The Silva Sixteen
In one of the more interesting and original articles, MMAFighting.com spoke to all sixteen past UFC opponents of Anderson Silva to get their insight into the legendary fighter.
The former foes of ‘The Spider’ weigh-in on their thoughts leading up to their bout with Silva, what was going through their head during and after the fight, and their final assessment:
Bonnar: I actually feel kind of responsible for him losing to Weidman like that. I’m sure [Anderson] just looked at Weidman as another dumb white American that he could pull that s–t with, because he got away with that s–t with me, with Forrest. He started pulling that same s–t with Chris, and Chris hit him with the same left hook I did, but just a little harder and right on a good spot on the chin. Lights out. So, sorry Anderson for giving you that false sense of confidence there.
Griffin: Chris Weidman got some really good coaching. They said, ‘Punch him in his f–king chest. Put a hole in his f–king chest. Don’t swing at his head. You’re not going to hit it.’ That’s the thing. He knows he’s getting you to open up, so he can counter you. Now the problem is he’s been doing it and doing it, and you can see from me to Vitor (Belfort) to Stephan … he’s getting more and more careless. Not careless, but he’s just been having so much success with that thing that he became too enamored with it.
Cote: Maybe he was a little bit bored, because he was so dominating against other opponents. He was still trying to give a good show. I don’t know. It’s hard to say bad things. He’s the champion, he can do whatever he wants. If you don’t like it, just train and go beat him. (Laughs.)
Leben: It truly is a miracle, amazing and a little bit of luck too, that Anderson was able to go against so many top competitors without somebody finally landing a lucky shot on him. I have a saying: You drive a car long enough, you’re going to get into a wreck. That’s just kind of the way things are. It’s amazing that Anderson went so long without getting into a wreck.
Leites: Anderson was taunting, but that’s what he does. It’s a natural thing. He does that to break his opponents psychologically and counter, but he got lost. Chris Weidman was patient, waited for the right moment. Everybody has two arms and two legs. You’re in a fight. If someone punches you in the chin, you’re going down.
Lutter: I think there was a time when Anderson Silva’s chin was really, really good. His chin, at some point in time on it’s own, somewhere along the way, it started moving south, and I think it showed when he fought Chael. When he fought Chael, Chael knocked him down. Chael isn’t known to be that hard of a hitter.
Maia: Weidman’s reach is also an important factor. He has more reach than Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson, and I don’t think Anderson has fought in the middleweight division against someone that has more reach than him. It was not only because of the reach — Weidman is a great fighter — but it definitely helped. That few inches on the end, maybe someone else like me, Belfort or Henderson would have missed that final punch.
Griffin: Here’s the other thing is, when Anderson was fighting Chris, he wasn’t countering. Like with me, he’d feint, feint, and then counter. There was a real famous montage in the fight where I threw a three-two-three, and he just casually slips-slips-slips, then pops me and knocks me down like it’s nothing. And that’s the thing. He never made Weidman pay.
Bonnar: It was just a matter of time. And he got too cocky, too. Even when he started doing that with me, when I tagged him, he got smart and ducked and stopped doing it. Then he went back to it and I threw a punch and he tightened up. But with Chris, he was so cocky. He got hit with a punch and then he dropped his hands and did it more though — taunting him, like, oh, that really hurt. Here, let me stick my chin out. He kind of went too far, a little overboard, and I think it was that confidence from getting away with it for so long. He kind of thought he was invincible. But if he would’ve been his normal self, dropped his hands, then when Chris hit him that first time, got smart and tightened up his defense, that wouldn’t have happened.
I think he forgot he was human there. I don’t blame him. I mean, he got away with it for so long.
Lutter: The other thing is, he’s really fast, but I don’t think he’s as fast as he used to be a few years ago. He’s getting older, he’s looked a little bit slower. His levels, his movements, stuff like that.
It’s like when Roy Jones Jr. was the best in the world and was beating everybody. He was doing a lot of that type of movement. He would barely get out of way. And towards the end of Roy Jones’ career, he got knocked out a few times. Muhammad Ali talked about it, some of these other boxing greats have talked about it — the difference is, when they were younger, they would get out of the way and a punch would just barely miss them. Now, they’re almost getting out of the way and the punch is just hitting them.
Griffin: I was shocked. People were running up to me asking me questions. I was at a screening of the fight and I was just kind of caught of guard. Like, I need a minute. I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t know what’s going on.
I think Jon Jones had that famous reaction where he said, You’ve got to respect the game.
Cote: The thing is, a guy like [Anderson] comes around every 10, 15 years. It’s very, very rare that some guys dominate the game like that. He was just too much for everybody, and I think that’s why he started goofing around.
Sonnen: You cannot be in a fist fight with your hands down. He was a good enough athlete for a number of years so he got away with it. But Weidman slipped all of his punches, he dominated him on the ground. If that fight had gone to the scorecards, it was very clear who was winning that fight.
Leites: I believe Anderson has learned a lot with that loss. Anderson has more technical qualities than Weidman, but Weidman is really great and has a good head, too. You don’t become the champion if you’re not that good. And he showed he is, so we need to stay close because anything can happen in this rematch. But I believe Anderson still is the favorite.
Cote: In my heart, I hope that Chris Weidman is going to win. Because if I was him, I’d be pissed now. He’s the champ, but everybody was talking about how Anderson Silva lost. Not how he won. He didn’t get the credit for his win, he didn’t have everything that the champion is supposed to have after winning the belt. So from this side, I say Chris Weidman. But in my head, Anderson is going to be well prepared. And I think now it’s going to be a beating.
Lutter: This is no disrespect to Chris or anybody else, but I felt like Chris got lucky. I felt like the fight was going Anderson’s way. Maybe I’m wrong; I wasn’t in there, I’m just a spectator. But I thought he got lucky and I really think in the rematch — unless Anderson’s chin is really, really gone — I don’t see Chris beating him.
Sonnen: (If you want to call it a lucky shot,) I don’t think I would disagree with that. I think that’s a reality of fighting. A lot of guys dismiss something if it was, you know, what you would call a lucky shot. I’ve never understood how that becomes a bad thing. Fighters will deny that constantly. I remember the night George Foreman beat Michael Moore. That is what you would call a lucky shot, and George was so adamant, even to this day, that it wasn’t. I don’t understand how that takes away from the accomplishment.
Bonnar: I’m a big fan. I’m a big fan of Anderson. But I thought he got what he deserved. I mean, the guy earned a title shot. You’re not fighting a guy who, this is his first fight in the UFC. This guy, even before the UFC, he beat up Uriah Hall pretty good, who’s a good striker. He dropped him with his left hook, too. So, I think Anderson didn’t do his homework and didn’t respect Chris’ power. And he should’ve. He should’ve.
Cote: Anderson stopped respecting the game. The line is very, very thin between giving a good show and lack of respect, and I think he crossed the line a little bit and he got caught.
We don’t play MMA. We play hockey, we play baseball, but we don’t play MMA. We fight. It’s serious business, and when you stop respecting the game, some s–t can happen.
Sonnen: What so many people have really missed is how bad Chris Weidman fought that night. That was the single worst performance I’ve seen from Chris Weidman.
Chris Weidman should’ve won that night. He’s a 28-year-old kid, he’s broke, he’s undefeated. He should be able to beat a 38-year-old millionaire who’s been there, who’s done that, and everyday has had to search for motivation because he’s done it all. So as far as Anderson’s legacy, it should not be questioned.
Leites: He’ll be remembered as the greatest of this era, like Fedor was before. I don’t think anyone will break his records because the sport is so difficult today. When you’re the champion, there’s a target on your chest and everybody wants to be where you are. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re at the top, and nobody stays unbeaten forever. I won’t say he’s the best of all times, but he’s one of the best for sure.
Bonnar: You really can’t argue with what he’s done, no matter how [Weidman-Silva 2] goes. Look at how many consecutive wins and title defenses he had. That’s going to be a hard one to beat. Jon Jones is catching up to him, but he has a long way to go. So yeah, in my mind, no matter what happens, he’s still going to go down in history as one of the greatest of all-time. Just because Ali lost to Larry Holmes at the end of his career doesn’t make what he did any less great.
Franklin: Bingo. As I was answering that question, that’s what I was thinking of. Ali had his fair share towards the end. You think of all the great names; every fighter, we could play this game. I could throw a name out there of who is a great fighter, I could throw a name out there like Stephan Bonnar, and the first thing that’s going to come to mind is his fight with Forrest Griffin, not how Anderson defeated him.
Leben: For me, it’s inspiring to be able to see what one man can do. Some of these fighters that he’s gone against are considered some of the top fighters in the world at their weight class, if not the top. Can’t tell you how many guys he’s knocked out and taken out of that slot of being No. 1 contender, over and over and over again, and made short and easy work of ‘em. It just goes to show you, you think when you’re at the very top, everybody always says it’s a one-percent difference that really separates No. 1 from No. 2. But being able to see how hard somebody can take it, and how far they can grow — when you watch him fight, he’s fighting the No. 2 ranked guy in the world, and he looks twice, maybe even three times the skill level that his opponent is at.
That’s kind of what’s so amazing, is f–k, nobody really knows. Where does it come from? Because obviously he doesn’t have training partners that are going to be at that level to push him like that, to be able to survive that kind of stuff everyday in training. So how does he do it when he gets out there in the cage against the No. 2 ranked guy in the world? I don’t know. In my mind he’s the Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky of mixed martial arts.
Cote: He changed the sport. He changed the sport not just because of his record, but because of his style. He put the sport on another level. Every fighter in the UFC was watching Anderson Silva. We learned from him. From footwork, new punches, new kicks — he was unique. We were watching him and we learned a lot of things from him. If he stops after his next fight, hey, good for him. I think he’s has enough money to stop now. (Laughs.)
Franklin: At the end of the day, we can all throw a name out like Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture, or Matt Hughes or myself. When you throw these names out, these are all great fighters who been in the UFC. Great champions. But all these guys, myself included, have suffered terrible losses. Every single one of them.
Anderson will be remembered for all the greatest fights that he’s done. All his great victories, not just this one loss — even if he walked away right now and said, ‘I’m done.’
Sonnen: Chris Weidman is the first to say, ‘I’m not the fighter Anderson Silva is, and I may have beaten him, but I haven’t carried the heavy water long enough’ — and he’s right about that. Anderson Silva beat enough guys over enough years. He climbed that mountain. He stayed there. It’s extremely difficult to get to the top, but to stay there for a significant period of time, like he did…
Nobody’s ever done it. It doesn’t matter if I’m a rival of Anderson Silva’s or not, I’m also very objective. And I’m not going to take something from a guy that he earned. Anderson Silva earned the right to be called the greatest of all-time. And those are just the facts.