Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, was long considered to be the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter of all time, thanks to an astonishing 16-0 run to start his Octagon career, one that included 14 violent finishes.
Critics will argue, based on subsequent drug tests, that Silva’s legacy was tarnished because “The Spider” was likely competing on performance-enhancing drugs. While that may be true, so were Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, and Stephan Bonnar, so I’d say the playing field was about even.
Future talents would emerge who would threaten that throne, like Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson, among others, but anyone watching Silva in his prime can attest to how special it was to watch him fight. I know fans have short memories but c’mon, let’s not try to rewrite history.
Now that we got that out of the way, I think we also have to acknowledge those days are over. Like Fedor Emelianenko, who ruled the International circuit with an iron
curtain fist, the fight game will decide when and where a combatant is done, sometime with little or no notice.
But just how bad is it?
Silva (34-8, 1 NC) has only lost to three fighters over the last five years: Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping, who are former middleweight champions, and heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier. It’s not like he’s been getting torn apart by the Job Squad.
Admittedly, the Derek Brunson “win” is nothing to celebrate, but Silva has a tendency to give rounds away because he’s too busy dancing around and acting “like a jackass.” It was certainly a contributing factor in his loss to “The Count.”
I mention this because Silva is in the same position Jose Aldo was in back in early 2018. “Junior,” a former champion and full-time savage, lost to the best featherweights in the world in the form of Conor McGregor and Max Holloway (x2), and suddenly the MMA community had him bed-ridden in some Brazilian nursing home.
Until consecutive knockout wins over Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano shut them up.
We need to acknowledge that Silva turns 44 in April and built his career on speed and timing. How much Father Time has fucked with those attributes remains to be seen and he’s now facing a younger, faster version of himself in Israel Adesanya (15-0).
I know all the cool kids already have “The Last Stylebender” sitting atop the 185-pound throne, but you’ll excuse me if I’m not breaking out the party hats for out-striking middling journeymen like Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson. Is he an exceptional talent? No question.
So is Silva.
It would not surprise me to see Adesanya win or win convincingly. “The Spider” is past his prime and has not competed in over two years. But we don't know that yet because the fight hasn’t taken place and there just isn’t enough evidence to close the book on the Brazilian’s career.
His resume speaks for itself and Silva deserves the benefit of the doubt, which is why a betting line of -600 to +450 in favor of Adesanya seems a little over the top.
Personally, I’m expecting a competitive fight when the cage door closes this Saturday night (Feb. 9, 2019) inside Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It’s only three rounds and the first frame will likely be nothing more than a feeling-out process.
What goes down after that is anybody’s guess, but let’s not write the eulogy just yet.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 234 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
To see who else is fighting at UFC 234 click here.