After his defeat at UFC 162, Anderson Silva must have realized the enormity of his legend, his legacy. As soon as the talk of a rematch with Chris Weidman began, he was placed as a heavy betting favorite without a second thought.
That says something when you consider that Weidman didn’t just eek out a decision over Silva—he knocked him out.
Even though it was no doubt the upset of the year, many fans are marking it down as something far less. They say Silva did it to himself and won’t make the same mistake twice in the rematch.
But that’s just what the fans say.
Silva says that his in-cage antics of bravado and taunting are here to stay. He says it’s all part of the show, and it is his show, make no mistake about it. He says it all like a man who simply stumbled, nothing more.
Silva has nine fights left on his contract, and by all accounts, he’s found the fire to compete again.
But nine fights is a long time to go when you’re on the dark side of your thirties in one of the most demanding sports in the world. When you are in that position, sometimes the first stumble is the beginning of a hard fall.
After all, it’s not the first time the world of combative sports has seen a giant tumble. When one takes a step back and looks at Silva, you can see that he has much in common with one of his idols: Roy Jones Jr.
Like Jones, Silva has built a style of fighting that disregards some of the basic corner stones of the fight game. Jones never really used the jab, nor does Silva. Jones relied on his speed and unconventional defensive style in order to protect himself, and so does Silva.
Any time either man has stepped into combat, they decided to do things their own way, making up the rules as they went along. It was the magic of improvisation, and it was nothing short of spectacular.
But there is another similarity between Jones and Silva that is less flattering.
After Jones was knocked out by Antonio Tarver, he was quick to write it off as something that happens in the fight game; he just got caught, that’s all.
Then, he stepped back into the ring against Glen Johnson. It was supposed to be a comeback party for Jones; his chance to correct the idea that he was anything less than superhuman.
Then, Jones reverted to the same defensive style that had seen him conquer so many great fighters. It was almost arrogant, based upon the speed, reflexes and gall of a younger man who always defied convention.
Except this time, he got caught and knocked out again. The punch that felled him wouldn’t have come close at any other time previous to the Tarver KO, but he wasn’t the same man as before.
Now, Silva is saying that he’s not going to change his defensive style; it seems as if he’s going to train like before and fight like he did before, albeit taking Weidman a bit more seriously than before.
Silva has always taken pride in being able to avoid punches in a flamboyant manner, garnering praise and being compared to something magical. After doing it for so long, can he actually change if he needs to?
It’s hard to imagine Silva can’t make adjustments, to be honest. The man has proven to be head and shoulders above the rest, time and time again. But at age 38, and fresh off a hard KO loss, he might want to start making some changes now rather than later.
I know; to even presume to suggest that the great Anderson Silva might want to change his style a bit in order to defend himself is sheer arrogance. Who is anyone to make such an observation?
Well, fans of the man, for one. Silva has always been a treat to watch; he really does do the kinds of things no one else can. But the two things he cannot do are turn back the clock or unring a bell.
Make no mistake about it, the next time Silva steps into the ring, he will not be the same man as before. A knock out loss changes a fighter, just as age does. When the two come together at the same time, it can be a hard thing to deal with.
One of the great things about Methuselah-like Randy Couture, Bernard Hopkins and many others is that they were willing to make adjusts to their games as their careers wore on. They took stock of their abilities, learned from their losses and managed to make the changes needed to compensate for growing older.
What they didn’t do is ignore the impact a KO loss can have on a fighter; they developed a complete game that played to their strengths. In doing so, they protected the chinks in their armor that come with age and battle.
The simple truth is, unless Silva is willing to make some changes, he’s going to suffer more losses on his record before his contract is finished.
The opposition isn’t as scared of Silva anymore; a man looks far more human after he’s been defeated convincingly. They are going to be more daring and aggressive instead of passively waiting for Silva to take them out.
To be quite honest, we really won’t know how much time Silva has left as an elite fighter until we see how the rematch with Weidman unfolds. But the history of combative sports has shown that once a fighter is discovered to have chinks in his armor, future opposition grows bold.
But we do know one thing: nothing is going to be the same for Silva from this point forward.
We have no idea how much damage Weidman did to his psyche. We don’t know if that knockout will make him overly cautious and, thus, a more stationary target. And we don’t know how he’s going to react to facing a string of fighters that think they smell blood in the water.
In the past, when a pound-for-pound king was trounced, there were usually two outcomes. He came back more focused and determined than ever before (not to mention a whole lot wiser), or he simply fell apart.
Jones, with intent on proving himself to be the former, never regained his pre-Tarver edge. Back-to-back knockout losses to Tarver and Johnson signaled the end, although Jones simply refuses to see it.
Hopefully, the same fate will not befall Silva; but if it does, he will not be the first once-great to be pulled back into the fray due to the need of escaping the gravity of defeat, nor will he be the last.