When Wanderlei Silva burst onto the Pride FC scene, it was unlike anything we’d ever seen. Despite a black belt in BJJ, Wanderlei was (and still is) a wild, vicious brawler that always tore into his opponent with reckless abandon, or died with his sword facing the enemy.
There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’ve watched more Wanderlei fights and highlights than anything else on YouTube, and that’s no accident.
However, as much as it pains us all to admit it, Wanderlei’s time as an elite fighter is all but finished. He’s still a riot to watch, but years of bare-knuckle brawls and brutal knockouts have had a definite impact on his fighting, and more importantly, his record. He refused to adapt to the changing scene, and has paid for it.
While it’s a tough pill to swallow, that’s MMA. The guys we saw beat the most ass in the past (Wanderlei, Chuck Liddell, Mirko Cro Cop, etc.) are being upstaged and even torn up by the new set of fighters. As rough as it is to see these fighters fall off the radar, it’s also exciting to watch the new group take the reins and ring in the next decade at the top of the MMA world.
As of late, there’s been a new Brazilian striker imposing his deadly strikes and mean mug on the UFC’s light-heavyweights, although I feel he’s gone largely ignored when talking about the best in the division.
With UFC 108 quickly approaching, Thiago Silva has a chance to change that, and in doing so, he has the chance to become the Axe Murderer of the new decade.
Maybe Silva’s remained under the radar for so long due to a lack of uniqueness. He’s shares a last name (and a first name, to a lesser degree) with what seems like half of the UFC roster, and most casual fans probably have a hard time differentiating all the fighters. Also, in a world where nicknames can be just as important as your fighting style, “Thiago Silva” is just another fighter.
This, too, is going to change.
Thiago is on the verge of becoming the next big thing in the UFC, and it’s a role he isn’t content on sharing with anyone else. In a recent interview with mmajunkie.com, Silva stated:
"We learn with our mistakes, and I learned a lot with these mistakes," Silva said. "That was a big stage. ... This is my job, and this is one of my resolutions: be [the least] emotional I can be, and go there to perform a job and do my best, to be the best, and get a win and put myself on a track to be the champion.”
This is the approach that Wanderlei needed, but lacked, in order to become the best. It’s the will to be the best as what he does that’s going to make the difference in Thiago’s career. Whereas Wandy is perfectly content with simply competing and putting on entertaining fights, that’s not the attitude that takes you to the top.
The attitude Thiago’s been displaying since his knockout loss to now-UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida is going to set him apart from Wanderlei in the long run. It almost seems like Wandy’s there for a good time sometimes. There is no good time with Thiago Silva.
After devastating wins over the likes of Houston Alexander and Keith Jardine, Thiago’s record still lacks a big win over someone that isn’t so used to getting his shit kicked in. Thankfully, Rampage Jackson is a huge Mr. T fan, and we now have a fight between Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 108.
This fight was supposed to happen back at UFC 84, but Evans opted for a fight with Chuck Liddell instead. Thiago was also scheduled to fight Forrest Griffin, but Griffin was matched up with Anderson Silva instead. Thiago was passed up again.
Taking it all in stride, Thiago keeps winning and moving towards his ultimate goal of a rematch with Lyoto Machida. And thanks to the countless injuries, illnesses, and acting-related issues surrounding the “cursed” UFC 108 event, Thiago is finally getting his shot on the biggest stage of them all.
And you can bet your ass he’s going to make the best of it.
Rashad Evans is one of the most dangerous and well-rounded fighters in the UFC. He’s got a blindingly-fast striking game, and the size and skill to outwrestle almost anyone he fights.
That being said, he’s in for a beatdown this Saturday.
Thiago said he wanted to be less emotional, and this tells me he’s not going to just rush after Rashad. That’s what Rashad wants in a fight; he’s become a great counter-striker, and it’s working for him. But much like Josh Koscheck before him, Rashad’s going to realize that his bread and butter is wrestling, and that’s what he should stick with.
Rashad’s going to try and stand with Thiago. He’s going to dance. He’s going to juke around. He’s going to grab his crotch. And before you know it, he’s going to be waking up in the comforting arms of his corner, wondering what the hell happened.
Shortly after, Joe Rogan will walk him through the replay, which is going to be hard for him to watch. Then, as Thiago runs towards the closest camera and slides his thumb across his throat, Joe will make countless Wanderlei Silva references.
Thiago’s about to take hold of the proverbial torch. Let’s see what he can do with it.
Stay juicy, people.