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Maybe it was when Anderson Silva, in an attempt to make the UFC 153 main event competitive, kept standing flat footed and leaning back against the Octagon, literally positioning himself in the ideal spot for his opponent, Stephan Bonnar, to attack him.
Or when he dropped his hands and dared the bigger, heavier Bonnar to punch him. Or when he actually took a few of Bonnar’s fists and elbows and just smiled. Or when his corner told him to knock it off and he laughed and reassured them that he was in no danger.
Or, perhaps, it was when, deciding he’d done enough to give his home nation fans a show in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, Silva grabbed Bonnar, threw him to the ground and then delivered a crushing knee to the solar plexus. The fight ended seconds later at 4:31 of the first round.
Somewhere in there, in a performance that was a complete folly mostly because of Silva’s complete genius, was the renewed desire to see the middleweight champ stay up at light heavyweight and finish off his incomparable career with a series of big-money, big-moment fights.
Like against Jon “Bones” Jones, UFC light heavyweight champ and perhaps the only man on earth with the physical tools and skill set to beat Spider Silva.
“No I’m not going to fight at 205 again,” Silva said after moving his UFC record to 16-0 and his overall mark to 33-4. He hasn’t lost in nearly seven years.
“I fought at 205 to save the event,” he continued. “I fight at 185 pounds. I was doing this just to save the show and put on a show for everybody.”
The name Jones wasn’t mentioned in the question that spurred that answer but Silva’s answer was pointed to everyone around the globe wanting to see the sport’s two best and most dynamic talents square off. Silva has been consistent that the fight won’t happen. Jones has said the same thing.
They are probably correct. But no one has to be pleased about it, including UFC president Dana White, who thinks he could put enough money on the table to change Silva’s mind.
“The amount of money offered for that fight,” White said at the post-fight press conference, “I guarantee you I’ll make him say, ‘yes, yes, yes.’ ”
[Related: Complete UFC 153 recap from Cagewriter]
White always believes money talks and he’s often correct. Silva remained unmoved though.
“It’d be a travesty,” if Jones-Silva doesn’t happen, said Joe Rogan, the UFC color commentator after the fight.
“For history’s sake,” Rogan implored. “For history’s sake.”
Historic it would be. A dream bout, one where no one could be overly confident in their guy. The current best against what looks like the future best. If Jones goes on to have the career everyone projects, there will forever be debates about who was greater. It’d be nice to see them settle it in the Octagon.
“I’m not the best,” Silva said after recording his 16th consecutive victory in UFC. “I just believe I can do things other people think are impossible.”
Well, he’s wrong on both accounts. He is the best; Jones, just 25, is still developing. And there can’t be anyone left that believes there is something impossible for Silva to do once he steps inside the Octagon.
All of which makes these fights like Bonnar a bit melancholy. Other than two battles with Chael Sonnen at middleweight, Silva has rarely been challenged during his epic run of success. Three times he’s stepped up to 205, and all three times he made a mockery of what were supposed to be stronger guys.
[Related: Jon Jones reconsiders fight against Chael Sonnen for 'the fans']
Bonnar isn’t an elite fighter and isn’t a tune-up for someone the caliber of Jones. Any good fighter at 205 would beat Bonnar.
Still, the way Silva tried to make the fight competitive made this an absurd exhibition of his skill. It was like Michael Phelps swimming with an anchor wrapped around one ankle … and still winning handily.
At age 37, there is nothing left for Silva to accomplish at 185 and few, if any, interesting fights on the horizon. He’s cleaned that division out multiple times. He could beat Sonnen a third time, but other than that, the only reason to watch Silva fight is to watch the pyrotechnics of his finishes.
He’s turned into a greater showman of late, moved on from a stretch of his career when he’d occasionally pout in the Octagon and not finish with authority. Even with his age climbing, he’s never looked better.
So if only before he retired or lost a step he’d attempt to make the fight with Jones, a mega-bout that would likely shatter all UFC records for anticipation, PPV buys and live gate.
And, as Rogan noted, there’s “history’s sake.”
None of this is Silva’s obligation. He can go back to 185 and make millions and cement his legacy as the Greatest of All-Time. Fans will continue to tune in just to see what he can do next, what impossibility he makes possible.
It just sure would be great if he tried it against Jones though, where leaning back against the cage and taking punches wouldn’t be advisable.
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