Occupy The Throne – Edition #32
Jeremy Lambert: He did it again. It’s never that he does it. It’s how he does it. The whole world knew that Anderson Silva was going to beat, and likely destroy, Stephan Bonnar this past weekend at UFC 153. That didn’t make it any less special when he did it. When he stood with his back against the cage and his hands down, allowing Bonnar to either try and hit him or use his size advantage to gain a clinch against the fence, no one took him to task for fighting stupid. Instead we praised him for giving Bonnar a chance and doing something that had never been done before.
That’s the thing with Anderson Silva, he’s reached a point where we don’t criticize him for taking unnecessary risks, we praise him. If anyone else dropped their hands for an extended period of time, whether it be in the middle of the cage or against the fence, we’d probably take them to task for being dumb and showboating. When Silva does it though, we admire him. To earn that kind of reputation probably means you’ve made a lot of people look silly inside the cage. And for over six years, that’s exactly what the greatest fighter of all-time has done.
From his first bout against Chris Leben to his most recent victory against Bonnar, Silva has made a ton of world-class fighters look silly while also looking impressive himself. We’ve seen fighters outclass high level opponents before, Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre do it almost every time they step into the cage, but it’s different with Silva. Jones and St. Pierre fight to their strengths, mask their weakness, and prolong the inevitable. Silva fights however he wants and puts guys away whenever he wants. And yet we’re still amazed.
Samer Kadi: “I’m not the best. I just like to do things that people think are impossible” – Anderson Silva
With all due respect to Mr. Silva, one part of this statement is absolute rubbish. I’ll let you guess which one (hint: he is the best, by a country mile). No, Silva isn’t the best because he defeated Stephan Bonnar. In fact, on a list of UFC Spider victims, Bonnar likely doesn’t rank too far from the bottom in terms of opponent quality. Likewise, landing a trademark laser-like knee to the chest of “The American Psycho” is not even among Silva’s top ten accomplishments. So what makes what the middleweight champion did this past weekend so special?
On paper, the win over Bonnar doesn’t do much to boost Silva’s greatest of all-time credentials. However, there is a lot to be said for Silva literally finishing the fight the moment he felt like putting an end to Bonnar’s feel-good story. Most amazing about Silva is the way he beat an average-to-good fighter like Stephan Bonnar, is not at all dissimilar to the manner in which he dispatched an elite fighter like Vitor Belfort. Silva’s fight with Bonnar puts in perspective just how easily Silva makes MMA look, and how even his autopilot game is good enough to clown top and mid-level fighters alike.
Anderson Silva is the greatest this sport has ever seen because, in addition to his laundry list of accolades, he can step inside the cage, drop his hands, corner himself, not throw a single strike, let his opponent implement his game, take the time to reassure his corner (according the man himself, literally saying: “relax, take it easy, trust me, I’m a Jedi”), then put him away with the first significant strike he throws.
Most importantly, Anderson Silva is the best because even when he gets his backside handed to him for four-and-a-half rounds, he still finds a way to win. Whether what he does is “impossible” is open for debate, but not a single MMA fighter has managed to emulate it.
Jeremy Lambert: MMA is such a young sport that labeling anyone “the greatest” seems a bit premature. After all, many thought that Fedor Emelianenko was the greatest until his run of defeats. There is little doubt though, that if the sport ended today, Anderson Silva would be considered the greatest. He’s not only beating top level competition, but the majority of the time he’s making it look a little too easy. Silva has only failed to put away two opponents inside the octagon and that’s only because he didn’t try to put them away. There is little doubt in my mind that if both Thales Leites and Demain Maia (we can even throw Patrick Cote in there for fun) stepped into the cage tomorrow with Anderson and he fought to finish, he’d finish all three within 10 minutes.
For Silva, there is nothing left to prove, but still plenty of options. Prior to last Saturday, the talk of finally seeing Silva vs. St. Pierre was hotter than ever, yet Joe Rogan was adamantly pushing for a fight between Silva and Jon Jones, which the middleweight champ quickly squashed after beating Bonnar by saying, “I’m done at 205.” Dana White claims that he’ll throw an infinite amount of money at Jones and Silva to get them to agree on a fight, but if neither guy wants to fight each other, what can Dana do? I guess he could bury Jones (again) and Silva, but that’s not going to make them any more likely to fight.
If St. Pierre defeats Carlos Condit in a month, that super fight talk will heat up again, with the puck being in St. Pierre’s zone. Silva has already stated that he’ll meet GSP at a catchweight and even threw out the possibility of dropping all the way to 170. The welterweight champion has been mum on the idea thus far, but I attribute that to the fact that he’s a cliche guy who takes it one fight at a time and never looks past his current opponent, who is always the most dangerous of his career. After Condit, if the Nick Diaz fight is off the table, the two best of the last six years could finally collide.
Samer Kadi: A champion’s primary obligation is to defend his title. As such, there is always going to be rumblings about Silva needing to fight Chris Weidman or even Michael Bisping before any talks of super-fights. And while there is merit to this line of thinking, one cannot fault Anderson Silva for wanting big money bouts. The man is thirty-seven years old, and despite not showing many – if any – signs of aging, he needs to get those marquee match-ups while they remain at their most marketable.
Of course, in a world where overzealous MMA fans can preposterously accuse the greatest fighter this sport has ever seen of ducking a young prospect who, just a few months ago, was struggling in a stand-up battle with Demian Maia, Silva has received some heat for being cold on a fight with Chris Weidman. However, the criticism neglects the fact that from his perspective, Anderson Silva has very little to gain, and absolutely nothing to prove, by taking on Chris Weidman.
The man has defended his middleweight title so many times already, that another title defense is hardly going to make a difference. And while Weidman is a brilliant rising prospect whose eagerness to square off against the champion is commendable, Silva is at a stage where he can almost call his own shots in the UFC. The negotiation leverage Silva has with the company will likely allow him to hand-pick his next few fights, and he has absolutely earned it.
Moreover, by lobbying for a fight with the greatest welterweight in MMA history, Silva is not exactly attempting to cherry pick easy opponents. Whether that seismic bout materializes hinges on Georges St-Pierre’s upcoming title defense against Carlos Condit, and his willingness to actually agree to a proposed mega-fight with “The Spider.” While St-Pierre has yet to commit to the Silva fight, he didn’t shoot it down either. Meanwhile, Silva and Jones seem to have refused the fight before it was even offered. That however, could easily be changed in the upcoming months.
Nevertheless, if the UFC is intent on making one of the abovementioned bouts happen, they need to focus on the one that is more likely to materialize – not to mention the more marketable bout. By handing out seemingly empty promises about making Silva-Jones happen, Dana White could well be setting the fans up for disappointment. That is not to say that Silva/St-Pierre is set in stone – far from it, in fact. However, it is where the real money is at.
Jeremy Lambert: If Silva vs. Jones or GSP doesn’t come to fruition, we could always settle for Silva vs. Cung Le. Gus Johnson would probably give the striking advantage to Cung in his “First Take Keys To Victory.”
Silva is in a position that few fighters have ever been in: he can pick his next opponent and the president won’t call him a pussy for turning down a different fighter. That’s the kind of clout Anderson has built up over the years of destroying everyone put in front of him and taking on the likes of Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, James Irvin, etc… when they obviously weren’t worthy opponents. If he wanted to fight Tim Boetsch next, Dana would probably agree to it, but let’s not act like Silva is looking for easy fights. He wants to fight well-known guys who he can make money with. He’s not afraid of Chris Weidman, he’s afraid of doing 200,000 PPV buys when he could do 500,000 with Michael Bisping or a million with St. Pierre.
When someone is great for so long, it’s easy to take them for granted. Karl Malone didn’t win the MVP award in 1997 because he was better that Michael Jordan, he won because voters grew tired of Jordan. Instead of acting like Silva is afraid of a guy whose biggest win was against Mark Munoz, lets soak in what we’re seeing with Anderson. What he’s doing and the manner in which he’s doing it will likely never be done again. Georges St. Pierre has been just as dominant, but he’s not putting away or toying with guys like Silva. Jon Jones may break every record that Silva has set, but he won’t be as beloved.
Enjoy “The Spider” while he’s still here, because he could be facing Roy Jones Jr. this time next year.