Between 2006 and 2013, Anderson Silva was the greatest of all time, at middleweight, in MMA history. Period. And he will always go down as the greatest at 185-pounds, regardless of how far Israel Adesanya’s rivers take him in this sport.
Thanks to the modern Frankenstein’s monster that is social media, posting an opinion like that is like shining a high-intensity torch in a dark field of moths. You’re going to attract attention. And that’s bizarre, considering such respect for Silva was the norm just a few years ago.
Sports fans, especially combat sports fans, have always loved to lose their minds debating things such as the greatest to do it. Ali vs. Tyson is the perfect example of that.
But the difference between, say, boxing and MMA, is that the latter is still so young. The UFC has only been around since 1993, so pulling some obscure old fighter’s name from between your cheeks and using it to invalidate points is not really doable.
Some believe Adesanya is not just Silva’s first successor as a true middleweight champ. Some believe he will go on to take his place as the greatest middleweight in UFC history.
And I’m here to dispute that for the last time.
Adesanya Exists in an Age of “Stars”
It’s true though, isn’t it? Think of the number of stars that have come after Silva and before Adesanya in the UFC.
I could list name after name, but who has ever been bigger than Conor McGregor, right? The Irishman is the most recognizable face in mixed martial arts history, and Adesanya will have been watching his ascent to the top very closely.
Back in Silva’s late 2000s/early 2010s pomp, he was the man. If you want an idea of just how big “The Spider” was, Google a couple of articles from around 2010/2011. Here’s a typical one that shows what I mean.
Not only was he the most accomplished fighter in the game, but he was also MMA’s biggest star. Not in the same fashion as a McGregor, Ronda Rousey, or Adesanya. It was just… different.
Who can forget the Brazilian master knocking guys out for fun in his black and yellow shorts, while making you hungry with that big Burger King logo emblazoned on the front of them? I can.
Now that’s star power you don’t see in today’s UFC uniforms.
Silva’s Records and Achievements
Can anyone ever beat Silva’s 2,457-day title reign record that spanned 2006 to 2013? Or how about his record 16 consecutive wins?
Silva was so dominant in the UFC’s middleweight division that it seemed no one could stop him. At times, he just messed around with his opponents as though they were puppets at the end of strings. It was insane to watch.
Now, I know there is an argument that some like to bring up regarding Silva’s opposition. Did the Brazilian operate at a time of weak competition?
Absolutely not. He fought killers such as Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Rich Franklin, TRT Vitor, and Demian Maia. What’s more, he made beating them look easy.
Adesanya has beaten Kelvin Gastelum, Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, and an aged Silva himself, but I wouldn’t say that this modern era of middleweights is any better than we had during the 2000s.
Can Adesanya match Silva’s records? At 31, he certainly has time. But I don’t see anyone beating Silva’s title reign.
Silva’s Rivalry with Chael Sonnen
There is no doubt that Silva’s greatest rival was Chael Sonnen. Equally, there is no doubt “The American Gangster” as the best thrash talker of the era.
But more than this, the rivalry between Silva and Sonnen made things so awesome for UFC fans. Silva would win both fights. But the first contest looked as though it was ready to slip through his fingers. Well, if you could class being beaten for the majority of the fight in that category.
But Silva ended up locking in for a triangle armbar and the rest is history.
Then, two years later, Silva beat Sonnen by TKO to end the rivalry once and for all.
Will Adesanya have a Chael Sonnen at some point in his career? A rival that pushes him to the brink of victory, only for Izzy to pull a career-defining save out of the bag?
I don’t think so.
Silva Was a King Among Men
Although Israel Adesanya is an incredible technician and awesome champion, it’s probably a little too early to gauge how far he can go.
As we know, things can change very quickly in this sport. Fans of Anderson Silva can tell you that, considering how quickly his star faded out following an unbelievable knockout loss to Chris Weidman in 2013.
Where Adesanya has conquered the best in the division, for now, there will be some hungry young lions queuing up around the block for a shot at his title. Let’s see how he handles those challenges.
Silva, whether you rate his opponents or not, proved that he was the man throughout a seven-year period. Before that loss to Weidman, Silva enjoyed the greatest championship run we will ever see in this sport.
If Adesanya can top it, I’ll take my hat off to him.
As much as I respect “The Last Stylebender,” and love watching his fights, he’ll never be the middleweight GOAT of the UFC. That title belongs to Anderson Silva.
Silva’s Retirement Fight
Silva is set to hang up his gloves following his fight with Uriah Hall at UFC Fight Night: Hall vs. Silva on October 31.
It’s going to be sad watching Silva leave the sport, but in all fairness, he should have done it years ago.
If you’re looking to bet on the fight, check out my Hall vs. Silva betting preview that comes with odds, best bets, and a prediction for the middleweight clash of a storied career for The Spider.
I’m off to find some tissues, as I think I have something in my eye…