Mailbag: What’s next for Anderson Silva?

When Tiger Woods won The Masters in 1997, it signaled the start of a new era in golf. Woods was far better than everyone else – he hit it longer, had more shots in his repertoire and never seemed to miss a critical putt – and threatened to lap the field.

Woods’ early success forced his peers on the PGA Tour to raise their games, and a number of them, most notably Phil Mickelson, did so. The game was better for it.

Such, though, hasn’t been the case in the UFC’s middleweight division, where champion Anderson Silva has lapped the field the way Woods did more than a decade ago in golf. The problem in the UFC, though, is that no one has raised his game enough to be a realistic threat to Silva.

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva's hand has been raised after each of his past 14 fights, an impressive feat.
(Getty Images)

Chael Sonnen came the closest, beating on Silva for more than four rounds at UFC 117 in Oakland, Calif., before Silva caught him in a fight-ending triangle choke with about two minutes left in the match. Sonnen performed exceptionally well, but that has to be mitigated a bit by the fact that Silva fought with a broken rib.

But other than a strong first round by Dan Henderson at UFC 82 in 2008 before losing in the second, no one else has come close to threatening Silva.

Logic would dictate that his only challenge would come from above, where guys like light heavyweight champion Jon Jones compete in a stacked division. Silva, though, says he wants to stay at 185 and UFC president Dana White said there are still fights left for Silva in the division.

The question is, who? He’s likely to face the winner of the UFC 136 match between Sonnen and Brian Stann in Houston next. There is some sentiment for pairing him again with Henderson, the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, whose best weight is middleweight. It’s a makeable fight, since Henderson is a free agent, and would probably sell because of how well Henderson did in the first round of that match.

There are few other realistic options for Silva at 185, though, if the UFC wants to put on competitive matches. Mark Munoz is improving rapidly, but though he’s a wrestler, which seems to be Silva’s weakness, he doesn’t yet seem to be remotely ready for a guy of Silva’s caliber.

Nor does Michael Bisping, who has to get past Jason “Mayhem” Miller after the end of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14. Bisping is 7-2 as a middleweight, but he lost to Wanderlei Silva, who has been struggling immensely. That loss, as well as a first-round knockout loss to Henderson, has to put Bisping behind Henderson, at the least, in the pecking order.

The best bet might be former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, but Evans is guaranteed a shot at his old belt. He’s supposed to face the winner of the UFC 135 fight on Sept. 24 between Jones and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Evans has deep feuds with each man, and no matter who wins, an Evans fight against either of them would be big.

But even if Evans chose to drop down and fight Silva – and there is no evidence now that he would – it’s no guarantee he could shed the excess 20 pounds he’d need to lose to make the middleweight limit.

That would leave welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who has a tough title defense at UFC 137 in Las Vegas on Oct. 29 against Nick Diaz. If St. Pierre wins that, it might be time to make the super fight that has been talked about for years.

The best move for the UFC would seem to be to bring Silva to Las Vegas for the St. Pierre-Diaz fight and, if St. Pierre wins, to bring Silva into the cage to officially make the super fight.

The field in golf caught up to Woods and, in many cases, passed him. Such isn’t the case, though, with Silva in MMA. The field of viable opponents is small and getting smaller.

It’s time to make Silva-St. Pierre.

MMA musings

• How did Rousimar Palhares and Dan Miller not get the Fight of the Night at UFC 134 on Saturday? What a terrific, back-and-forth match.

• The UFC is usually not big on rematches, but I’d love to see Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson again. It was an extremely close bout, which Barboza won by split decision. More importantly, it was a fan-friendly scrap that would be fun to watch again.

• Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was extraordinarily impressive Saturday in his victory over ex-light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. Rua, though, is going to have to wait awhile for another crack at the belt. Evans gets the winner of Jones-Jackson. In the interim, Rua should meet Lyoto Machida a third time with the winner getting the next shot after Evans.

• If there is any way that Brock Lesnar can be healthy enough to fight on Nov. 12, the UFC has to use him in its network TV debut on Fox. The first show out of the box has to be big for the UFC on the network, but most of its top fighters are committed to other bouts. A Lesnar-Frank Mir bout would be perfect for the main event in the UFC’s debut on Fox. If Lesnar isn’t sufficiently recovered from his diverticulitis in time to fight, there is no obvious big-name star who will be ready.

• Good news to hear that the UFC is working on a deal with Golden Glory to sign Alistair Overeem to a contract. Overeem would make entertaining matches with several of the top UFC heavyweights.

• Make certain to follow @YahooSportsMMA, the official Twitter of the Yahoo! Sports MMA department. It will tweet information about everything going on with our page.

Readers always write

’Rampage’ is a joke

“Rampage” Jackson is a joke. He assumes there’s a spy in his camp because someone inquired about his hand? This is the same hand that he broke in UFC 130. And it’s the same hand that’s been healing for 90 days? This is the same hand that he got a medical suspension for until Nov. 25, unless it was fully cleared by an orthopedist? Which is more logical: That Jon Jones’ camp sets someone up as a spy in “Rampage’s” camp, and then they go and tell “Rampage’s” manager that they have the spy and that they know everything? If they had a spy, why would they own up to having the spy instead of using their intelligence they were gathering? And this comes one fight after Jackson thinks he was spied on by Rashad Evans! Why would you not shore up your training if you think everyone is spying on you? Why would Jackson go to the media if he knew they found a spy? Why not just feed false info to Jon Jones’ camp? I mean if you really think about everything, is this sensible at all?

Daniel Blanchette
Austin, Texas

You make some good points, Daniel, and I agree with most of them. That said, “Rampage” is a veteran fighter and when he makes an accusation like that, it is newsworthy. I presented all sides of the story so that fight fans can make up their minds as to who they believe. As I noted in my column, there have been spies dropped into a fighter’s camp before, notably in the boxing match between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. Knowing that, it’s not easy to dismiss Jackson’s claims outright. But I have long believed Jones is a special talent and I’m not among the group that thinks he got the title only by beating up on an injured, rusty Rua. I think Jones is clearly the best 205-pounder in the world and I expect he’ll prove that on Sept. 24.

‘Spider’ beating up on patsies

I think it’s a little bit of a reach to consider Anderson Silva as the best MMA fighter of all time. If you take a look at the fighters he’s beaten, its hardly a who’s who list. Travis Lutter, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, James Irvin? I’ll grant you his wins over Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin were impressive, but the bigger problem is the UFC has always had a weak middleweight division. Brian Stann, Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping were average at best at light heavyweight, but are considered upper level at middleweight. Silva may eventually be the greatest fighter ever, but let’s wait until he faces a big-time opponent and see how he fares.

Adam K.
Fargo, N.D.

I get what you’re saying, Adam, but there is more to it. He’s been undefeated for five years. He’s beaten a lot of very good, though perhaps not great, opponents. In modern MMA, where the sport has evolved so much, it’s much more difficult to keep a lengthy winning streak. He’s separated himself from the field, in my opinion, and I regard him as the best ever. There are guys who can surpass him – St. Pierre would be the leading contender – but Silva has done enough to edge Fedor Emelianenko for that nod.

Quoteworthy

“Guys jump camps so much now, going from this camp to that camp, that it’s a lot easier for information about what you are doing in your camp to be passed along. I’m going to be a lot more careful now about who I have with me in my camp.” – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, discussing his thoughts about the UFC “Spygate” incident.

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011