Sunday, 07 July 2013 16:02
The first is that Silva's arrogance got the better of him. According to this line of thinking the bomb Weidman landed was Silva's just deserts for clowning around and openly mocking a formidable opponent.
The second is that Silva merely got caught employing a favorite strategic tactic, one that successfully helped him gain a psychological edge many times before. Proponents of this point of view assert that Silva getting rocked after dropping his hands and cartoonishly play acting like he was hurt was no different than if Weidman had caught Silva's leg on a low-kick attempt and used it to set up a takedown.
Somehow though, as I sit down to write this a little over twelve hours after the fact, I'm finding it difficult to fully wrap my brain around what happened last night. The above explanations for Weidman's victory both have a ring of truth to them -- the first on an emotional, gut level and the second on a rational level -- but for me they both fail to encapsulate the totality of the sea change the MMA world witnessed on Saturday. This is a case where, like a page in a coloring book that explodes in a variegated riot of color thanks to a kindergartener who can't bring himself to stay in between the lines, the truth is of a protean nature that slips outside the tidy borders of ready-made narratives.
Which is really just a fancy way of saying I have no fucking clue what to make of a world where Anderson Silva isn't the pound for pound greatest fighter alive.
Here, at least, is a brief list of what I think I know:
1) This loss in no way diminishes Silva's legacy. No matter how his reign came to an end, Silva still defended the UFC middleweight championship a record 10 times and held the belt just shy of seven years. What's more, he amassed an unparalleled 16 fight win streak in the UFC since his promotional debut back in June of 2006. This is to say nothing of the consummate artistry he displayed in the Octagon en route to setting those records.
When it comes to the title of greatest mixed martial artist of all time, the only other fighter in the conversation with Silva is Fedor Emelianenko. When you consider the caliber of talent the two men faced in their respective primes, there is a strong case to be made that Silva's run is the more impressive of the two.
Regardless of whether or not you consider him the GOAT, Silva is indisputably a generational talent who will be remembered as a legend for as long as the sport exists. One punch doesn't erase all that.
2) Silva didn't beat himself by showboating. While there's an undeniable emotional appeal to the idea of Silva's hubris coming back to bite him in the ass, let's not forget it was Weidman himself who was able to keep his composure and capitalize on the opening Silva gave him.
With the notable exception of the first Chael Sonnen fight, Silva had spent years successfully clowning on opponents and in the process getting them all kinds of frustrated. Like a puppeteer playing with a marionette, Silva used these seemingly disrespectful gestures to mesmerize his opponents and lull them into playing his game. Weidman may not be the only fighter who came into a bout with Silva aware of this tactic, but he was the only one in seven years who successfully dealt with it once the Octagon door shut. He deserves full credit for his unprecedented accomplishment.
3) The outcome of this fight cost the UFC millions of dollars. For much of the past year the prospect of a Silva/Jon Jones super fight loomed tantalizingly in the wings like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Unfortunately for all parties involved that rainbow dissipated the moment Weidman connected with Silva's jaw and knocked him out cold. Now that theoretical pot of gold has been lost forever. Jones succinctly summed up the feelings of all parties who stood to profit from the superfight when he tweeted, "This sucks."
What's more, although Georges St-Pierre displayed few signs of wanting to face Silva, the long-anticipated GSP/Silva superfight is also now one for the "what could have been" file.
Both bouts were virtually guaranteed to do monster business the likes of which the UFC hasn't seen since the heyday of Brock Lesnar as a draw. However, Silva was the lynchpin that held the two fights together and his loss on Saturday night renders them a moot point now.
4) There's a reason Dana White has his heart set on a Weidman/Silva rematch. Besides all the theoretical money that went up in flames with Weidman's victory over Silva, there's another promotional dilemma facing the UFC right now. Namely, hardly anybody knew who Chris Weidman was before Saturday night.
The bulk of the UFC audience's only prior exposure to him was a lackluster victory over Damien Maia on the sophomore UFC on FOX show. Besides that, his signature win before defeating Silva came against Mark Munoz in the main event of a UFC on FUEL TV show that did 211,000 average viewers.
While people will doubtlessly know who he is after Saturday night, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll view him as a superstar right outside the gate. Look at the case of Frankie Edgar's lackluster drawing power after defeating B.J Penn for an example of how beating the man doesn't necessarily make you the man in the eyes of fans. Granted, Silva is in a different league than Penn when it comes to his accomplishments, but nevertheless Weidman will likely need time and the right opponents to catch on as a draw.
Consequently, there's no fight the UFC can make at middleweight that will do anywhere close to the business Weidman/Silva II would generate. It may not be the Silva/Jones superfight, but it should still be a white hot match coming off one of the greatest upsets of all time.
5) Booing Anderson Silva in defeat is not a good look. If you ever want evidence of how fickle MMA fans can be, look no further than the hailstorm of boos that rained down on Anderson Silva as Joe Rogan interviewed him in the Octagon last night. A fighter who has accomplished what Silva has in this sport deserves to be treated with respect, even if some fans personally don't care for him or how he fights. Kicking the arguable GOAT while he is down is a pretty shitty move, especially in light of the humility Silva showed in defeat.
6) If you didn't order UFC 162 last night or attend it live, you done messed up. Everyone who watched UFC 162 saw history unfold before their eyes. Silva/Weidman will undoubtedly go down as one of the most legendary matches in MMA history. It's far too early to tell if it heralded the start of the Weidman era, but we undoubtedly witnessed the end of an era last night when Weidman dropped Silva and proceeded from there to pound the living legend into unconsciousness. I will never forget the sight of Anderson Silva crashing down from his throne, his eyes rolling back in his head like a slain monarch.
The king may be dead, but the jury is still out on how long the new one will reign.