Over the course of my time watching, few people in the sport interest me more than Anderson Silva. His dominance has sent shock waves through the middleweight divisions of Shooto, Pride, and the UFC.
From his crushing victories, including a devastating textbook muay thai exhibition on former champion Rich Franklin in front of a stunned Cincinnati crowd, to his title unification destruction of Dan Henderson at UFC 82, Anderson is quite possibly the pound-for-pound best to ever fight in the octagon.
His devastating accuracy, his awesome ability to close range and use his reach to get out of danger before fighters can even process that he's thrown a strike is this reason hes the fighter he is today.
A fighter as great as Silva should be celebrated—a man who has perfected striking and taken it from glorified street fighting to a more technically oriented affair.
But alas, that's not to be.
Instead, the fear of the casual fan that one day an Silva would come along and the sport would lose most of the gladiatorial lust of its forefathers has bubbled to the surface following two less-than-spectacular performances.
Silva v. Cote
Silva's reputation began to fall in his UFC 90 duel with Patrick Cote. The fight was a feeling out process where both fighters never felt comfortable in the first round and neither fighter was willing to expend much energy.
But in the second round the action was building, both fighters were becoming a little more adventurous, and the fight looked to be heating up for a close, nervy battle. Then disaster struck.
On a fake attempt to set up a strike, Cote's knee imploded. Everyone paying attention knew the fight was over immediately as the ripple in Cote's knee was a clear sign of a catastrophic injury.
This freak turn of events was perspicuously and inexplicably booed by an ignorant crowd who must have thought he was faking.
In the post-fight interview in the ring Cote addressed the boos, saying, "I think I did a great job ... my knee just popped out. I'm sorry."
Silva recorded a controversial win, his eighth in the octagon, that probably should have been a no contest.
Between fights, angry fans felt ripped off. Freak injuries happen, but the performance turned in was not one that would go on anyone's highlight reel. Silva vowed to turn in a much better performance in his next fight.
Silva v. Leites
The run up to UFC 97: Redemption was an avalanche of "come see Anderson redeem himself for the 'failure' of his previous outing with a crushing KO."
Everyone got this memo. Thales Leites is a nice middleweight fighter, but everyone in the room knows he can't stand with Silva—including Leites himself.
As the fight began, Silva showed he was clearly the better fighter, landing low power strikes for fun with Leites covering up and making lazy takedown attempts that were easily stuffed.
As the rounds went, on Silva's fight strategy became clear: Keep his striking clean—no kicks above the belt—and not allow Leites to take an opportunity to get the fight on the ground.
It was sound tact and one that was sure to win if he stuck to it.
Leites wanted to get the fight to the ground, and he had no intention of trading with Silva. In fact, he had no intention of doing anything on the feet.
He was hoping Silva would move in for the kill when it was clear he could do whatever he wanted. When this happened, he'd flop to the ground and play possum, forcing Silva to move in.
Leites would spring the trap and catch him in a triangle or leg lock, something Anderson is susceptible to, with his large frame and wide stance.
Anderson stuck to his strategy, and when it became clear to Thales that a possum approach wouldn't work, the boos started to rain down—an idea so devious and vile came to Leites' mind that made the fight somehow even less watchable.
Every stomping leg kick Silva landed with ease he flopped to the canvas and would wait for the referee to stand the fight back up. The crowd was incensed that Silva wouldn't go in for the kill, but Anderson refused to fall for it despite his urge to satisfy the fans.
Hold on for the most one-sided scorecard I've ever filled out. It was a 10-8, 10-9, 10-9, 10-8, 10-8, 50-42 win for Silva.
After the fight, the media had sharpened their knives. All of the attention was on Silva's new focus on counter striking, that he'd lost the will to fight, and that he was in need of a challenge. They said he needed to move up to 205.
I can't understand it. Silva's past catalog speaks for itself. He looked at Thales Leites as a similar fighter to Ryo Chonan, who had caught him with an amazing Flying Scissor Heel Hook in a fight that Silva was clearly winning.
At the end of the day, styles make fights. If you're trying to make entertaining fights, neither Leites or Silva are to blame for UFC 97. It's UFC matchmaker Joe Silva's.
If you're upset about UFC 90, you have every right to be, but no one can change fluke injuries.
In the last contract of his career, a six-fight contract Silva's two fights into, the time of "the Spider" is drawing to a close. With UFC 101 and Forrest Griffin in July, Anderson Silva could be a retired man around this time next year.
It's the chorus of cheers I just heard from the readers of that last line that saddens me.