February 8, 2017

UFC 208: Saturday Night Could Be the End of Anderson Silva

By Adam Martin

It was only a few years ago when Anderson Silva was the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts. The Brazilian had reeled off an unprecedented 16 wins in a row inside the UFC Octagon, winning the UFC Middleweight Championship from Rich Franklin in 2006 and defending it 10 times before ultimately losing it in 2012. Along the way Silva won seven Knockout of the Night awards, two Submission of the Night awards, and three Fight of the Night awards, and also moved up to 205 lbs three times and won by knockout in all three of those fights. He became one of the superstars that helped push the sport into the mainstream, and regardless of whatever else happens has cemented his place in the history books as one of the greatest fighters ever.

But since his last win, a TKO finish over Stephan Bonnar, things have gone south for Silva. Now 41 years old, Silva has not won a five in nearly five years, going 0-4 with 1 NC along the way.

After clowning inside the cage against Chris Weidman, he paid for his mistake with a brutal knockout loss at UFC 162, and then in the rematch at UFC 168 he shattered his leg, which forced him into a 13-month layoff. When he returned, he fought Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in what should have been an exciting fight on paper, but which turned into a snoozer. Silva won the fight on the judges' scorecards, but afterwards tested positive for banned substances -- he claimed he took penis pills -- and was fined and suspended for a year. When he came back, he fought Michael Bisping and lost a controversial unanimous decision, a fight he would have dominated just a few years prior. Then he took a short-notice fight against Daniel Cormier to help save the UFC 200 card and lost that fight too.

Now to be fair to Silva, he's been fighting elite competition. Weidman won the title from Silva and then went on a nice run of title defenses afterwards before losing to Luke Rockhold, Bisping beat Rockhold to become the middleweight champ, and Cormier was of course the light heavyweight champ. So he's only been losing to top guys.

But still, he's been losing, and the fact that Silva hasn't won a fight in nearly five years is pretty crazy when you think about it, because it was only a few short years ago when fans were talking about superfights between Silva and Georges St-Pierre and Silva and Jon Jones. Those fights seem so far away now, even though they were on the table only a few years ago.

At 41, it's easy to question Silva's motivation. After all, he doesn't need the money and he doesn't need to prove anything in this sport. The real reason Silva is fighting, or so he claims, right now is his passion for MMA. That's commendable, but also alarming considering the recent results in his fights, his advanced age, and his increasingly-suspect chin that seems destined to fall apart at any moment.

But the UFC is desperate for stars, and despite his poor record in recent years Silva still qualifies as a star. With UFC 208 desperate for star power, the UFC called on Silva in a short-notice
situation to save the card once again, this time matching him up with Derek Brunson in the co-main event. It's a winnable fight for Silva against a fighter who was knocked out in brutal fashion just two months ago, but then again it's a dangerous fight against a fighter in Brunson who is a great wrestler with legitimate knockout power. Anyone calling this a tune-up fight is wrong. This is a tough fight for Silva, and one that he desperately needs to win if he wants to make a run for a rematch with Bising.

If he loses and snaps his winless streak, then Silva maintains his position as a top-10 middleweight and would earn a big fight against another top-ranked middleweight his next time out. But if Silva loses and drops to 0-5, 1 NC in his last six fights, and loses to a guy like Brunson, who despite being a good fighter is no household name, there are going to be a lot of people calling for Silva to retire, especially if he gets brutally knocked out again.

Anderson Silva is a great fighter and fighters have the choice to do what they want with their careers, but it's been hard watching him fight the last few years. Most MMA fans will hope Silva turns the page on Saturday night at UFC 208 and returns to the form of "The Spider" we all know and love, but if he doesn't, don't be surprised. Regardless of what happens, though, the man loves the sport, and we should all cherish him, as there will likely never be anyone like him ever again.

UFC 208: Holm vs. de Randamie takes place February 11, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

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