As careers go, Anderson Silva’s is unlikely to ever be topped. Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This quote explains the reason Anderson Silva’s career may never be topped. Anderson Silva made MMA fans feel they were watching the most exciting sport in the world, and he did it at a time when the world was just starting to pay attention.
Silva is a huge reason millions of people are now obsessed with MMA. At any moment during a fight he could produce a moment of martial magic, making him an athlete that truly warranted the title of artist. Whether it was by fighting so elegantly that it was described by Joe Rogan as a “ballet of violence”, or by knocking people out so quickly only a slow-motion replay could reveal what he actually did, or just the fact that he did it all in a playful, almost childlike manner, Anderson Silva showed the world MMA at its peak.
So it hits even harder that Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time, is on his way out. All great athletes have to bow out at some stage, although unfortunately not all do it gracefully. How it all ends for Silva still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, here are five reasons it ends this weekend for “The Spider”.
- 1) His Opponent
In boxing, it is common for high-end fighters to get a tune-up fight when returning after a long layoff or a bad loss. These fights are like confidence builders, designed at easing a fighter in before a bigger test. Unfortunately for Silva, the UFC don’t do tune-up fights.
OK, Silva is facing a man that has fought most of his career as a welterweight, now stepping up to middleweight. But in attitude as much as in ability, Nick Diaz is one of the baddest men in combat sports history.
Diaz is a man known to be one of the very fittest athletes in MMA history (he regularly competes in triathlon competitions), one of the very best offensive boxers in the UFC (having spent much time training with the pound-for-pound number two boxer Andre Ward) and is undoubtedly one of the toughest guys in the sport. He is also a foul mouthed, weed smoking, antagonistic product of the mean streets of California, as ready to fight outside of the cage as he is inside of it.
Nick Diaz is going to go at Anderson Silva from the first bell. Whilst Anderson will be looking to remain elusive, find his range and set up any of the few hundred dangerous shots he can land, Nick Diaz will be walking him down, encouraging him to exchange and unleashing barrages of punches. Of course, Diaz is always there to be hit and Anderson is about as accurate a striker as has been seen in MMA, but this is part of Diaz’s trap. He won’t be dazzled in the headlights when faced with Anderson staying in range, fainting shots and ducking and weaving. Diaz, who has the record for highest number of significant strikes landed by a fighter in the UFC, will be throwing in threes and fours, both to the head and to the body. And Diaz will not stop even when hit by the sniper shots Silva throws. Diaz is a man that has stood toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful one punch hitters in all of MMA and beaten them; think his fights against Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley and BJ Penn.
In conclusion, Nick Diaz has a very realistic chance to knockout Anderson Silva, or at least land some damaging bombs on him at some point. Thus, if he is stopped or at least put through the inevitable war this fight is likely to be, Anderson Silva may just think it is time to call it a day.
- 2) His Age
No man beats father time. Yes, the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Randy Couture showed it is possible for someone to go into their 40s (and maybe even 50s if Hopkins fights this year) and win at the highest level, but more often than not, the older they get, the more likely they are to lose.
Silva is now 39 years old and has had 39 MMA fights. In nine years with the UFC, he has had 18 fights with the organisation. Anderson first joined the big leagues in his 10th pro fight, when he joined Pride Fighting Championships. This means his bout against Diaz will be his 30th at the highest level. Current MMA history shows most fighters drop off significantly after 30 fights at a high level.
Examples include Wanderlei Silva, who after reaching 30 fights at the highest level (starting from his first ever UFC bout in 1998), he subsequently lost seven out of 12 fights, before retiring. Dan Henderson, a man that is supposed to be one of the better senior fighters in MMA history, has lost as many as he has won after going 30 fights since his first UFC bout. Even the great Randy Couture ended his career directly after hitting the 30 fight mark, having debuted in the UFC. Many others, including the likes of Chuck Liddell, Georges St-Pierre and Forest Griffin (all former champions) did not even get close to 30 bouts at the highest level before retiring.
As if coming to the age of 39 and having had a dangerous number of fights was not enough, Silva is also returning after two straight losses which ended in brutal fashion. It is crazy to think that Silva can be anything other than less of the fighter he once was, especially considering he is just 13 months away from having had his leg snapped. Logically, Silva can only get worse from here onwards, as a fight against father time is one no fighter has ever won.
- 3) His Style
As already mentioned, certain fighters are able to make the transition beyond the years of their physical peak easier than others. These fighters are usually nothing like Anderson Silva.
The likes of Randy Couture, Bernard Hopkins, Mark Hunt and Vitali Klitschko are just a few of the select fighters that manage to look as good as ever into their late 30s/40s. The names above all relied on their strength and their technique throughout their careers, utilising both in an efficient, tactical manner.
Anderson Silva, along with the likes of Roy Jones Jr and Chuck Liddell, has a style that made the most out of his brilliant reflexes and amazing speed. Speed and reflexes are the first things a fighter starts to lose as he ages. As seen through the careers of Jones Jr and Liddell, as soon as they stopped being able to time movements as accurately as they once did, as soon as they lose the ability to move as quickly as they once did, they begin to get hit a lot more. The problem with this is after a career spent slipping and swaying away from punches, when they begin to land more often they can have even more of an impact than they once would have done. In essence, a fighter that is not used to being hit can lose punch resistance at a much more dramatic rate than others that are conditioned in absorbing blows. And as seen with Liddell and Jones Jr, this usually results in a series of devastating losses.
There are gleams of hope though, in the form of Floyd Mayweather, someone that has somehow maintained his speed and reflexes into his late 30s, as well as Muhammad Ali, a fighter that completely changed his style when his swiftness left him.
However, Anderson Silva is older than Floyd Mayweather. And whilst there is an outside possibility that Silva has tailored his style to now suit his age, seeing what this has done to Ali may just make him rethink if it is worth it at this stage of his career.
- 4) The Middleweight Division
As good as Silva’s reign was, (beating the likes of Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen), there were definitely times that the middleweight division’s quality did not match up to the level of its champion.
That is not the case anymore. As good as current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is, he has a plethora of dangerous opponents waiting in the wings to take him on, all of whom would be given a realistic chance of beating him. The problem for Anderson Silva is that one of the best ways they can earn a title shot will be to defeat the former champion. This means, if Silva ends up beating Nick Diaz this weekend, he will probably face someone even more dangerous.
The likes of Gegard Mousasi (a former champion in three other organisations, noted for having finished over 30 of his opponents), Luke Rockhold (a former Strikeforce champion with some of the best striking seen in the UFC middleweight division since Silva himself), Yoel Romero (the extremely tough and strong Cuban Olympic wrestling silver medallist) and Ronaldo Jacare Souza (another former Strikerforce middleweight champion and one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu practitioners in UFC history) are all likely future opponents for Silva, should he win this next fight.
This is not to mention a third fight with Weidman himself being a possibility for “The Spider”. At any point in his career, any of those fighters would be a real test for Silva. Aged 39 and returning after a broken leg? It would be unbelievable for Silva to beat any of those guys.
Therefore, even a win against Diaz this weekend could be the decisive factor in seeing his career come to an abrupt end thereafter.
- 5) Motivation
When an athlete achieves as much as Anderson Silva has, motivation is always going to be tough to find. For anyone that has listened to any of the Brazilian’s recent quotes, it may seem that he is thinking the same thing.
For one, Silva has made it clear he is not looking for another fight against the only man to have legitimately beaten him in over 10 years. “A rematch with Weidman isn’t in my plans. He has beaten me twice already”.
Never one to let a fighter’s feelings get in the way of a good show, UFC President Dana White recently stated that if Anderson wins he can take on the winner of the upcoming Belfort vs Weidman title fight. What Silva made of that is anyone’s guess.
On top of this, Anderson also recently expressed his disappointment that former teammates – Ronaldo Jacare Souza and Lyoto Machida – have stated they would be willing to fight their fellow countryman. There was a time when such a comment would have brought venom out of “The Spider”. Now he sees it as unwanted competition.
The likely motivation for Silva is probably that he is currently more famous than he has ever been, and thus is probably getting more money than he has ever done. This is a man that has featured huge adverts for Nike and for Burger King. Perhaps fighting is Silva’s way of keeping himself relevant and therefore marketable.
Even Silva must realise though, that he cannot much enhance his own legacy without getting himself back in title contention, something he has already said he does not wish to do. So he is probably just looking to coast through a few fights and earn himself another million or 10. Sadly, combat sports history tells us that continuing to fight on for the money is something that usually leads to an immediate downfall in the career of a fighter.
Consequently, this evident lack of real motivation to fight on from Anderson Silva surely means his career is about to end.