After winning at UFC 82, Silva joins an elite class
Posted: Monday March 3, 2008 3:44PM; Updated: Wednesday March 5, 2008 12:59PM
It's rare to find an athlete who makes even the most exaggerated descriptions of his or her accomplishments seem unjust. Basketball had Michael Jordan. Football had Jerry Rice. And now Mixed Martial Arts has Anderson Silva.
In a bout in which the "Spider's" dominance of the UFC middleweight division could have been squashed, Silva weathered a strong first round before defeating PRIDE champ Dan Henderson in last weekend's UFC 82. Henderson reputedly had the tools to expose Silva's flaws, but he succumbed to a series of strikes and mastery on the ground as Silva unified the belts and forced fans to almost instinctively ask, "What next?"
The UFC is fortunate because Silva may soon be able to sell a card on his own -- without regard to his opponent (much like Chuck Liddell). His fighting style is as exciting and as a fluid as that of any fighter today, and he is just cocky enough to build up a healthy dose of animosity from his opponents and non-believing fans. Maybe the only flaw in his game is that he doesn't speak English very well.
The next logical fight for Silva would be a rematch against Yushin Okami, who won their January 2006 bout via disqualification at a Rumble on the Rock event. Silva earned the DQ when, with Okami in his guard, he swung his right leg around and kicked his opponent in the face. Okami slumped to the ground and was unable to continue. The kick was illegal because Okami was on the ground when he was struck.
Given that bit of history and Okami's dominant performance against Evan Tanner at UFC 82, a title fight between the two could be compelling. Okami has been tagged as a methodical, boring fighter. However, against Tanner he appeared intent on providing excitement and remained standing much of the fight rather than resorting to his forte: wrestling. Okami knocked Tanner down in the opening moments of the first round and finished off the former UFC middleweight champ in the second round with a Silva-esque knee to Tanner's face.
Other potentially compelling opponents for Silva, such as Henderson's Team Quest teammate Matt Lindland, EliteXC champ Robbie Lawler, and WEC champ Paulo Filho, aren't signed with the UFC. Maybe after a Silva-Okami rematch, scientists really will have to get to work on cloning Silva as he has suggested in the past. Right now, though, there isn't another human being in the world that can defeat him.
Not that Henderson didn't try. At UFC 82, he took down Silva in the first round, and ground and pound the Brazilian from half-guard. Despite a number of hammer fists to the side of his head, Silva never seemed to lose composure. Instead, he patiently waited out the storm and got Henderson into a more comfortable full guard as the round ended.
Silva came out aggressive in the second round against the former U.S. Olympic wrestler and displayed the striking efficiency we've come to expect from him as the UFC champ. Although Silva officially won by submission, he set up the winning rear-naked choke by landing at least one knee and a number of punches that dazed Henderson.
A strong wrestler, Henderson didn't provide much resistance as Silva took his back on the ground and displayed a facet of his game which many UFC fans may not have been aware. Fans may also forget that Silva is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt -- a scary thought for whomever his next opponent may be.