Ego and Weidman conspire against Silva

July, 7, 2013
7/07/13
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Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- It was always likely Anderson Silva would eventually suffer a UFC loss.

Fighters stay in this game longer than they should. Even as age diminishes their skills, they continue to walk to the steel cage, wearing nothing but four-ounce gloves.

Eventually, age or the right opponent would catch up with Silva. On a stage that is this unpredictable, Silva’s 16-fight win streak already bordered on mythical.
[+] EnlargeAnderson Silva and Chris Weidman
Ed Mulholland for ESPNA lack of respect for Chris Weidman proved to be Anderson Silva's downfall.

We should have all been prepared for a Silva loss at some point -- but like this?

What happened at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday enthralled the crowd of 12,399 spectators who paid to see the greatest fighter of all time. Most likely, though, it also left them shaking their heads.

Chris Weidman, an undefeated 29-year-old wrestler, took Silva down in the first 30 seconds of the fight -- a bad sign for supporters of the Brazilian champion. The overwhelming belief was if Weidman did win, it would be on the floor.

But moments later, Silva got back to his feet and broke away. It was a major turning point in the fight, but not in the way many expected.

Immediately after that initial scramble back to the feet, Silva got weird. He dropped his hands or put them on his hips. He pointed to the floor and demanded Weidman come forward, even though Weidman never backed down.

After taking a punch from the challenger, he would laugh and sometimes yell at him. Weidman later said he didn’t think it was showboating from Silva. He’s fine to say that, but it was absolutely showboating from Silva.

The antics, combined with Weidman’s composure, cost Silva the first round -- but not yet the fight. If anything, it felt as though the early momentum Weidman captured with the takedown was gone.

But Silva kept it up in the second round. Added to it, actually. After Weidman hit him with a left hook, he dramatically wobbled on his feet as though he were hurt but still slipped Weidman’s next punches.

It was during that sequence, though, when Weidman landed a left hook that finished the fight and ended perhaps the greatest run the UFC will ever see.

Fair or not, there are two equal pieces to this story: The composure of Weidman. The ridiculousness of Silva.

UFC president Dana White didn't see it that way. To White, Silva’s behavior coincided with many of his past performances. The fight delivered drama, action. If a streak is going to end, you want to be entertained along the way.

“The fans came here to see a great fight,” White said. “They saw a pretty good fight tonight.

“My heart was in my stomach, my hands were sweating, my jacket is soaked. I almost fainted twice. I’d say it was a pretty damn good fight.”

It was, and maybe Silva owes us nothing. Maybe for all the moments his career has produced -- and they are countless -- this was a fitting end after all.

No one really knew what a Silva loss would feel like in the UFC. We’ve been waiting to see one for more than seven years. But for that exact reason, it should have felt different than this. It should have felt like something truly extraordinary, not a goofball move.

Truthfully, it robbed Weidman as much as anyone else, if not more. The kid from Long Island was doing terrific on his own, without Silva’s invitations to take free shots at him.

After the fight, Weidman said the win wasn’t cheapened in his mind due to Silva’s taunting. He, too, pointed out Silva has a past of acting this way.

“Anderson Silva has won a lot of his fights because of what he did [tonight],” Weidman said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. I capitalized on it. A lot of other guys couldn’t. I’m not trying to take that away from myself.”

No one should -- Weidman earned the belt in Las Vegas -- but people will. When fans read that Silva’s hands were down, when they see the mockery in the faces he made, they’ll say it was more Silva’s foolishness that lost him the fight than Weidman.

On top of that, Silva said he has no interest in giving Weidman the opportunity to further legitimize the win, saying he had no interest in an immediate rematch.

Silva might be the greatest champion in UFC history, but he acted nothing like it in this fight. His first loss in the Octagon was always destined to be something special. In the end, the greatest way to describe it might be disappointing.

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