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Will Anderson Silva's knockout loss at UFC 162 mark the beginning of the end for one of MMA's all-time greats?

USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, Chris Weidman's striking coach, Ray Longo, took to the airwaves to voice his belief that former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva will experience a sharp decline after his knockout loss at UFC 162 (see those comments here).

The acclaimed trainer noted that Silva could be in for another bad night when he faces Weidman in a rematch headlining UFC 168 on Dec. 28, 2013, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While many will be quick to call Longo extremely biased, he may also have a good point.

It's unfortunate, but we've seen several top fighters go from an air of perceived invincibility to being repeatedly knocked out or finished in a short amount of time. I'm not saying that will be the case with Silva. He's no doubt one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen and could easily regain his title before defending it several times leading up to his retirement. But I wouldn't be too surprised if he was knocked out again, either.

Why?

Well, when a fighter who goes unbeaten for a long amount of time gets knocked out or finished to end their streak, it's hard to get right back to that lofty position they have enjoyed for so long. When they can't reach their previous level quickly, it becomes psychologically difficult to deal with being another contender that may possibly be passed by.

It also fundamentally involves science, because when a top-flight professional rocks your chin, you just aren't the same physiologically. Age no doubt comes into play as well, causing a fighter's window at the top to be extremely small.

Major examples of this include the great Chuck Liddell's fall from grace.

Liddell possessed a seemingly granite chin before Quinton Jackson exposed him to the point of being finished with strikes in his last three bouts. It was a shocking and fast-paced drop that left many Liddell fans with their mouths gaping open.

Wanderlei Silva is also a member of this not-so-illustrious fraternity.

"The Axe Murderer" experienced a serious drop-off in performance after Mirko Filopovic and Dan Henderson viciously knocked him out in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Silva still went on to put on some great bouts in the UFC, but he just hasn't been the same bulldozer that he was during his heyday as the PRIDE FC champion.

Of course we can't forget the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.

True, he wasn't knocked out, but submitted by Fabricio Werdum to end his epic winning streak in 2010. The shocking upset marked the beginning of the end for Emelianenko, and it happened quickly. He lost his next bout against Antonio Silva due to a gruesome doctor's stoppage and then suffered the first true knockout of his career when he met up with Dan Henderson's H-bomb.

"The Last Emperor" rebounded with some wins against mid-level opposition to close out his career, but fans were still left wondering what could have been.

So what does all this mean in terms of Anderson Silva's potential decline?

On one hand, it's tough to predict how Silva's pivotal rematch will play out based on past instances of rapid fighter decline. However, all of the aforementioned greats were viewed as virtually unbeatable in their primes, and we saw how fast they fell off. Although Silva claims he is back, I‘d have to say that this might be the beginning of the end for "The Spider," which will be disappointing for legions of fans but ultimately inevitable.

Or, he could silence all the critics who think he's over-the-hill and knock Weidman out in another classic performance. It's just tough to return from a knockout like that, and especially at 38 years old.

A devastating finish usually marks the beginning of the end for even the best fighters in MMA history. Will Anderson Silva return to glory after suffering the first knockout loss of his storied UFC career?

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