In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), there is one man that currently stands alone—Anderson “The Spider” Silva. When the quarterly rankings came out for the pound-for-pound kingpins, Anderson Silva was unanimously selected. There was once a close battle between Silva and Fedor Emelianenko, but as Emelianenko’s career came to end, so did his stance as the mixed martial arts emperor.
Since Anderson Silva entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), his record has been impeccable. He has only been truly challenged once in his UFC career against Chael Sonnen, a fight in which he won by submission in the fifth round. Just to put any remaining doubts to rest, Silva finished Sonnen again by technical knockout in the second round of their rematch.
Silva made his debut at the UFC’s “Ultimate Fight Night 5.” The MMA organization decided to test him right off the bat by tossing him to hard-nosed brawler Chris Leben, a proven journeyman known to pressure fighters into his game plan. It was a pop-quiz to see where Silva stood among the UFC competitors, and he passed with flying colors. Silva made a mockery of Leben, destroying him in only 49 seconds. It was the first time Leben had been knocked-out in his MMA career. Needless to say, the UFC was impressed. The UFC set-up an immediate title shot for Silva’s next fight. He would face two-time defending champion Rich “Ace” Franklin. Franklin, a current shoe-in for the UFC Hall of Fame, met the same fate as Leben. Silva completely took apart (almost literally) the champion, winning the middleweight championship and making the MMA world stand up and take notice.
Since winning the title, Silva has gone on to set records for the number of consecutive wins, title defenses and the most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. In his UFC career—fighting the most elite fighters in the world in two different weight classes—Silva has an average fight time of just fewer than two and a half rounds. The average UFC fight is over three rounds.
After Silva appeared to have no worthy contenders in the middleweight division, he tried his hand in the UFC light heavyweight division on “Fight Night 14.” Because the UFC threw the “Fight Night 14” card together on short notice to rival another program, Silva had less than the normal time to prepare. In essence, he was taking a main event fight on live television on short notice in a weight division that he had never competed. The odds were obviously not in his favor. However, Silva’s performance that night sent shock waves through the MMA community as he crushed light heavyweight journeyman James Irvin in 61 seconds.
Silva reentered the middleweight division for a few more title defenses, but clearly looked fed up with the lack of competition. His performances became lackluster in comparison to his previous matches. UFC president Dana White frustrated with Silva’s recent efforts offered him another fight as a light heavyweight in UFC 101. This time, it would be against a legitimate Top 5 opponent.
Forrest Griffin, former light heavyweight champion, was confident that he would bring out the best in Silva. Griffin was known for turning fights into brawls. White was sure Griffin would be a great matchup for both Silva and the fans. He was right, but it was one of the biggest mistakes of Griffin’s career. Griffin, who is a sure ballot Hall-of-Famer, looked completely outclassed. He was knocked down three times in the first round. Silva stood in the middle of the Octagon with his hands at his side dodging punches from Griffin only to throw one jab, landing it flush on Griffin’s jaw, and ending the fight by knockout.
UFC 101 was a huge statement for Silva’s claim to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He proved that he wasn’t just able to compete in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, but he could easily be a serious contender as well.
Lately, White seems to be set on Silva facing Georges St-Pierre, the welterweight champion of the UFC. White believes that if St-Pierre beats Carlos Condit, the interim welterweight champion, that the Silva/St-Pierre super fight will be a serious possibility. Interestingly enough, Silva originally started his MMA career as a welterweight, so it wouldn’t be a total shock for him to move down in weight. A much more interesting scenario, however, would be for Silva to face-off against Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title. Even with his recent problems in and out of the ring, Jones is still seen as the future of mixed martial arts. To have these two exciting fighters collide at such a point in their careers would be phenomenal for fans.
All in all, it’s really a super-fight or retirement for the 37-year-old champion. There’s really no one else for him to fight in the middleweight division. If the UFC makes these match-ups work, and Silva still remains at the top of the pile, he will have not only earned his place in the UFC Hall of Fame, but also in mixed martial arts history as one of the greatest of all time.