Silva making most of time left?
Anderson Silva is the best mixed martial artist the sport has produced. True enough, we're just 20 years into this thing, but Silva's the man for this period. Like early titans of boxing, he'll be judged against his contemporaries. In my book, Silva is more impressive than Fedor Emelianenko, who dominated portions of the past decade, or anyone else who's been around as long.
Sustained dominance, often in brilliant, never-seen-before fashion against consistently high-class opposition, makes it so. And while it's always a pleasure witnessing the Brazilian great ply his trade -- even in farcical showcases like the one he had Saturday night against Stephan Bonnar -- the truth is Silva, at the age of 37, needs to make the most of his remaining appearances.
He's the best today, though that doesn't make him so tomorrow. Jon Jones is the kind of young talent who could usurp Silva. Some believe he already has. I'm obviously not in that group, yet if Jones continues on his current trajectory, continues to handle studs at light heavyweight, manages to move up and deliver against the big boys, his case would be exceedingly strong.
So, yes, Silva needs to keep challenging himself. Unfortunately, he comes off like he doesn't want to. He dismissed the possibility of meeting undefeated middleweight Chris Weidman, essentially saying the kid isn't seasoned enough. But who is more attractive at this point? Michael Bisping? Alan Belcher? Tim Boetsch? They're all challenges in their own way, though there's not much separating one from the other.
If Silva doesn't see upside in facing them now, what will his excuse be down the road? After all, he announced his intention to fight five more years. Against whom, one has to wonder?
That, I'd wager, will be the most discussed topic coming out of UFC 153, an event that provided Silva a showcase in front of his home nation. They can't all be like Stephan Bonnar until 2017. That would have the same detrimental impact as Emelianenko's excursions, leaving the door open for Jones or Georges St. Pierre or someone else to be remembered as the best.
Five questions answered
Sometimes it's OK to have a fun fight.
So said UFC president Dana White during the lead-up to UFC 153 and, in this case, we're pleased to report that the boss was right.
We're not going to sit here and try to tell you that Silva's first-round KO over Bonnar on Saturday night was competitive or meaningful -- or even particularly relevant to the MMA world at large -- but it absolutely, positively was fun. Watching Silva stand against the chain link with his hands at his waist giving Bonnar the raspberry for the better part of the first round before ending things with a single, judicious knee and a barrage of punches on the ground was, frankly, a hoot. It also may have been the darndest display of showmanship and fighting acumen we've ever seen inside the Octagon.
Just because it was fun, however, didn't preclude us from answering some important questions at UFC 153. Here are the five most pertinent:
Q: Which Silva will show up to fight Bonnar?
A: The one who fights like he's in a kung fu movie, apparently. The UFC's longstanding middleweight champ has been a bit of an enigma at times during his career, but at this point, two things are clear: First, the Silva who slumped his way through tepid performances against guys like Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia is but a distant memory. These days, when the UFC hands him a free dinner, Silva lets the big dog eat. Second, as dominant as the champ has been at 185 pounds, he's been even better the three times we've seen him at light heavyweight. Saturday night against Bonnar, he showed us exactly what happens when you put a normal human in the cage with a legend, and it was good, people, it was good.
Q: How much does Big Nog have left in the tank?
A: More than we might have guessed. Sure, the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira we saw dust Dave Herman via second-round armbar at UFC 153 was a far cry from the Big Nog of old. The 2003 version of Nogueira would've dispatched the apathetic and clownish Herman before Lenne Hardt screeched her way through the introductions, but at least he showed us there's still some tread left on the tires. He's not riding a bullet train to the top of the heavyweight division, but he improved to 3-3 since 2008 and demonstrated that those defining qualities -- the competent boxing and unforgiving submission game -- that made him a favorite during the Pride era are still kicking around somewhere inside him. Now, it's probably time to walk away with those faculties still intact.
Q: Is Glover Teixeira more hype than substance?
A: No way. It's a lot more difficult to discount Teixeira as nothing more than MMA's latest flavor of the month after watching him thoroughly tool the too-tough-for-his-own-good Fabio Maldonado during his second Octagon appearance. Teixeira's got lead in his hands and the kind of remorseless mean streak necessary to pound his opponent's face into hamburger and then slap him five and hug like it was no big deal after the doctor mercifully stops the fight. He says he still wants to fight Quinton Jackson, but we wouldn't argue with Teixeira leapfrogging "Rampage" and going after someone in the top 10 next.
Q: How long before Phil Davis is ready for prime time?
A: Not long, though he's still got a ways to go. Davis showed some marked improvement during his do-over fight against Wagner Prado en route to a second-round submission win. The former NCAA national wrestling champion looked more comfortable on his feet, and when the time came to slap the anaconda choke on Prado, Davis finished with the zeal befitting his status as a top prospect. He's got the sheer size and physical tools of a guy who could give Jon Jones a run for his money someday, but it still feels like Davis needs a bit more seasoning. Another couple of performances like this one over increasingly difficult competition, however, and he'll be ready for his close-up.
Q: Can Maia be reborn at welterweight?
A: You better believe it. Maia became the first person to finish the super tough Rick Story on Saturday night when he locked up a bloody rear naked choke and improved to 2-0 since making the cut to welterweight. No more is the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace giving up considerable size and strength to his opponents and it showed in the way he was able to corral and control Story on the ground. Give him a top-10 opponent like a returning Josh Koscheck next, and we'll really start to know if Maia has the makings of a future 170-pound title contender. For now, though, it looks like his second act in the UFC will be a successful one.
Five new storylines
1. "Yes, yes, yes."
Dana White wants to turn Silva's incredulous "no, no, no" to the possibility of meeting Jon Jones into "yes, yes, yes." The UFC president knows money talks, and to get the answer he wants -- and of course he wants it because the promotion of Silva-Jones would do beaucoup bucks for Zuffa -- he knows he'll have to throw Silva some real coin. Like maybe the biggest combined purses in the promotion's history.
The champion to beat all champions says he's not in it for the money, but even if that was true early in Silva's career, it can't be now. There's too much at stake. He's featured in commercials and is tied to major sponsors. Silva, for the first time, is big business. A fight with Jones (and St. Pierre) not only make sense, they're an absolute must if the possibility exists. Silva's justification for saying no to Jones -- he wants his teammates to have their shot -- won't fly. Not if he fights St. Pierre and makes a mint doing so. What, he'll say yes to Weidman then?
Money talks. White is right.
2. Will Silva's legacy be tarnished if he never fights Jones?
But what if principles are at play and money doesn't talk? What if nothing gets Silva in the cage with Jones? Would the public turn on him? Would Silva's legacy -- which, to be fair, people like you and me think about much more than he does -- irreparably suffer?
If Silva continues to do what he's done. And Jones flies high. If that happens, and the public demands a fight and their promoter touts huge paydays for both and the fight doesn't happen because Silva says no. If that happens, then Spider deserves to take a hit. He would take a hit.
Questions will be raised. Why not, Anderson? Is Jones so daunting a threat that you'd simply avoid him? What does that say about you as a fighter, notwithstanding all the great things you've already done?
Maybe he doesn't care. It's certainly possible. But this is sport and this is entertainment. Nothing and no one is satisfied with "no."
3. You better start respecting Jon Fitch.
Enough's enough. If you don't like Fitch, get over it. Seriously. He's a tremendous fighter, always has been. He's a winner, always has been. And as he showed against Erick Silva, in the right situation, he can be exciting. I've enjoyed watching him far more often than I haven't. It's time people recognize just how good Fitch has been over the years.
4. Teixeira isn't the second coming.
For many reasons, hype is strong around the 32-year-old Brazilian. He's a mauler. He's mean. Aggressive. A finisher. There's a ton to like about the guy, but let's not get crazy and anoint him the only living threat to Jones. What he is is this: a welcome addition to the UFC light heavyweight class. He's got all the makings of a future contender. That said, I don't see him dethroning the champion -- not now, not two years from now.
5. Maia is a top contender at 170 pounds.
On the flip side, Demian Maia is a legitimate threat to any welterweight mixed martial artist. We can say that with certainty after his dismantling of Story, a systematic and violent display that ended with the American's face painfully cranked as a gruesome mix of blood and mucus shot out of his nose. This is Maia at his best, grappling the way he always could even if he seemed to forget it during stretches of his career. I want to see him take on the top tier at 170, and soon.
UFC 153 Stock Report
With each passing event, the market continues to fluctuate for the denizens of the Octagon. Here's a look at whose stock is up and who is stuck in a bear market after UFC 153.
Fitch: The former No. 1 contender made no bones about the fact that his bout against upstart welterweight contender Erick Silva was a must-win after a knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141. He got it in classic Fitch style, wearing down the previously undefeated Silva on his way to a unanimous decision win. Up next, we'd love to see him take on fellow cardio machine Nick Diaz to see who can get back "in the mix" for another shot at the gold.
Chris Camozzi: He might be on the quietest three-fight win streak in the UFC, but at this rate it's only a matter of time before the people in charge start to take note. He spoiled Luiz Cane's middleweight debut and it appears past time for him to poke his nose into the business of a slightly higher class of middleweight opponent. Up next, it makes sense for him to take on another streaking 185-pounder such as, say, Constantinos Philippou.
Diego Brandao: The featherweight champion of "TUF 14" got back on track with a win over Joey Gambino at UFC 153 after dropping a unanimous decision to Darren Elkins in May. At 25 years old, Brandao still has a very high upside.
Cane: He didn't look terrible in his middleweight debut, but he didn't win, either. He's just 1-4 in his past five fights and didn't give us much indication that the move to 185 pounds is going to breathe new life into his flagging career.
Herman: He's an athletic, talented heavyweight, but Herman always looks like he couldn't care less what happens to him when he's in the cage. After three straight losses in the Octagon, has "Pee Wee" missed the chance to get serious about his UFC career?
Story: Saturday's loss to Maia saw him slip to just 1-3 during his four most recent appearances. For a guy who seemed like he was on the fast track to a title shot after his win over Thiago Alves in May 2011, it's been a precipitous decline. There's still probably time for Story to right the ship, but not much.
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