Anderson Silva is not only the UFC's most dominant middleweight, but also widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist ever. His seven-year reign as the 185-pound champ is the longest in UFC history.
Silva remains undefeated in his UFC tenure and has amassed a cavalcade of promotional records, including most consecutive wins (16), most finishes (14), highest significant strike accuracy (67.8 percent) and most knockdowns landed (17). He is also tied with Joe Lauzon for most post-fight bonuses (12).
Truthfully, there is little left for "The Spider" to do that he hasn't already accomplished. Silva is currently set for a middleweight showdown with No. 1 contender Chris Weidman at UFC 162. There is also the continuing talks of a possible superfight with light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.
While losses in either of those fights may slightly tarnish Silva's sterling image, there have been plenty of moments in The Spider's UFC career that have already cemented him as the best of all time.
All statistics were obtained via Fightmetric.
Silva already had a great deal of success fighting overseas in other MMA promotions, racking up 17 career victories.
The Spider won both the Shooto middleweight (168 pounds) and Cage Rage World Middleweight titles, however, he was still unknown to most MMA fans when he made his way to the UFC.
In his debut, Silva took on the hard-hitting Chris Leben at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 5. At the time, Leben was undefeated in his UFC career and had never been knocked out.
In the pre-fight interview, Leben said of Silva, "Once he gets in there with me and I knock him out, he may want to go back to Japan or somewhere where the competition is a little bit easier."
Silva made "The Crippler" eat those words, knocking him out cold with punches and knees only 49 seconds into the first round. He landed 17 of 20 significant strikes, while Leben connected with only one punch.
The brutal finish earned Silva his first Knockout of the Night bonus and showed that the Brazilian was more than just hype.
In only his second fight with the UFC, Silva found himself challenging Rich Franklin for the middleweight strap.
Franklin defended the title twice before running head long into the proverbial brick wall. At the time, "Ace" was a very dominant middleweight and many believed he would be the stiffest test of Silva's career.
However, in their first meeting at UFC 64, Franklin represented only a small speed bump on Silva's road to MMA glory. The Spider lit up Franklin with pinpoint accuracy, landing 31 of 36 strikes (86 percent).
Franklin was never able to get into a rhythm, winging punches and kicks at his much faster opponent. Silva then caught him in a tight Thai clinch and that was all she wrote. The Spider nailed him with some particularly vicious knees to the body and head that put an end to Ace's night at 2:59 of the first round.
A year later, Franklin looked to get redemption against Silva at UFC 77, however, he only fared slightly better than the first go-round. Ace made it to Round 2, but was knocked out again with Silva's patented knees.
With this third-title defense, Silva became the most successful middleweight champ in UFC history. Both finishes earned him Knockout of the Night bonuses.
Dan Henderson entered the UFC as the first fighter in an MMA promotion to hold two belts in two different weight classes (middleweight and welterweight). The fight was set to unify the Pride and UFC titles.
Henderson, an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler, was able to take Silva down in Round 1 and then use his ground-and-pound to win the round. "Hendo" connected on 41 of 51 total strikes.
However, things did not go as swimmingly for Henderson in Round 2. He shot for two takedowns, but was unsuccessful in getting Silva to the mat.
The Spider picked Henderson apart on the feet, landing a hard knee midway through the round that dropped him. Silva swarmed, transitioned to the back and sunk in a tight rear-naked choke. Henderson tapped with only 10 ticks left in the round.
This marked only the third time Henderson had ever been submitted in his career. Ironically, Henderson's other two submission losses were to Silva's Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) coaches, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Silva was awarded both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors.
Silva has jumped up to 205 pounds only three times in his UFC career and won each of these fights decisively via first-round knockout. On an interesting side note, all of Silva's light heavyweight opponents tested positive for illegal substances after the fight.
UFC Fight Night 14—Las Vegas—July 19, 2008
Silva destroyed James Irvin in little more than a minute. He was perfect connecting on all 13 of his strikes. Irvin was unable to even hit the elusive Brazilian once.
The fight ended abruptly when Silva caught Irvin's kick and then landed a beautiful straight right that put "The Sandman" to bed. He threw a few follow-up punches for good measure forcing the ref to step in.
UFC 101—Philadelphia—Aug. 8, 2009
Silva's next bout at 205 was against former UFC light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin who was fresh off of a TKO loss to Rashad Evans.
The fight lasted longer than Silva's previous foray at 205. Griffin proved little challenge for "The Spider" landing only four of 43 total strikes.
On the other hand, Silva successfully tagged Griffin with 52 percent of his strikes, knocking him down three times. The official knockout blow came in the form of a short right while Silva was backing up.
The finish earned Silva an extra $120,000 in post-fight bonuses and Sherdog named it Beatdown of the Year in 2008.
UFC 153—Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—Oct. 13, 2012
TUF alumnus Stephan Bonnar fared the best against Silva, but that isn't saying much. Bonnar landed more total strikes than Silva, though he was stuffed on all three of his takedown attempts.
Silva seem content to simply toy with "The American Psycho". At one point, he even planted his back against the cage, hands down and let Bonnar throw bombs at him.
The Spider bobbed and weaved like a world-class boxer. Silva eventually grew tired of messing around and blasted Bonnar with a vicious knee to the solar plexus. The shot buckled him; everything after that was academic.
The fight was officially stopped at 4:40 of Round 1.
The tension between Silva and Vitor Belfort was palpable. This powder keg almost exploded at the weigh-ins when Silva donned a blank white mask and got in "The Phenom's" face.
The epic staredown was just the appetizer for what would happen in the fight. Silva and Belfort circled the cage for the majority of the opening minutes. Both fighters only threw a combined total of 25 strikes.
However, it was only one of these strikes that will live on highlight reels forever. At 1:41 of the first round, Silva hit Belfort with a devastating front kick flush to the chin.
The shot made Belfort's eyes roll back as he crumpled to the canvas. Silva quickly landed two more punches before referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in.
This knockout may be the most impressive of The Spider's illustrious career because not only was it unexpected, but it was also perfectly executed. The fact that Silva learned this front kick technique from Steven Seagal only makes the whole thing more awesome.
The "kick heard 'round the world" was recognized as both Knockout of the Night and Knockout of the Year in 2011.
Silva's fight against Demian Maia at UFC 112 is viewed as not only the worst fight of his UFC career, but also as one of the worst in all of MMA.
UFC president Dana White was so angry with Silva's antics that he refused to put the belt around his waist after the fight. White also suggested in the post-fight presser that he'd cut The Spider if he turned in another lackluster performance.
Silva received all the motivation he needed for his next fight in the form of the loud-mouthed wrestler Chael Sonnen. The two first met at UFC 117 in a fight that would be the most trying of The Spider's entire MMA career.
Sonnen completed takedowns at will, putting Silva on his back three times. He then utilized ground-and-pound to beat up the champ. "The American Gangster" connected with 320 total strikes—more than all of Silva's previous bouts combined.
It looked as if Sonnen would successfully dethrone the champ, but Silva still had one trick left up his sleeve. He caught Sonnen with a triangle choke and forced him to tap late in the fifth round—mere minutes from victory.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot of bad blood leading into the rematch. Sonnen poked and prodded the champ and all of Brazil with his usual brand of over-the-top WWE-style chicanery.
At UFC 148, Silva proved that the first win wasn't a fluke, summarily defeating Sonnen with a blend of punches and knees. The victory further solidified Silva as the greatest middleweight ever.
Sonnen acknowledged this sentiment saying that Silva should be considered the greatest of all time—if he can get past Chris Weidman, of course.