Lyoto vs. Anderson: A disaster waiting to happen
Thursday's episode of "MMA Live" brings with it a discussion of Anderson Silva's future as a hybrid-weight athlete. I won't spoil the dialogue for you, but at least one idiot blogger (ahem) believes it's silly for Silva to pick off contenders at 205 pounds when he has no intention of vying for the belt of friend Lyoto Machida.
Taking it a few steps further:
1. Let's say the UFC was able -- through strong-arming and coercing worthy of a Kung Fu flick -- to push Machida and Silva into a bout. With their reluctance of that scenario well-documented, can you imagine the level of hyperanalysis that would follow their every move? Say one gets knocked down with a stiff jab -- or worse, someone torques an ankle or a knee. Happens all the time. But if it happens in the context of two reluctant sparring partners in a prizefight neither wanted, there would be no end to speculation of fight choreography.
2. Silva's bouncing from class to class ignores the obligation he has to defend his 185-pound belt. This sport has a serious problem with taking its titles seriously. B.J. Penn went more than a year between lightweight defenses so that he could fight Georges St. Pierre; Cung Le's Strikeforce strap is a dull, rusted antique after spending nearly 18 months on the shelf.
Contenders push themselves with the expectation they'll be afforded an opportunity to face their divisional leader in a timely fashion. When Silva ignores Dan Henderson or Demian Maia in order to take random bids at 205, those men lose opportunities to monetize title bids with sponsorships and main-event revenue sharing (where applicable).
And that's just the financial hurt. Most athletes are genuinely interested in fighting for personal pride. Their careers shouldn't be victimized by a volleying champion.
3. Both Silva and Machida are proper counterstrikers who know each other's game very well. It's a fight that could easily sedate viewers.
4. A lot of this discussion revolves around the notion that MMA is a sport like any other. If two grandmasters in chess happen to be close friends, they'll still compete. Brothers oppose each other in football. MMA is just another competition.
Except that it's not. The emotional consequences of hitting your best friend in the face are slightly more complex than taking a pawn from him. We like to think of fighting as a pure athletic activity, but it's far more profound than that. No one is eager to inflict pain on a close friend. (Exception: Brothers Joe and Dan Lauzon would fight. Sure as hell, they would.)
I don't think we'll get a hint about Anderson Silva's next move until Maia and Nate Marquardt exit the ring Aug. 29. If Maia wins, his 11-0 record and win over a top-10 middleweight should be enough to earn him the opportunity. If not, Dan Henderson just needs a date and a ride to the arena.