What the hell just happened? The #1 pound-for-pound Mixed Martial Artist went down for the first time in sixteen fights, and guess who beat him? You know what, I watched the fight live and I’m still not exactly sure.
Enemy #1: Chris Weidman
Any way you slice it, Weidman knocked out Silva. Even before the ridiculously spectacular finish, Weidman was dominant. Round 1 featured a takedown, some ground and pound, and a more than competent Weidman standing ground on his feet. Round 2 featured more standup, some Silvian antics, and eventually a left hook that sent Anderson’s eyes buoying toward the back of his skull. Weidman pounced, inflicting more than enough brutality to force the waving of Herb Dean’s reluctant arms. Well done, Chris. You showed up, took what was given, took a little more, and in doing so turned Myth into Mortal. Your future is bright.
Enemy #2: Pressure
Did the pressure on Silva’s shoulders finally become too great to bear? I actually think it kind of did, but not in the conventional sense. You don’t go 16-0 in the UFC with 10 straight title defenses by letting the bright lights blur your vision. I think Silva eventually became bored of the pressure. You can only experience an intense emotion for so long before it turns common. If anything, I believe pressure is the key factor which morphed Silva into the myth we’ve all been gazing at in awe. When greatness, however, becomes expectation, it is no longer thrilling to be great.
Enemy #3: Old Age
Nah. I mean, maybe a little teensy eensy weensy bit, since he got caught and all, but nah. He essentially dicked around a tad too long against an opponent you should never dick around with.
Enemy #4: Father Time
This is not to be confused with Old Age. Old Age refers to the decline of physical abilities—once Old Age takes hold, you’re basically sunk. Father Time refers to the motivating awareness of knowing that one day, everything you are will no longer be. Let me explain: Silva is 38-years-old. His time atop the MMA mountain will come to an end much sooner than later. He is a family man. He is a businessman. He is a man who knows his window for making insane amounts of money within the UFC is limited to a handful of fights. How does one maximize this window? The simplest answer is vulnerability. By appearing vulnerable, Silva can coax the public into huge PPV buys on the simple notion that his greatness is fading. This, in turn, would provide higher paydays for safer fights. Perhaps sacrificing one brutal loss would provide Silva years of low-risk, lucrative paydays. And this brings us to our final opponent.
Enemy #5: Anderson Silva
This enemy is most effective when joining forces with Father Time. This is also where I introduce the dreaded conspiracy theory. What if Silva took a dive? Personally, I don’t believe he did, but at the very least it’s an idea worth exploring. Lets imagine what would have happened if Silva annihilated Weidman. If Silva beat Weidman in convincing fashion, the Middleweight Division is essentially wiped clean. Belfort is angling for a rematch, but Silva destroyed him so embarrassingly the UFC would have difficulty selling the fight. So if all lucrative Middleweight fights are off the table, what’s next? The most logical picks would be Superfights against George St. Pierre (likely at a catchweight because Silva can’t make 170 and I highly doubt GSP would come all the way up to 185), or Jon Jones (likely at 205 because I don’t think Jones can go any lower). Before Silva’s loss to Weidman, Pierre hinted he had no interest in fighting Silva. I think this is smart on Pierre’s behalf—his chin is unreliable and Silva is a technician. There’s also a stable of marketable fights at Welterweight to keep Pierre busy until retirement—why risk your legacy and well being for an unnecessary fight?
This leaves a Superfight with Jones, which would have been the biggest fight in the history of MMA. I personally thought Jones would stop Silva. Jones is too big, too smart, and too well trained. He’d use his superior size, length, and wrestling to neutralize Silva’s timing and experience. If Silva fought Jones and lost, then what? Is there a rematch? I guess that depends how badly he gets beat. Lets say there is a rematch. Lets say Silva loses again. Now what? Does he go back down to Middleweight and fight whoever has claimed the Interim Middleweight Title (likely somebody he has already defeated via knockout)? Again, not too lucrative for a fighter looking to cash out before Old Age kicks in. So what are Silva’s most plausible options for making as much money as possible before fading away?
The most lucrative path would have been:
2—Defeat Jones in a Superfight at 205
3—Defeat Jones in a rematch at 205
4—Spend the end of days defending the Light Heavyweight belt while hopping down to Middleweight, and possibly up to Heavyweight, for big money fights
This path would have been the highest moneymaker, but I don’t think Silva can beat Jones at 205. Maybe he doesn’t think so either. This road leads us back to path #2—reality. By losing to Weidman, a cornucopia of lucrative fights emerge. Right off the bat you have two more fights with Weidman. If Silva actually took a dive, perhaps he believes he can easily win fights II & III. Even before that bout, there is a potential Superfight with GSP. While GSP had no interest in fighting Silva before the loss to Weidman, maybe Silva’s newly perceived vulnerability could persuade the Welterweight champ to take the risk—for the right price. By the time the GSP Superfight and Weidman rematches had taken place, it is more than likely Jon Jones would have been forced into the Heavyweight division due to weight issues. This means Silva could fight for the title at 205 without having to face the baddest man on Earth.
So to recap, by defeating Weidman, Silva would have to defeat Jones twice and spend the rest of his career fighting opponents who are naturally bigger than him. By losing to Weidman, Silva now has the highly lucrative options of meeting GSP in a Superfight, fighting Weidman two more times, and eventually challenging for the Light Heavyweight title without having to battle Jonny “Bones” Jones. For a fighter looking to maximize paydays, one path seems far more attractive than the other.
The most confusing part of this entire scenario was Anderson’s post fight interview with Joe Rogan. When Rogan asked about an immediate rematch with Weidman, Silva claimed he no longer held interest in fighting for belts. Rogan naturally followed up by asking if Silva was retiring. Nope. He still wants to fight, just not for belts. Well, if you fight Jon Jones in a Superfight, it’s most likely going to be at 205 and it’s most likely going to be for his belt. If this is not in Silva’s future, he is either planning on targeting random gatekeepers at 205 (why?), fighting people not named Weidman at 185 (what?), or luring GSP into a catchweight massacre ($$$).
So who beat Anderson? I think each enemy played some a role, perhaps even subconsciously, in Silva’s defeat. The loss itself was not perplexing but rather the way it occurred. It was shocking to see Silva go down the way he did. Maybe he got too cocky. Maybe he only prepared for Weidman’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu, knowing he’d win if the fight remained standing. Maybe he lost interest. Maybe this is all part of a web The Spider is spinning—a web too grand for any spectator to properly see. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe…
Regardless of all speculation, I eagerly await Silva’s next move because like most of you, I’m still not sure what the hell just happened.