Wanderlei Silva was on the top of the Middleweight heap for five long years in Pride. "The Axe Murderer" lost his belt to Dan Henderson as Pride was imploding, and he moved to the UFC for the next stage in his career.
Wanderlei's championship winning streak and brutal knockouts are all well documented, so lets look at his recent past in the UFC and discuss how he can return to his winning ways and perhaps recapture his previous glory.
The Chuck Lidell fight wasn't terrible for Wanderlei, but it showed the rough edges in his current fighting style. Hinted at in his title fight with Henderson, it seemed that Wanderlei was having trouble getting inside and connecting. Silva scored some great hits in the second round, and fended off the best Chuck had to offer overall.
Lidell looked pretty burnt out in round three, but Wanderlei was unable to capitalize and move in for the kill. Wanderlei could have focused on some kicks, used his Brazilian jiu jitsu on the ground, or even weathered some blows to secure a real clinch. However, Chuck was able to take the decision with the help of some high scoring, yet fairly fruitless, take downs.
The Keith Jardine fight looked like one of Silva's old Pride matches. The stare down was there, the energy was there, and Jardine never did get the number of that truck that plowed him over. This win gave Wand some breathing room against the naysayers, and showed that against lesser fighters he is still a force to be reckoned with in the Octagon.
The Rampage Jackson fight was hard to watch for any Wanderlei fan: Silva's former punching bag finally got his payback after three losses in Pride. Similar to the Chuck Lidell fight, versatility was needed and Wanderlei didn't show enough.
Where were Wanderlei's kicks? This would have been the perfect arena to morph his famous soccer kicks into speed-sapping leg chops. Wanderlei could have studied with his good friend Shogun, and developed a plan to use leg kicks to slow Jackson down, close the distance, and get inside for a flurry of punches. Maybe Wanderlei thought he had Jackson's number at this point in his career and didn't spend enough time developing a solid game plan.
The Richard Franklin fight was promising, yet it was obvious that the weight cut took some of the spring out of Silva's step. Again, his opponent showed more diversity while Wanderlei had a hard time closing the distance.
Wand almost had Franklin in the third round when he took him against the cage. Silva needs to learn how to use the cage as a trap, saving his striking power for periods when his opponents cannot escape. Due to the exaggerated scoring emphasis on take downs in the UFC, Franklin was able to steal the decision victory that many feel should have gone "The Axe Murderer's" way.
It looked like Wanderlei was going to fight "Sexyama" for his next bout, but instead he'll be taking on Mike "The Count" Bisping. Stylistically this should be one hell of a fight. Bisping almost mirrors Silva in some ways, but he doesn't have the heavy hands that or experience that Wanderlei has.
The funny thing is this is one fight where Wanderlei doesn't need diversity or to change his old style to win. I originally wrote this to look at the "Sexyama" fight and discuss how Wanderlei needs to use the cage with his striking, perfect his takedown defense, and use some ground game.
But honestly Silva needs to bully into Bisping and beat him down like an axe murderer; Pressure him like "Hendo" did and keep him from getting any dominate ground positions.
Very few people are giving Bisping a chance, even though his last fight with Denis Kang showed how dangerous he can be. Wanderlei is a legend in the sport, and win or lose, his fans will be there with him in the ring.