How many world champions in mixed martial arts can claim 10 title defenses in succession? When did the greats of yesteryear come into a fight looking for an 11th successful title defense? Aside from Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey, how many reigning UFC champions can boast an officially unbeaten run inside the Octagon?
Aside from UFC middleweight champion Anderson "The Spider" Silva, none can. Does anyone dispute that? Let's recap the man's UFC career up to this point.
Silva decimated Chris Leben, annihilated Rich Franklin to win the middleweight title, defeated an overweight Travis Lutter, finished Nate Marquardt, defeated Franklin when the rematch came to Cincinnati, submitted Dan Henderson and knocked out James Irvin.
He also took a TKO win from Patrick Cote after Cote blew out his knee, took a unanimous decision victory from Thales Leites, knocked Forrest Griffin silly, clowned Demian Maia in a frustratingly dominant effort, and submitted Chael Sonnen in a nail-biting MMA classic.
Silva's front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort will likely stand the test of time, as will his wins over Yushin Okami and Stephan Bonnar.
Of course, take away all the bad blood that surrounded Silva's rematch with Sonnen, all of which certainly motivated a more "emotionally driven" choice of tactics from the champion, and the fact still remains that Silva expertly capitalized on a momentary lapse in judgment to finish arguably his toughest title threat.
Fast forward to Saturday night's UFC 162 card, where Silva looks for his 11th successful title defense against undefeated Chris Weidman. At this point, it goes without saying that, while Weidman holds underdog status to odds-makers, he feels like the favorite to many in the MMA world.
Why should he feel like the favorite when he really holds underdog status? Weidman holds youth, potential and a blend of what some perceive as Silva's kryptonite, thus the MMA world legitimately sees Weidman as the man to deliver a big hit to the legacy of a man whom some occasionally consider among the sport's greatest fighters ever.
Does that legacy really take a hit if Silva suffers his first UFC loss to the Serra-Longo Fight Team prospect, though? Absolutely not. Silva cemented his status as the all-time greatest middleweight in MMA long ago, and his name will hold weight in every "greatest fighter of all time" discussion.
Simply put, Silva cleared out his division and appears on track to clear out his last actual contender. Ten times, Silva faced fighters whom the UFC brass considered worthy of a title shot, and 10 times, he walked out with the UFC middleweight belt still around his waist.
If he makes it 11-0 in UFC title defenses Saturday night, he only adds on to his legacy. If he loses the belt in this bout, the MMA world recognizes that Silva set a standard to which few may come close to matching or surpassing outside of Jon Jones' current UFC light heavyweight title reign.
Either way, they will remember Silva for everything he did while he stood on top of the division, and while his critics may disagree with whom he did it all against, the MMA community will simply wait for the man who proves brave enough to attempt to top, arguably, the most impressive middleweight title run in MMA history, let alone UFC history.
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