Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea \ USA TODAY Sports Images
Regardless of where fans were watching UFC 168, whether it be at a bar, with friends or at the event itself, there was a collective gasp in the room when Anderson Silva broke his leg on the shin of Chris Weidman. For casual onlookers that I spoke to that evening, their gasps pertained to the gruesome image of Silva’s leg splitting in half. The hardcore MMA fans that I spoke to that night were gasping for a different reason, because it was potentially the last time they would get to see Anderson Silva compete. Silva has since stated that he has commenced his rehab and fully intends on coming back, which is totally admirable. He’s accomplished all there is to accomplish in the sport, made a ton of money, but wants to come back for the sheer enjoyment of competition.
As the sport grows, there will be an influx of talent and there will be debates for years to come as to who the greatest of all time will be. Having said that, it’s unlikely that we will ever see another fighter that ends fights in the spectacular fashion that Silva does. There were instances where he would literally stand with his hands down and dodge punches like he was in The Matrix. He would stand there with a blank look, calmly dodging punches, and everyone knew that something special was about to happen. Even his opponents knew, as a look of terror would come over them. As fans, all we can do is patiently wait for Silva to complete his rehab and hope he’s the same fighter when he comes back, but at 38 years old, it’s highly questionable. In the mean time…lets recap Silva’s top 10 moments in the UFC!
10. Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben, UFC Fight Night 5 ($36,000, KO Bonus Not Disclosed)
This fight was significant because it was Silva‘s UFC debut, AKA the commencement of destruction. The sport was still new back then and a tremendous amount of fans had just viewed the reality show “The Ultimate Fighter 1” where Chris Leben was the star. When this fight was announced, he was more notable to most people than Silva and many even went as far as saying Leben was the favorite. MMA purists such as Joe Rogan knew better: “That’s what I was talking about! This is a different kind of striker”
9. Anderson Silva vs. Travis Lutter, UFC 67 ($71,000)
This was Silva‘s 3rd appearance in the octagon but he had already won the Middleweight Championship when he decimated Rich Franklin. Silva had never been put in any kind of danger in the UFC, until this fight against Travis Lutter. Lutter had just won The Ultimate Fighter 4 as a Middleweight and had serious momentum heading into this fight. At the end of round one, he managed to get Silva to the ground, and got into the full mount position. He was landing very hard shots and the fight seemed dangerously close to being stopped. Silva managed to overcome the adversity and finish off Lutter in the next round. This fight was significant because it was the first time Silva had ever dealt with any adversity in the UFC, and also because there was somewhat of a blueprint put in place as to how to beat him.
8. Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson, UFC 82 ($260,000, Includes $60,000 Fight of the Night and Submission Bonus)
Who better to test out this new found blueprint than Greco wrestler and former Pride Champion, Dan Henderson. “Hendo” had the necessary tools to beat Silva. He had knockout power in his right hand, fantastic submission defense, and most of all, the ability to take any fight to the floor. He was executing his game plan marvelously in the first round as Silva seemed mystified by Henderson’s wrestling. Silva eventually got fed up in the 2nd round and setup a barrage of punches and kicks sending Henderson to the mat, eventually finishing the fight via rear-naked choke. The image of Henderson in the choke, gasping for air with his tongue sticking out is one that fans will never forget.
7. Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin, UFC Fight Night ($200,000)
Silva seemed to be defending his Middleweight Championship with ease so he decided to dabble in the Light Heavyweight division now and then. Pundits wondered if it was wise for Silva to step in the octagon at a higher weight class, and questioned if he could display the same dominance on bigger opponents. His first fight at 205 pounds was against James Irvin, who had a few impressive knockouts on his resume at the time. A minute into the fight, Irvin threw a hard leg kick which was caught. Silva had Irvin’s leg caught between his left arm and thigh. He then stared at Irvin for an instant and calmly threw an overhand right which floored him.
6. Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar, UFC 153 ($200,000)
Spoiler alert: All of Anderson Silva‘s appearances at 205 pounds were equally as destructive. This fight looked like when a child tries to wrestle his old man. The main event was slated to be Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, which would have been somewhat of a super fight. Aldo was forced to pull out due to injury, leaving UFC 153 main eventless. Silva felt the need to step up because the card was in his home country of Brazil and did not want the fans to miss out on a great show. Bonnar claimed he only wanted to fight once more, against a top notch fighter, or as he so eloquently put it: “Someone with more Twitter followers than me”. It was apparent that Silva wanted to put on a show for the crowd. At about three minutes in, he leaned against the cage, letting Bonnar tee off on him. Ultimately, Silva ended the fight with a knee to the body and a barrage of punches followed.
5. Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin, UFC 101 ($120,000 for Fight of the Night and Submission Bonuses, Original Pay Not Disclosed)
This will always be Silva‘s most remembered scrap at 205 pounds, because he was put on blast for his previous performance against Damian Maia. Silva made a mockery of the main event, dancing and yelling stupidities at Maia rather than attempting to finish the fight. Dana White promised that Silva will never pull anything like that again and booked him against former Light Heavyweight Champion, Forrest Griffin. Silva came out guns blazing, overwhelming a helpless Griffin. He tried to fight back by throwing a haymaker, but Silva gave him a look of disgust and finished the fight with a quick jab (no, that is not a typo, he knocked him out with a jab). Griffin was so demoralized that he bolted out of the octagon and didn’t stop until he reached backstage, and was met with the all too easy “run Forrest, run” joke for the rest of his career. He later commented on the fight and said: “I tried to punch him, and he literally moved his head out of the way and looked at me like I was stupid for doing it.”
4. Anderson Silva vs. Rich Frankin 1, UFC 64 ($5, 000, KO Bonus Not Disclosed)
On this night, Anderson Silva won the Middleweight Championship and began the longest title reign in UFC history. This was only Silva’s second fight with the company and people were skeptical as to why he received a title shot so quickly. Franklin was a seasoned vet with wins over Evan Tanner and David Loiseau. Regardless, he was no match for Silva, as he quickly ended up in a clinch and got kneed repeatedly until he fell over. When Franklin finally got up and the camera zoomed in on his face, his nose was literally crooked, and he romptly needed surgery to be put back in place. They would later rematch, but it does not crack this list as it was a carbon copy of their first fight. Much respect to Franklin though, who had the guts to step in there a second time.
3. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen, UFC 117 ($320,000, Includes $60,000 Submission and Fight of the Night Bonuses)
To this point, nobody had ever challenged Anderson Silva physically and verbally as much as Chael Sonnen did. In the months leading up to this fight, Sonnen unleashed a tirade of the greatest trash talk in the sport’s history. The only problem was, Sonnen’s record aws 25-10 at this point, which is adequate considering the opponents he had faced, but it was almost unanimous across the board that a fighter with 10 losses would pose no threat to Silva. But styles make fights in MMA, and stylistically this fight was a nightmare for Silva. As we had seen in the past, Silva had been susceptible to great wrestlers. Especially wrestlers that don’t need to work from the clinch and can transition from striking to a power double or single.
Sonnen absolutely whaled on Silva for four and a half rounds as he had received more strikes in this one fight than he did in his entire UFC career. The fight was all but over as Sonnen had top position in the final round until Silva performed a miraculous triangle choke and ultimately submitted Sonnen. Silva needed this fight because it showed that he could battle back from adversity. Many Silva fans are still in denial about what took place that night, implying that Silva had it under control the whole time. Newsflash: getting hit 320 times is never in anyone’s game plan. Go to the 38th minute in the video below to see the submission unfold.
2. Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort, UFC 126 ($275,000, Includes $75,000 KO Bonus)
This was the fight after the Sonnen drubbing and pundits were questioning if Anderson Silva would be the same fighter or if his career was simply winding down. This fight was also huge because Silva was facing fellow Brazilian knockout artist, Vitor Belfort. There was an immense amount of pressure on both fighters, as the country was divided as to who they were pulling for. Silva quickly shut his critics up and knocked out Belfort with a front-kick to the face, which was deemed the greatest knockout of all time. A front-kick to the face had never been seen before in the UFC, let alone on an top level fighter like Belfort (Joe Rogan goes absolutely bananas).
1. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 2, UFC 126 ($275,000, Includes $75,000 KO Bonus)
Undoubtedly the biggest moment in Anderson Silva‘s UFC career was the rematch with Chael Sonnen. There were so many external factors as to why this rematch took two years to come to fruition. For one, Sonnen had to serve a six month suspension for using testosterone replacement therapy. This is common used among older UFC fighter’s nowadays, but the athletic commission deemed that he didn’t apply the usage in a proper manner. Silva was also hampered by injuries at the time. Silva personally did not feel like he had to validate his original win over Sonnen because a win is a win. But in reality, he probably did not want to deal with Sonnen anymore, as it was just a terrible match-up for him. Dana White finally stepped in and left Silva no choice, the rematch was on in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas! For his legacy and to ensure that the first encounter was not a fluke, Silva needed to win convincingly. The first round went exactly as the first fight did, with Sonnen double-legging Silva, obtaining full mount and landing some serious leather. Round 2 began and Silva had a different look in his eye, he wasn’t angry, he was fed up. He stuffed two of Sonnen’s take-down attempted, dodged a spinning back fist, kneed Sonnen in the chest and landed a barrage of shots, ending the fight and the rivalry.