Anderson Silva or: How to Tarnish a Legacy
Guest post by Ciro Crispino
The designation of G.O.A.T is never going to be a unanimous decision, but three or four years ago we at least had ourselves a strong consensus, as the “The Spider” Anderson Silva was coming off of the most impressive run in the history of the sport. He first stepped into the octagon on June 28, 2006 – after a decade bouncing around from cage to cage – knocking out the always game Chris Leben in the first round with a nasty knee. This earned him an immediate middleweight title shot in October of that year.
Some thought this opportunity came to soon, especially as the man wearing the belt was one of the most impressive fighters of the new era, Rich “Ace” Franklin. Despite his dominant debut, many still saw Silva as the underdog heading into the championship clash.
The Brazilian Muay Thai master came out at UFC 64 and destroyed the incumbent champion with his now trademark knees, utilising one of the most impressive plumb clinch games one can ever hope to see in MMA. If you didn’t know, now you probablydid.
What followed was seven years of abject dominance in the worlds leading MMA promotion. “The Spider” went 16-0 during this period, including ten title defences, and wins over world champions such as Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquart, Forrest Griffin and Dan Henderson. He also completely polished his game throughout his reign, bringing his ground game up the level of his already dazzling stand up skills. Look no further than his victory over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117; the greatest comeback win of all time, after getting dominated for five rounds and pulling out a miraculous triangle choke submission.
By 2013, Silva seemed unstoppable, destined to retire with his belt and ride off into the sunset as the best to ever do it. Then on July 6, 2013 at UFC 162 he fought Chris Weidman, some young upstart who didn’t have a chance.
Things were pretty standard for the first round. Anderson was as elusive as ever, and Weidman didn’t seem to have what it took. We get to the second round and Anderson seems to be struck by either a temporary bout of madness or, perhaps more likely, a gross overestimation of his own physical capabilities. Silva dropped his hands and mocked Weidman’s inability to hit him with clean shots, then Weidman hit with some clean shots, and walked away with the middleweight strap.
It was a sobering demonstration of someone becoming a victim of their own success. The P4P best essentially gave his belt away with a stumble of his ego. Undeniably the worst way to lose on such a scale, and after such a run.
Anderson was given an immediate rematch six months later at UFC 168 – in one of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history. Silva would again fall in the second round. This time though, “The Spider’s” leg would snap on a checked leg kick, again producing a somewhat indecisive loss. Basically, Anderson had a nightmare of a year.
These things happen, and it’s not like two freak losses could really affect his standings in history; Anderson Silva could have retired then and there, his legacy intact. Regrettably though, he decided to come back.
An unfortunate commonality amongst elite fighters is their habit of going past their prime.Of course, it’s hard to say when that really is, as we have seen on a number of occasions with fighters finding success into their forties – Hendo and Couture being prime examples.And most of thesepeople have families, so they need to make a living. But I don’t feel like Anderson Silva falls into that bracket. He was so successful and made so much money, surely he could have walked away and been fine. Maybe it’s that ego we saw in the first Weidman fight.
After a year on the shelf thanks to that horrific leg break, Silva returned on January 31, 2015 at UFC 183 to fight Nick Diaz. He pulled out a unanimous decision win over the Stockton native, but in one the most shocking drug pops ever, Anderson tested positive for androsterone and drostanolone, a pair of steroids.
Diaz would also test positive for marijuana, but… you know, it’s Nick Diaz. Despite Anderson’s assertions that the failed test was a result of atainted sexual enhancement drug – an excuse that would reoccur in another famous case some time later – the win was overturned to a no contest and Silva was slapped with a one-year ban from competition.
Again, Anderson Silva was presented with a chance to call it quits and get out with any dignity he had left. Instead, Silva opted to return in February 2016 to fight Michael Bisping in London, a fight he would lose by unanimous decision in perhaps the first decisive loss of his UFC career. Bare in mind, Silva is forty by this point, so some poor performances and drug test weren’t his only problems, his body was slowing down to boot.
Silva would fight again at UFC 200 in a short notice decision loss to Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, then again at UFC 208 in an extremely controversial decision win over Derek Brunson. For whatever reason he was still going.
Silva was scheduled to face young Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai in November of 2017, and it’s hard to imagine what Silva had to gain from this fight. A win wasn’t going to put him anywhere near a title shot, and a loss to a natural welterweight would send him hurtling down the rankings. Not that this mattered though, because Anderson would never make it to China thanks to a second failed drug test.
For many, myself included, this was the final nail in the coffin for Silva. One failed drug test can be argued, perhaps not convincingly, but it can be argued. Two? You have no legs left to stand on. Everything Anderson did, everything he accomplished throughout his career, has to be called into question; how can it not be? Before anyone can discuss if he is the G.O.A.T, they first must discuss whether he can even qualify. Andthis is compounded by the return of his closest competition: the squeaky-clean Georges St-Pierre.
If Silva had just stopped when he had the chance, he could have held on to his legacy with a firm grip, but now he finds himself desperately clutching at it. He says he isn’t done, but with a potential eight-year ban looming, the decision might no longer be his. It’s a classic fall from grace, and Silva finds himself as a modern Ozymandias, destined to be pointed to as an example for years to come. Maybe that ego that cost him the strap was always destined to cost him his legacy.Silva always made it look easy, but easy come, easy go, especially in this young and fickle sport.
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