On Saturday, Dec. 28, Anderson Silva will face Chris Weidman in the most highly anticipated rematch of the year. This will come just under seven months after Weidman knocked out Silva to mark his first career UFC loss.
In order to move into the next chapter of his career, Silva must defeat Weidman to reclaim the middleweight title.
Silva had previously ruled over the UFC as the middleweight champion for just under seven years. He reigned supreme: He won 16 consecutive fights, defeating the world's top middleweight and light heavyweight competitors.
Now, Silva must rebound from what appeared to be an effortless performance against a fighter who can match the best in the world at every step, as Freddie Roach so eloquently stated, per The MMA Hour.
"I definitely saw him get knocked out," Roach said, referring to Silva's UFC 162 loss to Chris Weidman on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "My thought on that is that he just plays around too much. I think it's too easy for him sometimes. He just got caught playing around. In this sport, one punch can change things, and this isn't a sport you should actually play [around].
"Obviously a loss is a loss. Regardless of how he lost or why he lost, it's not anyone's fault but your own," Roach said. "It's part of his career, it's part of his life, so we can't say, ‘Well, he wasn't ready for that one,' or, ‘He didn't train for that one.' It is going to be part of his legacy and I think he needs to come back and come back well."
It's hard to disagree with a single point made—well, outside of the final one.
Silva's hands were at his sides, a smile was struck across his face, and arrogance was flowing throughout his body. This wasn't the first time we'd seen it from him, but it was the first time we saw someone come through and use that arrogance against him.
In order to move on from this defeat, Silva must respond in a convincing manner.
Legacy OK, Career Path Not
For those who believe that Silva's legacy has suffered because of a loss to Weidman is bordering on ignorance. Not only is Silva the greatest fighter in the history of the UFC, but he's set a new standard for champions in mixed martial arts.
Seven years of dominance doesn't disappear with one knockout.
Not only has Silva dominated the UFC, but there's one fact we cannot ignore: Silva is 38. Not only is he removed from his prime, but it's been quite some time since Spider has been anywhere near his prime.
For that reason, a knockout at this stage is hardly concerning when it comes to how he's remembered.
What his legacy may not survive with a second knockout defeat at Weidman's hands, however, is his current career path. If they're to fight in an even match and Spider is to eventually lose, that's one story, but a knockout would be crippling—especially for a fighter looking to close his career out in style.
Closing Out Strong
There's no question that Silva is looking to close his career out in style. If there's one word to describe Silva's style of fighting, it would be "showboat," as Silva is known for his flash and flare as much as he is for his world-class fundamentals.
With this in mind, it's hard to imagine Silva closing out his season against anyone other than those at the top of his craft.
Silva's most attractive options for future fights are superstar opponents Georges St-Pierre and Jon "Bones" Jones. Both men are viewed as the best at their weight class, with St-Pierre serving as the only active fighter who rivals Silva in terms of legacy.
Consider Silva vs. St-Pierre to be MMA's version of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.
If Silva is knocked out by Weidman for the second consecutive time, it would take at least one match before Silva could make either of those superfights a possibility. At that rate, Silva would be 39 when facing either man.
Consider this fight a must-win if Silva wishes to continue his career and close to a non-factor in terms of the impact on Spider's legendary legacy.