My colleague Brian Hemminger recently reminded you of how Anderson Silva's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) reign began with a bang back in 2006. He destroyed Chris Leben with the accuracy of a veteran sniper before fans voted him in to a middleweight championship showdown against Rich Franklin. He famously rearranged "Ace's" face en route to a stoppage victory that netted him the 185-pound title.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It's amazing, when you think about it. One could argue against Silva's strength of schedule, and that's fine. But it's impossible to deny how impressive his reign of terror has been.
He's 14-0 inside the Octagon. Nine of those wins have come when his middleweight title was on the line and two of them have come one weight class above his at light heavyweight. Hell, he even beat a former 205-pound champion in Forrest Griffin.
The mouthy former politician talked the talk for months and then went out at UFC 117 in Oakland, California, and walked the walk. He took "The Spider" to the mat, relentlessly unloaded punches, and overwhelmed the champion for four and a half rounds.
And then he was felled by a triangle choke. But the memory of his improbable performance against the world's best remained. With the rematch all set to take place this coming Sat., July 7, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, it's difficult not to wonder if Sonnen can pull a repeat, with the exception of getting submitted this time, of course.
That's enough to raise the question -- what if Silva loses?
The obvious answer is "Dana White's eyes light up with dollar signs." And that's true because there's little doubt the UFC would hope to set up a big money rematch, especially if the two have another close fight with an exciting finish.
But what about reaction from fans?
Imagine: Silva gets caught with another few punches while standing, no different than the first fight. He also gets taken down again, maybe to the point that Sonnen wins three of five rounds to give him the decision victory.
Suddenly, the Brazilian's wrestling will be even worse than it is now, which is questionable at best. His invincible striking game will be derided as nothing more than an illusion. He'll no longer be fast, agile, and athletic.
Instead, he'll be old, slow and lacking the necessary skills to remain an elite fighter.
The first point is undeniable. As far as MMA years are concerned, Silva is old. He turned 37 this year and has been competing professionally since 1997 with 35 career fights under his belt. The fact that he's been able to continue fighting at such a high level despite this is a testament to his exceptional talent.
That said, at some point it will become a liability. Better still, it will become the biggest target of blame once he finally suffers defeat. And let's face it -- it is inevitable. It's going to happen sooner or later and it certainly appears this Saturday could be the night.
Seeing Silva lose would be surreal. Far more fascinating, though, would be the reaction to it. The man widely considered the pound-for-pound greatest who ever lived could go from king of the fighting world to a middleweight who "doesn't have it anymore."
It seems crazy to think as much but the standard for which we measure a guy like say, Nate Marquardt, isn't anything like the standard we hold for Silva. We expect greatness. We expect to be left in awe after he performs. Anything less than that will lead fans to question his motivation, his skills, his age; everything.
All the more reason this coming weekend is so intriguing.