In the history of modern mixed martial arts (MMA), there have really been only two champions who have achieved Seemingly Unbeatable (SU) status: Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko. And fittingly, the parallels between the initial upsets of these greats are similar, while only time will tell if Silva follows the plummeting arc of Emelianenko's three-fight losing streak.
It will also reveal if Silva's knockout loss to Chris Weidman last night (Sat., July 6, 2013) at UFC 162 was a "shit happens" type of defeat, which is how most of us classified Emelianenko's first defeat to Fabricio Werdum under the Strikeforce banner back in 2010, or if it's really a sign of a fading great, which was made obvious when "Last Emperor" was steamrolled by Antonio Silva.
It's a fascinating question, and one that will be integral in promoting a Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva rematch should the ex-champ be willing to pursue it.
First off, let's define SU so we're not misunderstood: It's when a fighter has dominated his division, made mincemeat of a string of the best-available challengers and won so handily that people start wondering if he's the greatest ever and are not laughed out of the chatroom for saying so.
One of the best analogies I've ever read about aging athletes is this: They start off as sprinters, but degenerate into quarter-milers. Pretty damn fast quarter-milers, and it can take a long time before someone exposes it, but when it happens, it's obvious the guy can't run 100 meters the way he used to.
He's still fast as hell at that distance, but he's no longer at the top level.
And what defines greatness, especially in combat sports, is the ability to execute from Point A to B with rarified effectiveness. It also takes one hell of a mindset to upset a legend, and the guess here is that Weidman, like "Bigfoot," applied his advantages on an aging legend.
Both men were able to elicit a response from the legend that played right into their hands.
For Weidman, it was scoring the early takedown and some vicious ground-and-pound. This was probably the most intense punishment Silva's ever taken in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career so early in a fight, which clearly dented his ego. Hence, the clowning afterward -- Silva went far overboard with it, much more so than in previous fights, particularly competitive ones.
For "Bigfoot," after surviving Emelianenko's early storm, he simply fired back and nailed the Russian with some solid shots on the feet. Emelianenko, like Silva, resumed his assumption that wading in and firing off cannon-like bombs would get the momentum back as it so brutally did in many occasions in his brilliant career.
But, "Bigfoot" can be pretty tough to get rid of, something Alistair Overeem learned earlier this year, and he ultimately took down Emelianenko and brutalized him en route to one of the best corner stoppages the game has seen after two rounds. Nobody with an ounce of respect for what Emelianenko's done wanted to see another minute of that assault.
And he had nothing left to prove.
For Anderson Silva, his legacy is unmatched in MMA. The prospects of coming back and besting Weidman is a tantalizing prospect for fans, if not for the former champ himself at the moment. If he retires, however, I suppose it'd be much like if Emelianenko called it quits after getting submitted by Werdum.
We'd all be left with pressing questions that lingered over the career of an all-time great.
In a way, it was a grim relief to see Emelianenko lose three in a row that way he did, only to reinforce the notion that he was clearly past his prime ... that he wasn't at his best. A mint-condition Emelianenko would be my pick to beat any Heavyweight alive today, and I suppose we'll all say that about Silva in a few years, whomever is ruling the Middleweight division (even Weidman, as unfair as that is).
Whether or not Silva decides to exit the game, or make another run up the mountain, his career just got a lot more interesting for reasons that nobody knew existed prior to UFC 162. And how he answers them could tell us a lot more, though the jury's out on whether we'll enjoy hearing it.
And whatever happens, you can bet that the next guy fighting him will have renewed confidence, just like "Bigfoot" did coming in against Emelianenko because a legend finally showed a glimpse of being Beatable (B).
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst