Viewpoint: The Spider and the Hourglass

By Tristen Critchfield Oct 15, 2012
Anderson Silva has two fights remaining on his UFC contract. | Photo:

If his biographical information is to be believed, Anderson Silva turned 37 in April.

However, the work “The Spider” does in the Octagon is worthy of a man at least 10 years his junior. The seemingly ageless Silva surprised absolutely no one with his dismantling of Stephan Bonnar in the UFC 153 main event on Saturday. By stopping “The American Psycho” with a crippling knee to the gut in the first round of their quickly-thrown-together light heavyweight encounter, Silva only affirmed what we already knew: plodding 205-pounders have no business in the cage with the middleweight king.

Extenuating circumstances made Silva, arguably the sport’s finest pound-for-pound talent, and Bonnar, an “Ultimate Fighter” pioneer, strange but necessary bedfellows in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Both fighters are to be commended for their willingness to save an event that had been hit hard by injuries: Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Erik Koch, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Vitor Belfort and Alan Belcher were all expected to appear on the card at some point in time. Meanwhile, Silva had said he was clocking out for the rest of 2012 following his victory over Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, and Bonnar was apparently contemplating life after MMA on a deep sea fishing boat. To their credit, both men were willing to revise those plans once the promotion called.

With that, the UFC 153 headliner went from a featherweight tilt with serious pound-for-pound implications to something that company boss Dana White labeled “a fun fight.” Translation: Silva-Bonnar has no big-picture relevance, but we are going to sell the hell out of the notion that the underdog might be able to shock the world.

Make no mistake, the main event was the most glorified exhibition since Thunderlips rag-dolled Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III, and that’s OK. Sports are entertainment first and foremost, so not every fight needs to delve into the ultra-serious business of rankings, titles and legacies.

Instead of gnashing our teeth and fretting about what it all means, sometimes it is best to take a step back, flash a wry smile and enjoy the moment, no matter how ludicrous it might be. At no point were things more ridiculous than when Silva dropped his hands, stood with his back against the cage and dared Bonnar to take his best shot. Once he grew tired of Bonnar’s attacks, Silva dropped the hammer and called it a night. As a result, the champion received his usual heaping helping of Greatest of All-Time accolades, while Bonnar is afforded the opportunity, if he so chooses, to ride off into the sunset as the courageous, card-saving hero, all in the name of fun.

Let us get back to the teeth-gnashing and fretting for a moment. At the post-fight press conference, Silva said he has two fights left on his current UFC contract. He could very well be 38 years old before even half of that deal is fulfilled, and while Silva appears to be MMA’s version of Peter Pan, eventually Father Time will have his say.

Georges St. Pierre File Photo

GSP may soon be on the docket.
“I wish he was 27 years old. I’m serious; I want 12 more years of this,” White said. “The guy is unbelievable. He’s the greatest fighter of all time. I think he is the greatest fighter in any combat sport. The things that this guy does is amazing.

“Now, the big talk with a lot of morons will be that Stephan Bonnar isn’t that good,” the UFC president continued. “Stephan Bonnar’s never been finished in the UFC, never been knocked out, never been submitted. He came into this fight in great shape and went after him.”

With all due respect to Bonnar, whose place in the UFC annals is undoubtedly secure, Silva does not need to add any more overmatched light heavyweights to his resume before he calls it a career. If he elects to fight outside his normal weight class, it seems like a waste of the Brazilian’s considerable talents to pair him with anyone not named Jon Jones or Georges St. Pierre. Of course, “The Spider” continues to reject the idea of a potential showdown with Jones, vehemently shaking his head as the topic was repeatedly broached at the post-fight press conference.

“I know he’s been saying no,” said White, “but for the amount of money that would be offered for that fight, I guarantee you I will make Anderson Silva say yes.”

Not happening, Silva replied, for the man with the Burger King logo plastered across his walkout shirt began his fighting career with intentions beyond the almighty dollar, and he can easily revert back to those ideals if he deems a matchup to be undesirable. In addition, Silva claims that he does not want to step on the toes of any of his current 205-pound teammates by squaring off with Jones.

What interests “The Spider” most at this point is a super fight with St. Pierre. At least one potential roadblock -- Carlos Condit at UFC 154 -- exists before that lucrative conflict could come to fruition. With St. Pierre returning from knee surgery, it is a possibility that needs to be considered. While a Condit victory over St. Pierre at UFC 154 would not put the brakes on the mega matchup entirely, it would certainly dampen enthusiasm for the bout.

That leaves the rest of the middleweight division, which appears to be much stronger and deeper than it was a year ago at this time. According to Silva, Chris Weidman has not paid enough dues to be a worthwhile title challenger, but should he defeat Tim Boetsch in December and then get by, say, Michael Bisping in a potential title eliminator next year, the champion would have to acknowledge the Serra-Longo Fight Team product as a legitimate contender. Then again, Silva has proven time and time again that he does not have to do anything he does not want to do.

If Silva’s fighting career were a high school course load, his UFC 153 bout was something akin to a semester full of electives: a whole lot of fun at the time but hardly the foundation of a successful college application. Obviously, Silva does not have nearly that much to prove; he is already the middleweight division’s equivalent of an Ivy League valedictorian, but it is not unreasonable to ask that his remaining fights be both entertaining and relevant. When those two worlds collide, beautiful things happen: witness the riveting duel between Jon Fitch and Erick Silva on the “Silva vs. Bonnar” pay-per-view undercard.

Silva says he would like to fight for five more years. If his extended prime lasts anywhere near that long, consider all of us -- the UFC, the media, the fans -- the beneficiaries. If not, the UFC needs to do everything in its power to maximize his two-fight potential. It is all in the name of good fun.


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