Anderson Silva is the greatest mixed martial artist we have ever seen. There is no denying that.
The UFC middleweight champion holds a 33-4 record, and has won 17 consecutive bouts. Sixteen of those 17 have come in the UFC. Of all of his UFC bouts only two have gone to the judges' scorecards. He is dominant.
His dominance inside the Octagon has cultivated an aura of invincibility around him. That is perfectly natural, but ultimately naïve. He is mortal, and eventually he will be defeated again. The question is when will his skills fade enough for that to happen?
The culprit will be age. It catches everyone. Silva is 38 years old, and while he has maintained his brutal finishing capability, it is hard to deny that he has had to change some of his tactics inside the cage.
When Muhammad Ali's physical skills started to deteriorate he resorted to his mental advantage. His game-planning and tactics altered. The most famous development was the implementation of the “rope-a-dope” strategy. Is this something Silva has resorted to?
It is too early to tell, but in his last two bouts Silva has walked backward to the fence and stood straight up against it. He has allowed his opponents to come forward and challenged them to hit him.
One could argue that he avoided much of the damage in those cases, and that is true. However, both of his opponents were not his equal in speed. Yet he still used this strategy and took a little bit of punishment. Time will tell if this is becoming a pattern of Silva's strategy.
At 38 years of age, it is only a matter of time until we see his speed decrease noticeably. Age will catch him.
When Silva meets Chris Weidman at UFC 162 on July 6, a lot of these questions will look to be answered. The 29-year-old has all of the physical tools to defeat Silva, and the Brazilian's athletic abilities will be put to the test.
Weidman is an excellent athlete, and there is no getting around the fact that Silva is not the same fighter he was a decade ago, athletically speaking. If Weidman is his equal at UFC 162, we will begin to have our answer to how much is left in Silva's tank.
As fans, we love to think of fighters of being immortal. That is why their losses come as a surprise. It is just the nature of the beast. Then the new wave of young athletes comes in to replace the old regime to give us another decade of fun. We get lulled back in to believing in their invincibility.
Silva's amazing career does not look to be complete, but the new wave of talented fighters are here. Athletes like 25-year-old Jon Jones now own the sport. Silva is on his way out.
One can only hope that Silva retires before his skills diminish too much. We never like to see our heroes fade in to obscurity. UFC 162 will gives us a peak into just how much Silva has left in his gas tank. It will give us an idea of just how much more he can give us.
It is time to stop believing he will be giving us stellar performances forever. Those times are coming to an end. They may not end at UFC 162, but they are rapidly approaching and everyone should start preparing for the day he exits the sport.