It’s been a tough year for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, as we’ve had to say farewell to several of the sports biggest names, including Henry Cejudo, Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov and now Anderson Silva. Four great former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions who have left their mark on the sport in one way or another.
But, perhaps no one has left a mark as big as “The Spider.”
While he had on okay run with PRIDE FC, it wasn’t until he made his Octagon debut that he really got people talking. He clowned Chris Leben at UFC Fight Night 5 in June 2016 in just 49 seconds, which was the beginning of one of the most historic runs inside the Octagon.
In his very next fight he schooled Rich Franklin to win the Middleweight title, knocking out “Ace” with a vicious knee to the face after a great display of striking softened him up. Silva went on to headline 18 straight events, defended his title 10 times, unified the UFC and PRIDE Middleweight titles, scored endless post-fight bonuses and set countless records at 185 pounds, while taking the time to move up to Light Heavyweight to knockout Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar and James Irvin.
Along the way Silva, accrued an unmatched highlight reel that includes his front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 (relive it here), his two knockouts over Franklin, a come-from-behind submission win over Chael Sonnen, as well as his Matrix-like performances against Griffin (see it here), which produced one of the best striking/defending displays ever.
But in the blink of a an eye, it seemed Father Time crept up on the ex-champion as his trajectory went downhill following his first knockout loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. Including his first defeat to “All American,” Silva went on to lose seven of his final nine fights, with his lone win coming over Derek Brunson via unanimous decision. Gone were the days of flashy knockouts and unmatched footwork. And what began as a Hall of Fame career ended in a confusing and sad manner.
Granted, two of those losses came via injury, but the fact remains the Silva we were all in awe of vanished after getting slept by Weidman in July 2013. But while the final seven years of his career were less-than-thrilling, Silva’s legacy as one of the best ever was already cemented.
There will be many who say his legacy was tarnished after he failed a couple of drug tests, and critics questioned if Silva had competed dirty before then since he looked like a shell of his former self following his positive tests. So while everyone can assume what they please, Silva never failed any tests prior to UFC 183.
What many seem to forget is that the Brazilian bomber is 45 years old, so losing a step or two is normal ... and it’s happened to the best of them. Mike Tyson lost three of his last four, Wanderlei Silva did the same, and there are countless others like Chuck Liddell who didn’t quite look the same toward the tale end of their combat careers.
Silva didn’t fully commit to retirement after the loss, stating that he would go back home and regroup before making his final decision. But at the end of the day, walking away doesn’t seem like a bad deal. He has nothing left to prove, he’s made a great amount of money and there really isn’t else he can do to add to his legacy.
If anything, it can only get worse with another knockout loss.
We always say we don’t like to see fighters stick around too long, but it’s obvious Silva passed that stage long ago — as hard as it is to say ... and as hard as it is to say goodbye.