Their rematch looks to be the crown jewel for one of the biggest MMA events since UFC 100, and once again, it all seems to revolve around a single question.
Was the last time a fluke, or is Weidman really better than Silva?
When a fighter like Silva comes along, we as fans are given a chance to watch a fighter with nearly no limitations; they can do almost anything they desire, and they do it with such an ease that each bout seems less like a fight and more like an exhibition of their artistic skills.
But even the greatest can be broken against the rock of age; on a long enough timeline, everyone loses.
At UFC 162, Silva was soundly defeated for the first time in his UFC career by Weidman, a fighter who had only nine professional MMA bouts. To say it was an upset in the hearts and minds of many fans is an understatement.
Silva was supposed to be timeless—a fighter who wasn’t going to lose to any opponent or to the specter of age. His fans felt he was just too great at all areas; Silva wasn’t just a fighter, he was the greatest fighter in the history of the sport.
Given his dominance, their perspective is an easy one to understand. The longest title run by any UFC fighter pre-Silva had been five title defenses—a record held by both Matt Hughes and Tito Ortiz. Silva shattered that record by doubling it and was looking for lucky No. 11 when Weidman decked him and pounded him unconscious.
The legacy of Silva wasn’t really diminished by the loss; most waived it off dismissively, citing that it was really nothing more than an anomaly. In their minds, Silva defeated Silva; Weidman just happened to be lucky enough to be in the cage on the night it happened.
Some even went to so far as to claim Silva threw the fight in order to generate interest in what would surely be the biggest rematch in UFC history.
But the simple fact is, for whatever reason, Silva ignored the lessons of history and paid a heavy price.
Believe it or not, he is not the first incredible champion to get beat by a younger, greener fighter. The same thing happened to Muhammad Ali in 1978 when he lost his title to Leon Spinks, who boasted a record of 7-0-1.
The question is, how will Silva come back? Ali came back, took Spinks seriously the second time around and won back the heavyweight title for the third time in his career in a rematch that was anything but easy.
We honestly have no idea how Silva is going to fight come Dec. 28. Sure, he’s lost before but never has the fall been so far and so pronounced. The early losses in his career happened before he was great—before he was “the greatest MMA fighter in history.”
And the second time around looks like it is going to be much harder than the first. Weidman clearly hasn’t let his previous victory go to his head, via Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie. Weidman is the champion, and he got the belt by defeating Silva when he was at the height of his power.
Now, Silva walks into the rematch without any momentum, all notions of his invulnerability crushed by the man who took his belt by force—without really breaking a sweat.
But he’s still arguably the best striker in all of MMA, and he is still the exact same man who set all those UFC records and crushed so many opponents. Sometimes we forget that all the accolades and praise afforded to him are based on results.
Saturday night, there’s going to be a fight between two very capable and dangerous men. One is older and may honestly be nearing the end of an excellent career; the other is a young lion on the rise that seems all about the business of earning everything he wants, and it looks like he wants it all.
We already know that one man has the tools and the power to defeat the other because we saw it all in July. What we don’t know is if the defeated can reclaim the throne. That is the question that looks to make UFC 168 one of the biggest events ever.
But, should Silva not only win but blow Weidman out of the water, it will be a victory that speaks to two very different things. First, it will show that Silva still wants to be the champion and that he is still every bit as great as he ever has been, because it is going to take a great fighter to defeat Weidman.
Second, it will directly address their first bout, and it will say one simple thing: When you’re fighting for the title, showboating doesn’t bring the belt home.