering: 5 fight winning streak
Record After Silva: 4-3-0
Accomplishments: Former TKO and KOTC light heavyweight champion. Former MFC middleweight champion. No extremely impressive accomplishments.
Overall Record: 17-4-0
Record Prior to Silva: 12-1-0
Streak Entering: 1 fight winning streak, and 12 out of last 13.
Record After Silva: 5-2-0
Accomplishments: An INSANE amount of grappling accomplishments, but none that impressive in MMA.
Analyzing Anderson's UFC Opponents:
Combined overall Record: 302-108-5
Combined record Prior to Silva: 293-75-5
Average Streak Entering: 3.25 fight winning streak
Opponent Overall winning Percentage: 73.37%
Opponent Winning Percentage Prior to Silva: 79.22%
After analyzing the true numbers of Anderson's opponents, there does not seem to be any sign of "weak" opponents at all. Let's also list the former champions that he has beaten: Rich Franklin (2x), Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Forrest Griffin, Chris Leben (WEC), James Irvin (WEC), and Vitor Belfort. That is 7 previous champions on his resume that is supposedly filled with no "real" challengers.
The last point to address under this section is the supposed "ducking" of challengers. Anderson has fought the best guys in the division for years. There is not a single fighter that he has refused to fight and any hard proof on the contrary would be welcomed. People said that Anderson was "ducking" Henderson (Choked out in RD 2), he was scared of a Sonnen rematch (TKO in RD 2), and now he is supposedly scared of Weidman. If Weidman beats Boetsch and earns his title shot, Anderson will gladly fight him too. Anderson does not "pick and choose" his opponents, but he should have a say and opinion of who he fights. Nobody should be "forced" to fight whoever the UFC tells them to face, and there should always be other options. If Anderson is supposedly at fault for choosing opponents, then what is to be said about Jones who refused Sonnen? What is to be said about the numerous light heavyweights who have turned down both Jones, and Glover Teixeira? Or what is to be done about the countless examples of teammates who refuse to fight one another? Again, the part that is funny is that Anderson has always ended up fighting everyone he is supposedly hiding from, and he beats them in convincing fashion.
What truly sets Anderson apart from other UFC fighters is his ability to finish fights dominantly, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt how much more skilled he truly is. There are no cases of Anderson being in a "tightly contested" or "controversial" decision. One of the downsides to having a champion always be in evenly contested fights is that there is a lot less clarity in the division, such as Frankie Edgar's lightweight reign. While he did in fact put on exciting fights there were constantly rematches due to the competitive nature of the bouts. Even in Anderson's "lack luster" decisions of Maia, and Leites there was no doubt as to who the winner was. Keep in mind that these are the two "blemishes" on Silva's record. Fans and critics alike were upset with his performance and expected him to finish his lesser opponents. But honestly speaking, as a fighter and fan, wouldn't you rather have a lackluster win than a loss? Maybe Silva was not as dominant in those fights as fans hoped for, but he also didn't lose to less talented fighters as greats like GSP have (Hughes, Serra).
What should be noted is that these fights were the exceptions, not the rule. Throughout his reign "the Spider" has been more dominant and destructive than any other fighter, leaving a trail of highlight finishes in his wake. From the complete beat down of the durable Chris Leben, to rearranging "Ace's" nose with the Thai Plumb, to the front kick KO of the "the Phenom", there has not been a shortage of memorable moments. At times he has made it look like a game, or been so dominant that the fight seems staged, such as his fights with Forrest, Okami, and Bonnar where he put his hands at his side and showed absolutely zero regard for their abilities. It is the ways in which he beats his opponents that truly epitomizes his greatness.
Taking a look at Anderson Silva's dominance shows that he has out-struck his competition with Chael Sonnen being the exception. When he moved up to light heavyweight, Irvin failed to land a single strike, while Forrest managed to land 3. In his debut, the "the Crippler" was able to land one strike before Anderson put him down in brilliant fashion. Often times it is the way in which he completely outclasses his opponent that makes his greatness so apparent.
Silva also has willingly fought in two weight classes, and fans have had the audacity to criticize him for it. Since his opponents were not of their liking, critics decided to discredit his actions; however, Silva was showing the true definition of a pound-for-pound fighter. The fact that Jon Jones, George St. Pierre, and Jose Aldo aren't agreeing to move up a weight class should serve as a testament to how much of a challenge it really is. While MMA math is not a fact, or truth, it should at least invoke some thought about how impressive Anderson is. When comparing the performances of Anderson and Jon Jones against their common opponents (who Silva critics have labeled as not "real" challenges) Stephan Bonnar and Vitor Belfort, without a doubt Anderson had the better performances, obliterating both within the first round.
Before closing it is necessary to include Anderson's UFC records, in hopes of clearing all uncertainty:
- All-time leader in Post-fight Bonus Awards (Twelve)
- Most consecutive title defenses (Ten)
- Most wins in UFC title fights (Eleven)
- Most finishes in UFC title fights (Nine)
- Most finishes in the UFC (Fourteen)
- Most consecutive wins in the UFC (Sixteen)
- Tied for second most wins in the UFC (Sixteen)
- Longest UFC title reign by duration.
Putting all of these pieces together really puts it into perspective just how amazing Anderson is. He has beaten some of the best fighters in the world in devastating fashion with unbelievable ease. In the one scenario where Silva was presented with adversity, he demonstrated the heart of a champion and his will to win by submitting Chael Sonnen after decisively losing the first four rounds. Somehow he seems to be able to continue to improve and raise his own standards even as he ages well past his "physical" prime. This should serve to demonstrate just how wide the gap in talent is between him and everyone else he has faced, and when considering he is on the highest possible level of competition, it is truly unprecedented. When watching him fight there is an aura present that is accompanied by the feeling of witnessing what is most likely a once in a lifetime fighter. Hopefully everyone learns to appreciate the greatness that is Anderson Silva, and the privilege it has been to witness, because the sport may never be treated to anything close to it again.