Anderson Silva will look to retake the middleweight title at UFC 168. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
There was Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White on a sleepy summer Saturday afternoon on SportsCenter, announcing he had officially booked the “the biggest fight in UFC history.”
In the case of Chris Weidman-Anderson Silva 2, White’s proclamation has roots that run deeper than mere promoter’s hyperbole. Where most events tend to have a limited shelf life upon conclusion, the echoes of UFC 162 have continued to resonate for the past week. Weidman, a virtual unknown prior to defeating Silva, has become an instant celebrity, as evidenced by his taking the opportunity to send Stephen A. Smith into near convulsions by mentioning Tim Tebow on ESPN’s “First Take” -- a signal of one’s arrival if there ever was one.
Meanwhile, it did not take long for Silva to have a change of heart after initially showing no interest in a rematch with Weidman. A sound bite from “The Spider” also aired on the Worldwide Leader on Saturday, with the former champion assuring the world in broken English that he is indeed back.
Silva’s curious performance at UFC 162 has been examined ad nauseam. Analysis has ranged from the defiant “Taunting is a staple of Silva’s greatness!” and the measured “Age catches up to the best of us” to the sensational “Did Silva take a dive?” The broad spectrum of reactions is natural when an upset of this magnitude takes place. In mixed martial arts, only Georges St. Pierre-Matt Serra 1 and Fedor Emelianenko-Fabricio Werdum have had a similar feel. However, the rematch between Serra and St. Pierre was inevitably anticlimactic, while Emelianenko lost two more fights and departed from Strikeforce before he could ever cross paths with Werdum again.
The return date for Silva and Weidman has the delicious element of the unknown. Anything could happen when they square off at UFC 168 in December, and none of it would be surprising -- not after what went down at UFC 162. Oddsmakers have already listed Silva as a favorite, but that has more to do with the business of encouraging wagers than it does with what might take place in the Octagon.
Could Weidman win if the more serious version of Silva shows up? Those who picked the New Yorker to win the first time around certainly think so, as the majority of such predictions were based on Weidman’s wrestling and grappling acumen, not his knockout power. Could a motivated Silva make Weidman look like an amateur? If he does, it would not be the first time the Brazilian has made a stellar athlete appear ordinary. Or will the sequel be something different entirely, something we have not yet considered? At this point, nothing seems too farfetched.
That is why Silva’s loss was the best-case scenario for the promotion, the fans and even Silva himself. A fallacy that emerged from post-UFC 162 discussion was that Silva’s legacy had been tarnished in defeat. One loss to a capable and worthy foe is nowhere near enough to erase six-plus years of excellence. The defeat deserves to be thoroughly dissected but only because it was nearly unprecedented. Before Weidman, a Silva loss was something that occurred years ago in faraway lands, only available for retrospective viewing on YouTube.
Prior to UFC 162, Silva seemed relatively satisfied with his career achievements.
“Whatever I should have done in the sport, I have already done,” he said during a pre-fight media call. “Win or lose, I’ve already done everything there is to do. Now it’s just a matter of doing what I love to do.”
Correction: there is now one thing Silva has not done and that is rebound after losing a title. We have seen Silva dominate, we have seen him disinterested and we have seen him pull off the improbable. Through it all, he always emerged with his hand raised. Seeing a long-reigning champion, the sport’s pound-for-pound best, come back to defeat the only man who was better than him in the Octagon would be the capstone for Silva’s legacy. It is the one thing he has not had to do.
If he is unable to avenge that loss, it will speak volumes about the future. If Silva cannot beat the best in his own division, it means that the super fights that have teased and taunted us much the way Silva recently clowned Weidman are no longer worth seeing. Win, and discussions of Jon Jones and St. Pierre resume, perhaps more fervently than before.
Those, however, remain firmly in the fantasy matchmaking realm, where they have resided for several years. Silva-Weidman 2, barring injury, is very real. When Silva fell to the likes of Ryo Chonan and Daiju Takase, he was not yet the fighter he would become. He was not yet the best in the world.
Now, he has the opportunity to reclaim his place. Nothing could be more compelling.