Wanderlei Silva vs Rich Franklin: What's Next for Silva?

Jordy McElroy@https://twitter.com/JordyMcElroyCorrespondent IJune 24, 2012

Wanderlei Silva - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Wanderlei Silva - Esther Lin/MMAFighting

Wanderlei Silva has fallen on tough times.

Following his UFC 147 loss to Rich Franklin, the former Pride middleweight champ is at a crossroads in his legendary career.

Is it time for him to retire and search for a life outside fighting, or can he learn from his mistakes and bounce back?

Judging from recent performances, it's safe to say Silva's best performances are well behind him.

At 35 years of age, Silva's reckless fighting style has finally caught up with him, and he no longer has the chin to sustain such an overaggressive attack.

Sure, his chin has held up well in his last couple of outings, but it's easy to forget that Silva has lost seven of his last 10 fights, with four of those losses ending in vicious knockouts.

As fighters age, some learn to make adjustments to their fighting styles to ensure their ability to remain relevant amongst quality opposition. Silva has maintained the same berserker-like style for nearly 16 years.

Instead of utilizing good footwork and straight punches, Silva typically chooses to stay in a defensive shell and counter opponents in the pocket with wild hooks.

As the sport continues to evolve and fighters improve, it's becoming tougher for Silva to find the same kind of consistent success he enjoyed during his years as Pride champ.

Fighters like Franklin, an upper-echelon middleweight with a great technical striking IQ, are able to move around, pick their shots and utilize distance to take advantage of Silva's defensive deficiencies.

After the loss to Franklin in front of his hometown fans in Brazil, Silva will likely feel tons of pressure from the media, fans and possibly even family and friends to close the chapter of his fighting career.

Earlier in the week, Silva spoke with Fightline about not being ready to let go of the fans, spotlight and competition.

When asked about retiring from the sport he helped build, Silva's strongest statement came in only five words.

"I just want to compete."

This isn't about money or fame. Silva is a natural competitor, and he has been fighting all his life. For him, it's tough to move on to soaking up sunlight and drinking Pina Coladas every day on the beach.

Fighting is what Silva knows and loves.

As long as he isn't dropping three or four straight losses, he should be given the same opportunity as every other fighter to compete for his job.

What's next for Silva?

Whatever he wants.