Enjoy the last of a special breed
In his past six bouts, spanning three years, Wanderlei Silva has fought on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. He has TKO'd Cung Le, and dropped two decisions to Rich Franklin. He won a controversial decision against Michael Bisping in Australia.
Yes, he was knocked out once against Chris Leben but somebody was bound to crumple over in that one, and it just so happened to be Wand. Roulette doesn't always pay out. But after knocking out Brian Stann in his surrogate home of Japan, the picketers, naysayers, worrywarts and advice-mongers should clock out for a bit. Better yet, they should pull up a stool and enjoy watching the last of the free-swinging brawlers as he goes about raising our arm hair.
That goes for the UFC, too.
Why not? Wanderlei Silva, the old Pride legend, is the current UFC covet. He is the counter-Fitch, and the mute button for Volkmann. He fights to fight, and if winning happens in these violent outbreaks, that's cool too. Retire? Might be a good idea, but not while he's starching people. Think his chin has gone? Review the past few fights. He took big shots from Le, Franklin and Stann, and was standing after each. In fact, he was a finger shove away from finishing Franklin to be riding a three-fight winning streak.
I get that Silva could walk away right now and have a storybook ending to a 50-fight career. For starters, he's still got his wits. I get the romantic setting, too -- he moves back up to 205 pounds, shows up as a substantial underdog against Stann, and ends up finishing him emphatically after many tense, furious minutes standing in each other's wheelhouses. And he did it in his fabled Japan, home of Pride, which is the only fitting sayonara for such a legend. Run the credits.
All of which is nice, but Silva isn't the "happily ever after" sort. He's a brawler who wants to electrify crowds and still believes he can. For those people saying the 36-year-old has nothing left to prove, you're exactly right -- but he's defiant, and if there's anything he seems intent on proving it's that we're wrong. He still can fight. All he requires is an accommodating opponent. Somebody who will bang and play along, like Stann and Le. There are a few of them left in the land of past glories (the 205-pound division). Or he can take on more serious comers, such as Tom Watson, who is campaigning for that matchup as I type. Challenges are not a problem.
Sure, Silva has "been in a lot of wars," which raises concerns about long-term effects. He has looked susceptible at times. But he has overcome the Leben and Quinton Jackson knockouts and at this point feels like a man whom we prematurely packaged away. And maybe we shouldn't usher him out the door so fast, anyway. Silva built his foundation around "brawl." As a contemporary fighter, he added the wrinkles. He worked on his jiu-jitsu, on his sprawl, on the clinch, on defense -- the ordinary stuff.
But he did that only in case of dreaded eventualities -- things like a technical fight breaking out. If he had his druthers, all fights would go like the Stann fight. That's his mindset. Fans all over like that mindset, which makes it crazy infectious. And if he feels good in bringing it, so should we.
Silva should go out on a high note
Watching Wanderlei Silva upset Brian Stann via second-round knockout on Saturday at UFC on Fuel TV 8 no doubt sparked some complicated feelings for MMA fans.
There's no disputing it was a great moment for Silva -- arguably the best of his six-plus years in the Octagon -- and seeing him craft a vintage "Axe Murderer" KO in the country where he first became a star warmed the heart, to the extent such a violent display could have that effect.
But then there were those other, nagging emotions we couldn't help feeling.
The ones lurking in the backs of our minds as we watched him hop up on top of the cage to soak in the cheers.
The ones we felt compelled to acknowledge to ourselves as we listened to him answer Jon Anik's questions, thanking God and the UFC, telling the fans how proud he was to perform for them.
Now is the time for Wanderlei Silva to call it a career.
Right here, right now, this is as good as it's going to get for him.
Silva should retire because he deserves it. As an MMA pioneer, a great champion and one of the sport's true icons, he ought to go out on a high note.
You couldn't script a much better exit for him than this one, cutting down a relevant competitor in a flurry of fists inside a building where he'd been a mainstay as one of the stars of the now defunct Pride organization, collecting dueling fight of the night and knockout of the night bonuses to boot.
It obviously has been years since Silva had anything to prove. Though we're all loath to admit it, it also has been years since he has been anything close to the wild-eyed madman who terrified his competition while piling up 26 wins and only three defeats from 1999-2006, winning the Pride middleweight title and the organization's 2003 middleweight grand prix tournament along the way.
For roughly nine minutes Saturday night, he appeared to reclaim some of that form, blitzing Stann to set up the perfect denouement for one of the greatest fighters our sport has ever seen.
Few athletes get that chance, to dictate the terms of their own swan song. Silva has it now, though he almost certainly won't take it.
Here's hoping the day never comes that we all wish he had.
'GROSS POINT BLANK'
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