Cleat Geeks

“The Spider” Returns (my personal account following Anderson Silva’s UFC career)

SilvaBisping2Anderson Silva has been called many things. Chauvinistic, arrogant, washed-up, and overrated are the terms commonly used by MMA fans that wish to see the demise of “The Spider” when he faces Michael “The Count” Bisping in London, England on February 27th.

Inspirational, relentless, and imposing are the words that I choose to focus on when referencing such a legend of the sport. When I first witnessed the greatness that was Anderson Silva, it was against current Bellator fighter Chris “The Crippler” Leben. This TUF alum is known for his ability to take a punch as well as give one, when an opponent is willing to stand and trade. The accuracy of Silva’s punches not only stopped “The Crippler”, but they vaulted him into a title fight with then champion, Rich Franklin.

mma_franklin_silva2_200Their first fight was sort of disheartening. Franklin was a great and humble champion who never overstated his worth, so it was difficult to witness the damage that Anderson’s knee did to the nose of the eventual loser. When I heard that the rematch would be in Cincinnati Ohio (a few Silva title defenses later), I bought my ticket for a chance to see Rich get his belt back…. That would not be the case. As I rose from my seat to leave US Bank Arena, I finally understood that this Silva guy was a different kind of fighter. The way his Thai clinch allowed him to drag his opponent directly into his oncoming attack was something I’d only seen in movies. At this level of mixed martial arts, title fights weren’t supposed to be this one-sided.

I had to see this man fight in person once more. Luckily his next match-up pitted him against former Pride two-division champ, and Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson. This fight would be held in Columbus Ohio, so naturally, I made it a priority of mine to attend. Two rounds into the fight, Dan had to tap out to a rear-naked choke that Anderson pulled off just before the round ended. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was witnessing the greatest UFC title run that the organization had ever seen. I thought I had found a fighter that I could not only appreciate, but one I could respectfully root for. What I didn’t know, was that this fighter would be a cause more frustration for me than any Bellator event could hope to inflict.

GriffinAndersonSilva became bored with winning. He jumped between weight classes and decimated all of the competition that the UFC placed before him. He even dispatched my favorite fighter at the time (Forrest Griffin) in such a disrespectful fashion that I actually stopped going to events. To his credit, he was able to TKO Griffin while stepping back with his hands down. A well-timed, well-placed punch was all it took to wreck the former light heavyweight champ’s hopes of an upset. Dana White actually walked out of his title fight with Damien Maia and told another representative of the UFC to put the belt on him when he became disgusted by the way Anderson only chose to throw punches to his opponents thigh, which was another result of his obvious boredom.

Then came his first bout with Chael Sonnen. A fight that Anderson was expected to win just as easily as his other title defenses, but it didn’t go exactly as planned. Sonnen was able to take the champ down at will for nearly 24 minutes. The once invincible Silva finally looked incredibly human with the wrestler abusing him in such a simple fashion. Just when it looked like “The Spider” was all out of miraculous finishes, he threw his legs around Chael’s shoulders and locked in the triangle submission. I was astonished as I watched the dominant fighter tap. He tapped like they always did, except he submitted after a nearly flawless fight. Could anyone defeat this man? I was beginning to believe that the answer was a resounding “No”.

Sonnen would fall again, and in a much more depressing fashion before Anderson would meet a worthy opponent. Vitor Belfort, Stephen Bonnar, and Yushin Okami would all lose in their attempt to thwart “the Spider” as well, but then Silva’s entire legacy would take a major hit. I had watched for years while Anderson stopped showing up to PR events, or doing interviews that all fighters were required to attend, all the while building a disdain for a fighter that I had initially admired from a talent stand point, when he was finally matched up with then undefeated Chris Weidman. This fight saw some of the closest odds that I have ever seen in a Silva title fight, and for good reason.

SilvaWeidmanThe usual antics that aided in Silva’s intimidation factor, as well as his seemingly easy wins, would also be his downfall. When fighting Weidman, he was hit with a glancing blow, he took it upon himself to pretend that the punch had actually caused some damage. When resetting into his stance to continue the fight, Chris wasted no time delivering yet another blow, a blow that was heard around the world. Anderson Silva, the same Anderson Silva that spat on every achievement that he had accomplished since joining the UFC, had fallen, and he had fallen hard. Many called the KO a fluke. That, had Anderson kept his guard up, the punch never would have connected. So, the UFC responded by pitting the two fighters against each other once again. The second bout wouldn’t shy away from controversy either. A hard leg kick that Silva had intended for Weidman’s thigh, instead hit directly to his shin, which shattered his leg instantly, and as he went to step back, he collapsed upon the broken limb. It was a very surreal moment for me, watching the once unbeatable UFC champion holding his leg in agony, and shrieking in pain as he lay on the canvas.

146_chris_weidman_vs_anderson_silva.0I thought this spelled a very sour, but not undeserved end to a career that Anderson had set himself up for. As much as I wanted to enjoy his pain, I could not. It was a shame to think of a great pioneer like Silva ending his career on a stretcher. It appeared that my empathy had overridden my anger towards the fighter. He would eventually come back to face Nick Diaz, in a fight that I once again found myself rooting for the “villain”. The fight would be ruled a no-contest, as Diaz tested positive for THC, and Silva himself tested positive for a banned substance, which landed him a one-year suspension. One year later, here we are today. Just days away from the return of this poetic antihero. A fight against English Fighter Michael Bisping will not be an easy comeback fight, (especially since the fight takes place in London). As much as I appreciate and enjoy watching Bisping fight, I find myself hoping that “The Spider” returns to his old dominant ways of winning. I am a very loyal sports fan. Anyone around me can vouch for my Tennessee Titans jerseys, but I have waffled once again on my stance when it comes to this fighter. He has a personality that you can love and hate all at the same time. I can’t explain it myself, but I am very excited for the upcoming main event. It may spell the end for an otherwise incredible journey for Anderson Silva, but regardless of if he wins or not, I hope he stays committed to the persona that all MMA fans have come to root for, or against.

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