Last night at UFC 153 in Brazil Anderson Silva made his return to the octagon at light heavyweight in a match of very little overall relevance to the pound-for-pound rankings. Facing off against Stephan Bonnar in a bout that would mean little for Silva if he had won (which he obviously did), many people were left scratching their heads wondering if this fight had any place being held in the first place. Why would Silva return to 205 lbs after all this time to face off against an opponent of such little consequence?
To back up for a second, this was only Silva’s third match at light heavyweight. At UFC “Silva vs. Irwin” in 2008 Silva made his debut at the higher weight class, and easily dispatched of a much (at the time) overrated James Irvin; it seemed as though the UFC was setting up Silva to be the first multi-weight class champion. However, Silva would have none of it. He made it clear that his moving up in weight class (from middleweight) was merely a favour to his boss, Dana White, and that he had no desire to stay at a heavier weight class. It wasn’t until almost a year later that Silva would again fight at 205 lbs, this time against Forrest Griffin at UFC 101. Again, Silva was put in the octagon against an opponent who had little chance of actually beating him and the resulting beatdown was an embarrassment for Griffin.
This bring us to UFC 153 last night in Rio, where Silva faced off against Stephan Bonnar. Bonnar has not really ever been a legitimate title contender since he entered the UFC after his epic battle against Forrest Griffin in season finale of TUF 1, in what many call the greatest match of all time; however people do know who he is for this reason alone. Silva showed that the semi-retired Stephan Bonnar still has no place fighting inside the octagon, after making him look like a clown inside of one-round.
So, why even set-up the match? The reason is that Dana White is setting us up for the UFC super-fight that he has been promising us for years. For many years Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre have dominated their UFC weight classes like no other, it would only be natural that people would want to see the two best in the world clash. Years ago we were hearing that GSP vs. Silva was all but a given – but, with injuries to both fighters the hype started to die. Then we started to see a new and exciting dominate fighter emerge at light heavyweight in Jon Jones. New super-fight rumours started to swirl within the world of MMA. All said, Silva announced that he was happy fighting at 185 lbs and did not want to move up weight classes to fight Jones. Recently, however, we have started to see this stance soften.
Let’s be honest, GSP vs. Silva – as much as we would all love to see it – doesn’t make much sense. While Silva has proven to have some difficulty against wrestlers (e.g. Chael Sonnen), he is still much larger than the French Canadian stalwart; while an interesting match-up, it would truly be a David v. Goliath situation. Silva would have everything to lose, and St. Pierre would have everything to gain. By facing off against GSP, size advantage alone would likely give Silva him a massive edge (and we all know how deadly Silva can be both in and out of the clinch). If Silva won, people would clap their hands and nod in approval. If he lost, his legacy would be tainted and GSP would likely go down as the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen.
Anderson Silva versus Jon Jones on the other side of things is a much more interesting match-up. At 6″4 with an 84.5″ reach Jones presents a lot more of a challenge against the Brazilian, who is 6″2 with a 77″ reach advantage (compare that to the 5″10 Georges St. Pierre). Silva has less to lose against the younger, bigger and stronger Jones. Jon Jones Is just starting on his way up in all reality, and many see him has the future of the sport for the next ten years; if Silva were to lose to Jones, many people would shrug and say: “well, Silva is getting old and got beat by the younger stronger champ”.
So, this all brings us back to our main question: Did Silva beating Bonnar really matter? The answer is: “Yes”. Bonnar, while not a real contender is still a well known name in the world of MMA, as is Griffin, and to an extent even Irvin is. Three wins against known fighters means that the argument could be made that “The Spider” has done enough at 205 lbs to prove he warrants a title shot. Silva is in the twilight of his career and wants to cement his legacy as the greatest the world has ever seen. With Dana White teasing us more recently that the possibility of this super-fight, I think this hypothesis almost definitely has merit.
My prediction… After Jones beats Henderson (whenever that is), we’ll hear the announcement that Jones v. Silva will be happening. I give the fight late next year, with a mid-year announcement… and my heart beats with anticipation.