The backdrop for this nightmare or coming-of-the-age moment, depending on how you look at it, is the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pa. on August 8, 2009.
It was billed as a superfight, pitting the former light heavyweight champion against the reigning middleweight champ, who was also widely considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
On paper, it was penned as a David vs. Goliath matchup.
Sure, Silva’s otherworldly skills had made some of the best fighters on the planet look like mere amateurs. It had literally reached a point where Silva appeared bored with the competition after only three years as UFC champion.
But there was a gut feeling amongst many in the MMA community that Griffin’s size and overaggressive fighting style would serve as the ultimate deterrent against Silva’s greatness.
In speaking with Shaun Al-Shatti of MMAFighting.com, Griffin reminisced on his overall mindset and strategy heading into the fight:
I was coming more from the mentality of, don't be a big, slow guy. He eats that up all day. You've got to be quick. You've got to be light on your feet. You've got to move. You're not going to out-quick him. That's his bread and butter, the big slow guy. He loves it, a guy who's going to load up on his punches and try to punch him. He's going to touch you before you ever get going.
Recanting Griffin’s pre-fight thoughts is eerie, in a way, as he pretty much predicted his own fate that night.
Silva juked and jived like Neo from The Matrix in one of the most spectacular performances by a fighter in any combat sport. It was as if Silva had a GPS for Griffin’s punches planted in his brain.
Silva stood merely inches away, and Griffin—a top light heavyweight contender at the time—only managed to catch air when putting together combinations on the feet.
After dropping Griffin a couple of times, Silva ended the former champ’s misery quickly in the first round with one last magician act and a deadly accurate jab while moving backwards. Immediately after the fight, Griffin got up and jetted back to the locker rooms refusing to take part in any of the post-fight ceremonies.
It would have been a tough pill for any world class fighter to swallow after losing in that fashion. Griffin has this much to say about the defeat:
I wish I wouldn't have taken the fight. I wish I would've done everything different, but that's the way it goes. It was a very hard thing to get over. The next fights I had, people always wanted to bring it up. For real, just the fashion I lost and how embarrassing it was really, really... it didn't do me any favors as far as my career. It was one of those things that, definitely thinking about it now, was the worst moment of my career.
Like Pops from Friday used to say, “You win some, you lose some. But you live, you live to fight another day.”
Griffin took his lumps like a man and continued on in a successful fighting career. There are definitely worse moments than getting trounced by Anderson Silva.
Perhaps Griffin can one day look back on that fateful night and consider it an honor that he belongs to only a handful of individuals lucky enough to say they got a chance to compete against the greatest fighter in MMA history.