Wanderlei Silva is a wrecking machine, a block of pure muscle and aggression. He's spent the better part of the last 15 years separating the world's toughest men from consciousness, whether in a Brazilian night club, the legendary Pride ring or the hallowed UFC Octagon.
The venue seems, frankly, irrelevant. Wanderlei Silva would fight you in front of 50,000 people, but he'd be just as happy throwing down on the subway, your mom's 50th birthday party or smack dab in the middle of the matinee showing of Rock of Ages.
In a sport filled to the brim with violent and scary men, Silva is the scariest. He has an aura of violence. He doesn't just commit unspeakably monstrous acts in the ring—he exudes malice. When you fight Wanderlei Silva, you face more than a man. You go nose-to-nose with a legend.
Here are ten reasons why he's entered the exulted stratosphere of legend.
There are a lot of promising young fighters in Brazil. It's true today. It was true when Wanderlei Silva was coming up in 1997. It takes something special to stand out.
Beating an established star is one way. Shrugging off the takedowns of an NCAA All-American will do almost as well.
Beating Sean Bormet, twice an All-American wrestler at Michigan, in the first round of an eight-man tournament put Silva on the map.
1997 was a different time in MMA. We hadn't yet transformed from spectacle to sport. Kicks to a grounded opponent, headbutts, bareknuckles—it was all good. And Wanderlei Silva was right in his element.
What's fascinating here isn't a dominating performance. Spoiler alert: He loses. But the loss tells you all you need to know about Wanderlei. After opening up a massive cut headbutting Mariano in the clinch, Silva refuses to quit.
More than that, Silva actually continues to headbutt his opponent after his massive gash. Now that's a scary man.
If you asked anyone in 1998 about MMA's next big things, Mike Van Arsdale's name would have popped up near the top of the list. It was the age of the wrestler; Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr were dominating the scene and Van Arsdale was a grappler in the same class.
Someone forgot to tell Wanderlei Silva to care.
It was this win over the wrestling star that made the Chute Boxe striker an international name in MMA, bringing him to the attention of the UFC brass. Less than two months later, he'd make his first Octagon appearance.
Contrary to the Silva legend, he wasn't an immediate star in Japan's Pride promotion. His first two fights went to a decision, and he didn't really stand out among the best talent in the world. That changed after his fight with Guy Mezger.
A former UFC star and King of Pancrase champion, Mezger was a respected veteran and a known commodity. When Silva put him down and out, he was off to the races as a major name in Japan.
Another day, another big-name wrestler for Silva to dispose of. Kazushi Sakuraba had just written his name into the MMA history books with victories over four members of the legendary Gracie family.
One guess if Silva gave a damn.
He took it to Sakuraba like no one ever had, knocking him flat in just over a minute and a half. Suddenly the Brazilian was in the running, not just for the top spot in his weight class in Pride, but for the honor of being the best fighter in the sport.
Silva was such a bona fide killing machine in his day that even this notoriously bad shaving cream commercial didn't fade his reputation as a face smasher.
Seriously, this is a must watch if you haven't seen it. Guaranteed belly laugh or your money back.
"I don't have any problems fighting this guy. I like taking on the tough guys," Wanderlei Silva.
It was one thing to take on Kazushi Sakuraba. Skilled and scrappy, he was still a natural welterweight fighting as a light heavyweight. It doesn't take guts to be Goliath. But Wanderlei Silva wasn't afraid to be David on occasion either.
Here, he takes on heavyweight kickboxing star Mirko Cro Cop and never blinks. The bout was a draw, but Silva proved to Pride fans he was a fearless fighter.
Neither man wanted to give an inch, even in the mid-ring staredown. In the end though, Silva was too much for Jackson. Some men thrive under adversity. Silva believed Jackson would break instead.
When he turned up the intensity, it was too much for the popular American.
The image of Rampage knocked unconscious, with only the ropes holding up his lifeless body, is one of the most iconic in MMA history. Silva wasn't just a fighter anymore. To fans in Japan, he was a force of nature.
The two came to the cage with nothing to prove. Both were legends in a sport they had helped build on two continents. No matter the outcome, both men's legacies were assured.
But to the fighters, there was everything to prove. Although a couple of fights past their prime, each wanted nothing more than to establish their place in the historical pecking order. Wanderlei Silva had been Pride's standard bearer at 205 pounds; Chuck Liddell was the long-time UFC champion.
Who would win? It was a battle that had been fought for years on message boards and in interviews.
When they finally squared off, it was everything fans had dreamed of. And while Silva came out on the losing end, he showed he was still a dangerous man.
Cung Le thought he could style on Wanderlei Silva. The movie star was landing wheel kicks and spinning strikes and generally dominating one of mixed martial arts' most enduring legends. And he was pissing Silva off in the process.
When he had the chance to strike, Silva finished Le off with amazing alacrity. The old man was still dangerous after all these years.
Just look at Cung's nose. It's a picture worth, if not a thousand words, a $70,000 Fight of the Night bonus.