Jon Jones and Anderson Silva at the ESPY Awards
On July 6, 2013, at UFC 162, newly crowned middleweight champion Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva. In doing so, the New York native all but ruined a possible super fight between Silva and the current light heavyweight king, Jon Jones.
Previous to UFC 162, however, Silva was the company’s longest reigning champion, holding the middleweight title for seven years. Despite his devastating loss to Weidman, many still consider the Brazilian to be the greatest mixed martial artist to ever grace the Octagon.
Silva’s loss at UFC 162 took nothing away from his legacy. His accomplishments and feats are testaments to the man who made winning look easy for nearly a decade. His ability to make other professional fighters appear amateurish in the Octagon was astounding. In that, he has undoubtedly staked his claim as a future UFC hall of famer.
However, due to time, Jones’ anticipated move to the heavyweight division and Silva’s admission of his inability to defeat the current light heavyweight champion, it is more than evident that Jones will one day surpass Silva as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.
Anderson Silva at the UFC 162 Post-Fight Conference
When Silva entered the UFC, he was already 31 years old. Undoubtedly, his accomplishments throughout the past seven years have been unparalleled. His capture of the middleweight world title in 2006 catapulted the Brazilian to stardom. From there, he went on to defeat every one of his opponents leading up to UFC 162.
In the Octagon, while remaining undefeated for seven years, Silva made a career out of mocking his foes. His long-lasting title reign is impeccable, impressive and unparalleled. However, with his loss at UFC 162, Silva relinquished his No. 1 pound-for-pound standing to the current light heavyweight champion.
Jones began his UFC career at the tender age of 21. At 23, he became the youngest champion in the company’s history. His height (6’4”) and unorthodox fighting style have presented complications for many of his opponents. He has the best wrestling skills, bar none, and Jones even out struck many renowned stand-up fighters in his rise to the top of his division.
Given the depth and talent of the light heavyweight division, Jones’ reign as the two-year king of his division speaks volumes. He has beaten a laundry list of high-profile names in Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Mauricio Rau, Ryan Bader and Brandon Vera. In fact, Jones, in a span of a year and a half, defeated five former world champions.
Currently, Jones, is tied for the most successful light heavyweight title defenses in the UFC’s history (along with Tito Ortiz). He has virtually cleared out his division and has talked about moving to the heavyweight division, where many incredible match-ups await the 26 year old.
Taking nothing away from Silva’s achievements and tremendous title reign, Jones simply has more time to create a longer lasting legacy than his Brazilian counterpart.
Jon Jones at UFC 159 Post-Fight Conference
Given Jones’ dominance over all his opponents at the light heavyweight level, the champion’s move to the heavyweight division is imminent. Participating in an online MetroPCS chat, Jones responded to a question regarding an expected debut at the higher weight class. The champion stated, “I'll definitely move up to heavyweight, but it'll probably be around 2013. Maybe at the end of 2013."
Jones is scheduled to meet Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 and has expressed interest in rounding out his light heavyweight career by facing another mixed martial arts legend and former world champion in Dan Henderson in the near future.
However, all indicators point to Jones having a fruitful heavyweight career as well. If he is able to duplicate his success and become champion of said division, Jones would join only two other UFC fighters who have championed two divisions—B.J. Penn and Randy Couture.
At 26 years old, Jones has already garnered a place in the UFC’s Hall of Fame. Defeating every named opponent in his division and becoming champion of another would be nothing less than astonishing. His doing so would not only leave a lasting legacy within the UFC, but throughout the world of mixed martial arts as well.
Anderson Silva at a UFC 162 Conference
Leading up to UFC 162, many considered Silva to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. However, given Jones’ own record-breaking streak and accomplishments, a super fight was destined to occur.
Suddenly, on July 1, 2013, at a lunch presser, Silva stated his inability to beat Jones, if the two ever fought. He said:
Jon Jones, in his class, is the best. If I fight Jon Jones, I don't think I'm going to win. "Jon Jones is different. He's large. He's young. But, in the fight, I see in Jon Jones, I see myself from a long time ago. He's very smart. I don't know. In my opinion, Spider has more experience than Jon Jones, but that's the only advantage.
An admission of this magnitude is incomprehensible within the world of mixed martial arts, and in any sport that pits one opponent against another. Conceding defeat before having fought is bewildering.
However, there is something to be said about the level of transparency and truthfulness that Silva displayed. Given his seven-year reign as middleweight king, accompanied by his experience and triumphant, yet sporadic, appearances at light heavyweight, Silva’s assessment of his abilities and that of Jones should not be second-guessed.
Silva expressed his inability to beat a great athlete who is not even in his prime yet. This declaration exemplified the exceptional phenomenon that is the light heavyweight champion. It also gave light to Jones’ future and his ability to surpass Silva as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.