Legacy of a Legend: Anderson Silva moves up to light heavyweight and destroys Forrest Griffin

Photo by Esther Lin for SBNation

At UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion," Anderson Silva choked out Dan Henderson in the second round to become the undisputed middleweight champion of the world.

Already the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) 185-pound kingpin for nearly two years, the win over "Hendo" also made him the de facto PRIDE Fighting Championships titleholder as well.

With the unification bout behind him, Silva was ready to continue clearing out the middleweight ranks in the UFC. The only problem is he had already done a relatively good job of doing just that. His next 185-pound opponent was Patrick Cote, who was The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 4 runner-up and had rattled off five straight victories since losing to Travis Lutter.

On paper, the match-up seemed decent enough but in reality, the Canadian was no match for "The Spider" and their bout at UFC 90 was 10 minutes and 39 seconds of some of the oddest behavior ever seen inside the Octagon. Cote would end up on his back and the champion would offer to help him up. If not for the challenger blowing his knee out seconds into the third round, the fight very well could have gone the distance much like Silva's next title defense did.

An equally bizarre performance at UFC 97 against Thales Leites followed. It marked the Brazilian's fifth defense and that in itself may have been the problem.

Was "The Spider" bored with his 185-pound challenges? He had, before taking on Cote, stepped inside the Octagon against James Irvin in a special light heavyweight bout put together to draw eyeballs away from Affliction Entertainment's first pay-per-view offering.

He performed brilliantly in that fight, putting "The Sandman" down in a minute. After that, he turned in two stinkers; so was another fight at 205-pounds the answer?

We found out at UFC 101: "Declaration."

Perhaps it was the weight of his previous two performances weighing down on him. Perhaps it was the Philadelphia crowd who booed his name as it was belted out by Bruce Buffer.

Or perhaps Anderson Silva is just that damn good.

The first two minutes of the bout saw "The Spider" circling away from the former light heavyweight champion while avoiding all of Griffin's strikes. Finally, the Brazilian waded in and caught the original TUF winner with a hook directly on the jaw.

Griffin dropped to the mat but quickly regained his footing only to eat another hook. He shook his head and smiled, knowing he may have bitten off more than he could chew.

They exchanged punches and Griffin retreated while Silva beat his chest and lowered his hands in protest. The former champ obliged as he pawed two jabs at an opponent whose hands were still resting at his waist.

A left hook from Griffin was dodged. A right hook from the TUF veteran was ducked under while a second left hook was again dodged. Silva delivered a stiff jab which dropped Griffin to the mat for the second times in less than a minute.

"The Spider" landed some ground and pound before allowing his opponent back to his feet. Inside the Octagon, Silva appeared to have completely figured Griffin out and didn't need to worry a bit about defense.

Griffin lunged forward with two straights, each of which Silva dodged by slightly moving his chin. Stepping back, he launched a right hand which caught Griffin on the chin, dropping him to the canvas for the third and final time.

"This is one of the most embarrassing knockouts we've ever seen," Joe Rogan grimly says from the commentary booth.

Silva was back. But the honeymoon wouldn't last long. His return back to middleweight against Demian Maia at UFC 112: "Invincible" ended with UFC President threatening to fire "The Spider" after a third putrid performance at 185-pounds.

Four months later, he faced off against Chael Sonnen and won with a last-minute submission. Two years later, they finally meet again in the main event of UFC 148.

For Silva, it's the opportunity to cement his legacy as not only one of the greatest champions in the sport but one of the greatest fighters period.

Can he do it?

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