In the world of mixed martial arts, terms like “pound for pound” and “legend” are constantly misused when describing a fighter’s skills and achievements. But in the case of Anderson Silva, you can be forgiven for getting behind bold or grand descriptors.
Silva, in spite of any perceived language or marketability barriers, was able to break down sponsorship doors and connect with fans worldwide, all while simultaneously inspiring generations of martial artists to come.
Whether it was the popularization of particular techniques or his ability to challenge what you thought was possible, the former UFC middleweight champion’s contribution to MMA is undeniable.
With Silva heading into the UFC Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023, here is a ranking of “The Spider’s” top 10 UFC finishes.
Anderson Silva KOs James Irvin at UFC Fight Night 14 (July 9, 2008)
In an effort counter program “Affliction: Banned,” the UFC would look to Silva to save the day (a move that the promotion would pivot back to throughout his tenure).
With middleweight recently being cleared out after Silva dispatched his toughest on-paper test, no one was complaining about getting to see “The Spider” move up to 205 pounds for an impromptu meeting with James Irvin.
Irvin was riding high off of a record-setting knockout opposite Houston Alexander, saying that he’d be sending Silva back to middleweight during the pre-fight banter.
13 years ago today, Anderson Silva knocked out James Irvin
— Alex Behunin (@AlexBehunin) July 19, 2021
Unfortunately for Irvin, he not only got crushed with a counter right hand on the first leg kick he threw, but Mario Yamasaki also allowed the American to go out like “a warrior.”
Anderson Silva KOs Chris Leben at UFC Fight Night 5 (June 28, 2006)
Speaking of pre-fight trash talk, who can forget the time that Chris Leben said Silva can “go back to Japan where the competition is a little easier””
Apparently Leben didn’t expect that top-level talent existed outside of the UFC and paid dearly for it.
In Leben’s defense, his southpaw aggression was tailormade for Silva’s style – so much so that the American’s legendary iron chin stood no chance.
Hoy hace 16 años, Anderson Silva hacia su debut en UFC. Silva consiguió un KO espectacular sobre Chris Leben. (28 de junio, 2006)pic.twitter.com/QL4dD5fOJd
— Danny Segura (@dannyseguratv) June 29, 2022
Anderson Silva TKOs Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 (Oct. 13, 2012)
Scrambling to find a suitable main event for its pay-per-view event in Brazil, the UFC would, once again, look to Silva to save the day.
This time Silva was set to meet “Ultimate Fighter” alum Stephan Bonnar at 205 pounds.
Bonnar did his best to use his size and make things ugly in the clinch, but Silva’s underrated counter-wrestling was on full display in the way he used frames and arm drags to create offensive opportunities.
— UFC Brasil (@UFCBrasil) October 13, 2022
Silva, ever the showman, did his best to give the audience their money’s worth by beckoning Bonnar on as he put his back to the cage, but it was ultimately a knee to the body that crumpled “The American Psycho.”
Anderson Silva TKOs Rich Franklin at UFC 77 (Oct. 20, 2007)
In an era that seemingly saw a slew of memorable UFC cards go down in Ohio, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Silva’s second meeting opposite former champion Rich Franklin.
The card was subject to a decent amount of decisions prior to the main event, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the crowd cheered and stayed standing from the walkouts on.
Franklin showed improvements in regard to managing distance and not allowing Silva to establish both collar ties early, but the Brazilian was still able to score damaging strikes off of single collar tie variations as the fight went on.
— JReal (@BloodyCanvasJon) October 20, 2020
Although the outcome was ultimately the same, the demonstration of class and respect between these two competitors is just as memorable as Silva’s brutal body knees.
Anderson Silva submits Dan Henderson at UFC 82 (March 1, 2008)
In a fight that accounts for my first online PPV purchase, it’s hard to forget how excited I was in what was a unification fight for the hardcores.
Dan Henderson recently came over from Pride Fighting Championships with two belts but failed in his attempt to take the UFC light heavyweight title from Quinton Jackson the year prior.
Henderson was able to use his wrestling to ride out top position and score with enough strikes to clearly take Round 1 from Silva. Henderson’s success, however, would start to unravel in the second frame.
Not only did Silva keep the streak of Nogueira black belts submitting “Hendo” alive, but the middleweight legend also displayed his criminally underrated ground-and-pound abilities en route to the finish.
Anderson Silva KOs Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 (Aug. 8, 2009)
In one of Silva’s more memorable fights, I have to give some love to his performance against Forrest Griffin in Philly.
Silva was making another foray at 205 pounds, this time against a former champion.
Griffin was coming off a title loss to Rashad Evans and in the process of putting out another book, but the original “Ultimate Fighter” winner appeared as game as ever when stepping in to face Silva.
Unfortunately for Griffin, his style played right into Silva’s hands.
Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin was 13 years ago today
Silva was apart of some of the weirdest and wildest moments in the UFC's middleweight division pic.twitter.com/2YAlUrXMAz
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) August 8, 2022
For MMA fans who weren’t familiar with boxers like Pernell Whitaker or Prince Naseem Hamed, this performance from Silva may have very well been their first introduction to highwire head movement.
Anderson Silva KOs Rich Franklin at UFC 64 (Oct. 14, 2006)
In a fight that popularized the term “Thai plum,” it’s hard not to have Silva’s first encounter with Franklin high on this list.
Although I prefer to use the term “collar ties” when talking about the Thai plum, Silva’s use of the position struck fear into the minds of many mixed martial artists (including myself), as most of us probably spent the following weeks studying that tactic.
It may have been nothing new to muay Thai practitioners, but Silva’s use of collar ties planted important seeds in our sport.
— Violent Money TV (@ViolentMoneyTV) January 31, 2023
Anderson Silva submits Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 (Aug. 7, 2010)
In what was one of the greatest comebacks of all time, I’d be remiss to not have Silva’s first fight with Chael Sonnen high on this list.
Silva was coming off of a strange performance in Abu Dhabi that seemingly upset Dane White and UFC fans alike, which, in turn, opened the door for Sonnen’s persona to shine in the build-up to their title fight at UFC 117.
Sonnen, to the surprise of many, came out on fire and was able to briefly stun Silva on the feet before securing a takedown and punishing the champion from topside. The self-proclaimed American gangster would rinse, wash and repeat this process until Silva (who apparently was dealing with an injured rib) stole victory from the jaws of defeat with a Hail Mary submission from his guard.
You never forget fights that go down on your birthday, especially when they’re as incredible as this.
Anderson Silva TKOs Nate Marquardt at UFC 73 (July 7, 2007)
Despite this selection not jumping off the page to most, Silva’s finish over Nate Marquardt at UFC 73 has stayed with me ever since I watched the event live.
Although Silva was always known as a dynamic counter-striker, his wrestling and ground-and-pound were an often overlooked part of his game. This was apparent in the way he dealt with Marquardt in transition, hitting a beautiful switch to counter the American’s head-outside single attempt. And once Silva found himself in a superior position, he coldly took his time to find the perfect kill shot.
ネイサン・マーコートNate Marquardt , UFC73 pic.twitter.com/xFd7S72JJ1
— オリベイラの謎石 (@oliveira_stone) July 28, 2022
Anderson Silva KOs Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 (Feb. 5, 2011)
Coming in at No. 1 is Silva’s spectacular finish of Vitor Belfort back at UFC 126.
If you were like me and thought that the front kick died back in 1984 at the All Valley Karate tournament, then you were wrong.
Eleven years ago today, Anderson Silva settled his beef with Vitor Belfort with a front kick to the face 🦶😵 pic.twitter.com/L9Tr2y2JdT
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 5, 2022
Despite being in the same boat as Joe Rogan in regard to not seeing a knockout like that in all my years of both MMA and traditional martial arts, Silva single-handily revived a simple technique that saw an immediate uptick in effective use following this fight (Lyoto Machida over Randy Couture, Justin Buchholz over Steve Lopez, etc.).
It’s hard to go wrong ranking Silva’s finishes, but this fight undeniably influenced the masses.
Honorable mentions (not in UFC):
Anderson Silva def. Tony Fryklund at Cage Rage 16 (April 22, 2006)
Anderson Silva def. Carlos Newton at Pride 25 (March 16, 2003)