Silva vs. The UFC Light Heavyweight Division

Jul 18, 2008
Anderson Silva (Pictures) could have soldiered on as a middleweight. He could have rested on his laurels and waited for an inevitable rematch with Yushin Okami (Pictures). He could have packed his fur coat and gone on holiday.

He could have done that, and no one would have questioned the thought process of the UFC’s human buzz saw.

Of course, this is the same guy who wanted to take on Roy Jones Jr., one of boxing’s pound-for-pound legends, in a boxing ring.

Obviously, the man likes a challenge.

With his road to the ring all but permanently blocked, Silva will have to “settle” for entering the Octagon again. But this time it will be as a light heavyweight against the erratic but potent power punching of James “Sandman” Irvin.

If you, as many others, have assumed a decisive victory for “The Spider,” the real fun lies in handicapping the odds of our current pound-for-pound kingpin dominating yet another division. He has suggested that he won’t stick around 205 pounds for long, but if he did, he’d have a rogues’ gallery waiting for him.

In this article, I’ll play the Las Vegas bookie setting the lines for Silva’s hypothetical run through the UFC light heavyweight class. So kick back and enjoy as the guy who can’t do his own taxes tries to be Jimmy The Greek.

Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) put to rest any notion that his days as one of the most feared bipeds on the planet were done when he put a beating on Keith Jardine (Pictures) that had sadists the world over cringing. Despite being a former training partner of Anderson’s during their days in the Chute Boxe academy, you get the feeling that Wanderlei would have no problem reverting to his “Axe Murderer” persona come fight time.

The question is just how well would Wanderlei’s hyper-aggressive and, at times, wide-open striking style fare against the fluid precision that has become Anderson’s calling card?

Most likely not too well. Anderson’s combination of reach, patience and accuracy is tailor made to find the holes in Wanderlei’s defense and exploit his less than ironclad chin.

It’s hard to imagine a guy who relies on his boxing and clinch work outdoing Anderson in either regard, and an aging “Axe Murderer” isn’t the safest bet around.

Every fighter has his kryptonite. In a theoretical clash with Anderson Silva (Pictures), Chuck Liddell (Pictures)’s best bet is to hope that a mighty Mohawk turns out to be Silva’s Achilles heel.

Of course, having bricks for hands and a battle-tested chin to match helps Liddell’s cause considerably. While no one has been able to so much as wobble Silva, the laws of physics favor Liddell by a fair margin.

This would be one of the matchups where Silva would have to play it safe. As one-dimensional as Liddell may be, he is supremely dangerous when allowed to operate within that single dimension. Assuming Silva would play that game with Liddell is a reach, however, as we’ve seen “The Spider” display tactical acumen on par with Bill Belichick minus the covert camera crew.

Much like Wanderlei, Liddell is on the downside of his career. Taking on the very best the sport has to offer with your best days already behind you is a losing proposition. As live an underdog as you could find because of his durability and power, Liddell still doesn’t match up well against a striker with the defense to avoid his looping bombs and the offense to return fire.

Should James Irvin (Pictures) land a solid shot on Silva, we’ll have a solid idea on how everybody’s favorite Brazilian would handle Liddell’s thunder. But for the time being, the edge goes to Silva on versatility and mechanical precision.

Folks, this is where it gets interesting.

For all the platitudes about Silva’s pitch-perfect MMA stylings, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida is on the short list of fistic foes who can match “The Spider” note for note.

While Silva treats opponents like a math equation just begging to be broken down, fighting Machida is like opening an advanced calculus book and realizing you have no idea what you’re dealing with.

Combining ethereal movement with a dizzying array of unorthodox techniques, Machida is nearly impossible to hit and lands with such accuracy that most opponents seem content to ride out the final bell rather than step into Machida’s wheelhouse and reap the whirlwind that awaits. That trend would likely come to an end against Silva, who would relish facing an opponent who cannot just survive an exchange but perhaps win them.

Cliché as it may sound, this is one of those fights that MMA purists should be willing to mortgage their souls to see.

With his unusual hands-down stance, Machida may be mortgaging his brain cells using that approach against Silva. By the same token, the approach has been nothing but pay dirt for Machida and he’s proven he has the technique down pat.

The list of variables is a long one. Yet Machida’s surprising bull-rush takedown on Tito Ortiz (Pictures) proved he can score a takedown when he needs one, and he is equal parts wizard on both the feet and the mat.

That may be the extra advantage Machida needs to edge out Silva in a fight that would be as aesthetically pleasing as a stroll through the Louvre.

The trademark howl and Luke Cage chain won’t do much to scare off Silva, but Quinton “Rampage” Jackson does have plenty of other cards to play against “The Spider.”

Namely, a titanic size advantage and the sort of preternatural strength that can tilt any playing field in Jackson’s favor.

Considering Rampage’s recent conversion to orthodox boxing over full-bore mayhem, you have to wonder just how big a role those advantages would play in this hypothetical tilt. Standing in the pocket against Silva is normally the first step to waking up on an X-ray table, and Rampage doesn’t have quite the caliber of boxing to succeed in a straightforward stand-up only affair.

The key for Rampage would be dragging Silva to the ground, where he can get some mileage out of his physical advantages. The flip side of that strategy of course being Rampage’s questionable submission defense, and we’ve seen that Silva is not at all shy about snatching hold of any available limb.

We all saw Rampage just edge out another top-flight middleweight in Dan Henderson (Pictures) not too long ago. He’d be lucky to get the same result against the man who needed less than 10 minutes to put away “Hollywood.”

OK, so let’s say Anderson Silva (Pictures) wipes out the aforementioned competition and ends up with a bandwagon so big it becomes its own nation complete with a poorly run bureaucracy and a mortgage crisis.

That still leaves current UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin (Pictures) ready and waiting to topple another superstar he isn’t “supposed” to beat.

With both Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson having already played their parts in Griffin’s own personal “Rudy” re-creation, Silva may be next in line or he may be the dose of reality that sends Griffin back to his post-Jardine “Waterworld.”

Again, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the fact that, in most rooms, Griffin might as well be an 800-pound gorilla. A credit to the wonders of weight cutting, Griffin would hold a huge size advantage over Silva that could make things real interesting as his manic pace wears on an undersized quarry.

Just as likely a scenario is Griffin getting a bit too bold on the feet and paying the price against a breed of striker that you can’t fully prepare for.

If Griffin can drag this bout into the later rounds, though, his indomitable will to win and endless gas tank gives him the edge. Then again, we’re talking about a fighter in Silva who seems to take it as a personal insult when an opponent lasts past the first round.

It’s as close a call as there is in the world of what-if, but Griffin has the game to suffocate Silva’s offense while scoring just enough of his own to edge out a decision. Of course, that means Griffin would have to survive the first 10 minutes against Silva, and we all know how well assumptions work in MMA.
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