Akin to a fine wine, longtime UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva continues to get better with age.
The 38-year-old Silva has racked up a perfect 16-0 record in the UFC, defending his middleweight belt 10 times along the way.
"The Spider's" prolific run has solidified his spot at the top of the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings, ahead of dominant champs like Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Jose Aldo.
Silva's extraordinary success, even at his age, enticed UFC president Dana White to offer the Brazilian a 10-fight renewal to his contract in April.
On a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, White bluntly summed up his outlook on Silva by saying: "Anderson's so f***ing fun to watch. I dread the day that dude retires."
But with his legacy already firmly intact and a bout with surging middleweight Chris Weidman on the horizon at UFC 162, does Silva still possess the variables needed to stay on top for 10 more fights?
While most fighters tend to make their descent in their mid-30s, the Spider didn't even begin hitting his stride until his early 30s, and he has continued to enjoy an almost 10-year heyday since.
A naturally gifted athlete, Silva has flirted with perfection on account of superior intellect, technique and ability to execute under pressure.
And aside from having one of the most durable chins in the sport, The Spider has also become a master motivator, perpetually managing to transform animosity into positive energy inside the Octagon.
It seems obvious that with the exception of Weidman, few challengers could stop The Spider's long-standing reign at 185 pounds. However, if Silva continues to take on light heavyweight stalwarts in the future—and drop his hands along the cage for long stretches of time while his opponent unloads—then bouts with fighters the ilk of Jones or Glover Teixeira could put his pound-for-pound kingship in jeopardy.
Virtually unbeaten except for a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, Jones would hold a 6.9-inch reach advantage over Silva. "Bones" would also hold a significant edge over The Spider in the wrestling and ground-control categories.
Teixeira, conversely, has reeled off 19 consecutive wins, including four victories in the UFC's light heavyweight division. Few holes have been exposed in Teixeira's game, a fact that may soon put the Brazilian in line for more meaningful bouts.
Silva's demise may not come soon, but when it does, it will surely entail a radical spike in his competition. Fighting the likes of Yushin Okami, Chael Sonnen and Stephan Bonnar have kept Silva at the top of the heap.
While Okami, Sonnen and Bonnar have each accomplished plenty in their time, none of these three men has climbed to the top of his division in the UFC.
Truth be told, of Silva's 16 wins in the Octagon, only four have came against former UFC champs. The Spider TKO'd former middleweight champ Rich Franklin twice before KO'ing a pair of former light heavyweight champs in Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort.
Facing a slick submission artist and former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler like Weidman will provide Silva with his stiffest test since Belfort. But locking horns with the likes of Jones or Teixeira could humble The Spider and send him somewhere he hasn't gone in years—back to the drawing board.