COMMENTARY | On Saturday, July 6, 2013, at UFC 162, MMA great and middleweight champion Anderson Silva will face off against Chris Weidman, with the championship title on the line. Weidman is the division's No. 1 contender and poses a legitimate threat, not only to Silva's title reign, but to his legacy as well.
At UFC 117, Chael Sonnen carved out a blueprint on how to beat the reigning middleweight champion. During their first meeting, the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler controlled Silva on the ground for almost five rounds. Suddenly, Silva threw up a Hail Mary triangle choke that caused Sonnen to tap at three minutes, 10 seconds of the fifth round. However, since the "American Gangster" dominated the majority of the fight, a rematch took place at UFC 148.
At UFC 148, the first round heavily resembled the four and a half rounds of their first meeting. Sonnen almost immediately shot in, took Silva down, and controlled the fight. Silva survived the second round, yet illustrated little to no offense up until that point.
In the second round, Sonnen lost the fight via technical knockout due to strikes. However, this occurred only after he attempted a failed spinning back fist. Sonnen accidentally fell, and Silva took advantage of this opportunity to pummel his opponent on the ground until the referee stopped the bout.
However, Sonnen's wrestling background laid the groundwork for his success against Silva. He succeeded in controlling the champion, and if it wasn't for the Oregan native's well-documented submission defense issues, Sonnen would have walked away with the title at UFC 117.
At UFC 162, Silva will battle a fighter who has skyrocketed to stardom. Weidman is the undefeated No. 1 contender and is nine years younger than Silva. He is greatly well-rounded, sports a 9-0 record and, like Sonnen, is a former NCAA Division I wrestler.
If Weidman is able to develop a strategy similar to that of Sonnen, his chances of defeating Silva will significantly increase. In a recent interview with MMA Weekly, Weidman stated:
"I think the biggest thing is just - I'm very confident. I know my skill set. I've seen what Chael (Sonnen) has done to him. I've seen his weaknesses and I think I can expose them again and look for a finish or a good performance. I really feel like, on paper, I'm a nightmare match-up for Anderson Silva."
Sonnen may have exposed Silva's vulnerability to top-notch wrestlers. However, father time may have more to do with the current middleweight champion's eventual demise than anything else.
Going Out on Top
Many consider Silva to be the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. The Brazilian is 33-4 and hasn't lost a professional bout in nine years (not counting the disqualification loss to Yushin Okami, due to an illegal upkick in 2006). Even among the heavy competition within the UFC, Silva has reigned as king of the middleweight division for seven years. He has even made sporadic appearances in the light heavyweight division, where he has also dominated all his foes. Silva holds the record for the most consecutive wins in the UFC (16), and he is the longest reigning champion in the company's history.
However, at 38 years old, time may not be on the champion's side. Following his victory over Sonnen at UFC 148, responding to rumors of retirement, Silva simply stated, "Nope."
Nevertheless, MMA is one of the most dangerous sports in which to grow old. As accomplished as Silva's career may be, aging is inevitable, which normally equates to diminished skills over time. Many fighters have performed well for years, only to suddenly, become "old." Seemingly overnight, fighters who stay in the fight game too long suffer from reduced stamina, speed and lag in response time.
These fighters, perhaps motivated by ego, money, and/or fame, put off retirement and suffered the consequences of an overdue retirement in the form of one devastating loss after another; and in some cases, irreversible damage has been incurred. Some fighters who have overstayed their welcome in the fight game include, but are not limited to: Chuck Liddell, Gary Goodridge, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Tito Ortiz, Frank Shamrock and Mark Coleman.
Although Weidman represents an opponent who is formidable and well-skilled, Silva has beaten the likes of former world champions and MMA greats with far more experience in Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, and Rich Franklin. Although Silva is the favorite to win at UFC 162, one has to wonder if the Brazilian will suffer the same fate as many other fighters who have refused to leave the fight game at an appropriate time.
Unless acquiring a marquee/super fight is on the horizon (preferably against another inevitable future UFC hall of famer, Jon Jones), there is nothing more that the middleweight champion needs to prove in the Octagon. If Silva is triumphant at UFC 162, instead of being forcibly put down by lesser talented fighters now or in the future, he could retire on top, leaving his legacy completely intact.
Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Yahoo! News, the Bleacher Report, Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, and Next Step Magazine. Follow him on MMAUnchained.net, Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.___________________________________________________________________________
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- Anderson Silva
- Chael Sonnen
- Chris Weidman
- Wanderlei Silva