Wanderlei Silva: A Look at His Past, Present, and Future
Pack your belongings and take a trip.
Back to a day when this narrator wasn't that much concerned with the growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
There was no animosity towards the sport like some of the other ignorant minds that chose to speak their minds before witnessing what actually happened, but I never went out of my way to watch it like I do now.
I would watch the few and far between MMA programs that Spike TV (UFC) and Fox Sports (Pride & IFL) had offered. I always enjoyed the action but was never all that impressed with the UFC in particular.
If in a rare occasion both the UFC and Pride were on television at once, I would tune in to Pride.
As I continued to watch Pride as often as I could, there was this one little dude with a tattoo across the back of his head swarming through a countless amount of fighters that were far bigger than he.
I fell in love with the brutal fashion in which he finished his victims, and was branded a fan for life once I heard his "Axe Murderer" nickname.
Many seasons have passed and the sport has evolved for the better, but I will never forget who first got me addicted to MMA: Wanderlei Silva,"The Axe Murderer."
With his UFC 110 fight against Michael "The Count" Bisping less than two weeks away, it's time to take a look at Silva's past, present, and future before he takes a trip to the land down under.
Wanderlei Silva learned the trade of fighting on the streets of Curitiba, Brazil. As a young teen, he trained in the art of muay thai as a way to keep himself out of trouble, although for a man who loves to fight, that's easier said than done.
Later as a teen, Silva enlisted himself in the military. While his military time did its trick in maturing the young Brazilian, it didn't dwindle his highly-aggressive tactics.
A fighting career was in his future.
Evident by the extensive amount of scar tissue in his head, Silva had competed in countless bare-knuckle "Vale Tudo" style fights as a young man. However, his first professional bout wasn't recorded until his knock-out win over Dilson Filho.
Silva went on to win four out of his next five Vale Tudo contests. His fight-finishing ability earned him a spot on the UFC's first and only venture into Brazil against another phenom of the sport, Vitor Belfort.
Silva was quickly on the losing end of that fight, done in by Belfort's lightning-quick combinations.
But Silva bounced back strong with six consecutive victories throughout the UFC, IVC, and Pride. This prompted the UFC to grant him the shot at the vacant light-heavyweight championship (the middleweight championship at the time) against another rising star, Tito Ortiz.
In what could be considered a prehistoric form of "lay-and-pray," Ortiz won the championship and went on to become a huge UFC star. Silva, devastated from the loss, went back to Brazil to rededicate his life to the sport of combat.
Storming Through Pride
After quickly defeating an opponent in less than a minute in his hometown, Silva found his way back to Japan, fighting under the Pride organization in which he was already 3-0.
And so the rise of Wanderlei Silva began.
He quickly dispatched Guy Mezger, and shared a no-contest bout against the much larger, nefarious form of Gilbert Yvel. But Silva soon stood toe-to-toe with yet another highly-touted prospect of the sport, Dan Henderson.
Silva and Henderson traded huge blows, like never-satisfied kids trading away their lunches at school. As the grueling contest progressed, they both eventually tired.
But Silva was able to preserve enough energy to grind out the last two five-minute rounds, earning him the unanimous decision.
Silva stormed through his next five fights with dominant knock-out victories, twice over revered Japanese superstar, Kazushi Sakuraba. Silva won the Pride Middleweight Championship in his second bout against Sakuraba, which he defended against Kiyoshi Tamura months later.
Wanting a real challenge, Silva agreed to fight one of the most feared strikers at the time: Mirko Cro Cop, the former Croatian Anti-Terrorism police officer.
In a hybrid set of rules crossed between K-1 and Pride, the fight was a close, back-and-forth contest that crowned nobody the victor, ending in a draw. However, many people believed that Silva deserved to win the heated battle.
Still, Silva fans could take one positive from the fight with Cro Cop: Silva had the desire to challenge himself against the biggest fighters in the company.
Silva won his next eight fights, one coming against Kazushi Sakuraba, the Japanese grappling machine.
The two most notable victories in the winning-streak came over former UFC light-heavyweight champion, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. The stare-downs prior to each bout with Jackson were full of acrimony, electrifying the air around the fans in attendance.
Both fights were highly entertaining with each fighter pushing the pace, but they ultimately ended the same way: Silva with a huge, pleasurable grin pasted over his cheeks. While Jackson was left grimacing as he reluctantly ate the brutal knees of his foe before passing out.
After his second bout with Jackson, Silva seemed almost unbeatable. There were talks of a potential fight with UFC superstar, Chuck Liddell. Even still, Silva had twice dominated Jackson, a man who had knocked Liddell from his tracks. Besides, Liddell was dominating a different part of the world.
All Reigns Come To an End
New Year's Eve, at Pride Shockwave 2004. Unknown at the time, this was the day that "The Axe Murderer's" reign officially came to an end. It came against the much larger, kick-boxer-turned-MMA fighter, Mark Hunt.
Silva's loss to Hunt ended an astonishing 20-fight unbeaten streak within the Pride organization, 18 of them being wins. Winning four of his next five, Silva appeared on back on track.
He had lots of momentum heading into to his rematch with Mirko Cro Cop, which was a brutal knockout loss by way of Cro Cop's infamous left leg.
In the opinion of some, two things happened here.
First, it was the end of Silva's days fighting anybody of any weight. His loss to Cro Cop showed what happens when you jump up to the big boys and tangle with the top of the division.
Second, it was the end of the Wanderlei Silva the world had once feared.
It has to be said that what was to come next in his career was completely unexpected. Including his rematch with Cro Cop, Silva has won only once in his last six fights. He was left unconscious in three of those losses: in his loss to Cro Cop and his rematches with Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson.
One of the losses that went to decision was the long-awaited fight against Chuck Liddell. Although both fighters were seemingly on their downfall at the time, and the anticipated knockout punch never came, this fight was a treat that lived up to the anticipation of the fans and the media.
Don't Call It a Comeback
Silva's love of the sport has kept him coming back.
How can he turn down so many intriguing fights?
Like his fight on February 20th, on the UFC's first trip to Australia where he will try to prove he can still compete against the best in the sport, against a fighter hoping to prove the same: Michael Bisbing.
Whether you love him or hate him, Bisping's style offers Silva an interesting fight. Don't expect him to wander into "The Axe Murderer's" right hand like he did against Dan Henderson.
Plus, with Quinton Jackson as a good friend and training partner, Bisping might be able to exploit some weaknesses in Silva that he might not have noticed through video.
While it's hard to say that somebody doesn't have knockout power, Bisping isn't exactly known for his explosive hands. Which is why this fight could tilt in the favor of Silva.
If you let the Brazilian hang around in the fight, there is always that chance of him connecting on a looping right hand, shutting down the circuits of your mind.
For title aspirations, this is a must-win for Silva.
However, as a man who just loves to fight, there is still the inevitable question of, "what comes next?"
The Final Chapter?
A win over Bisping would be huge for Silva.
Defeating a top ten opponent would put him in the same prestige.
He could immediately challenge the likes of Yoshihiro Akiyama, Patrick Cote, and Alan Belcher for contender status. All would be very tough fights, but all would be very winnable at the same time.
With the right strategy and a refined striking attack, Silva could conceivably make a title run in the relatively weak middleweight division.
However, a loss to Bisping will beg the question, "is it time for Wanderlei Silva to retire?"
One of the biggest arguments against his retirement is still relatively young at 33 years of age. It's not the age though, it's the business.
Start with an undocumented bare-knuckle vale tudo career, mix in the countless wars he endured in Pride, with a touch of some vicious knockout losses in the ladder part of his career; that's a strong start on why Silva should consider retirement should he lose to Bisping.
Another reason would be that a loss would put the count up to seven out of his last ten fights. Unusually high considering his overall professional record is 32-10-1-1.
As a giant fan of Silva, it really does hurt me to say that. But I still believe it to be true. Fans never want to see their heroes take that final bow to the crowd. Usually, it's this hero that got you so involved with the sport in the first place. It would almost feel as if something was missing.
At the same time, fans don't ever want to see their heroes go out in a blaze of wishful glory. Not everyone can go out on top the way pro football's John Elway did. Most usually blemish their bright careers such as Joe Montana or Michael Jordan, to name a few major stars.
But to quote Dana White, "I'm not his father."
Oh yeah, with an expletive somewhere in there. Either way, the result of this fight with Michael Bisping should have a major impact on the direction Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva is heading in his career.
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