I am left virtually speechless by the UFC's preposterous decision to match Anderson Silva with Chael Sonnen. People may not have appreciated Silva's performance in his last UFC fight but there can be no doubt that he absolutely dominated Damian Maia.
Silva was so much better than Maia that it was embarassing for all concerned. Surely the lesson that the UFC should have learned from this farce was that, in future, they need to provide Silva with a higher calibre of opponent?
Instead, to my utter astonishment, they have opted to match him against a man who lost to Maia only last year. Why would you do this? I cannot think of a singly credible explanation.
When Anderson Silva is challenged he shines, witness his spectacular stoppages of Rich Franklin (twice) and Dan Henderson. When he is faced with mediocre opponents, such as Patrick Cote or Thales Leites, he has a tendency to put in mediocre performances.
The UFC have a wealth of talent in the welterweight, light heavyweight and even heavyweight divisions who they could test Silva against. Silva has scored two highly impressive knockout wins in both his fights at light heavyweight and it is obvious that the challenge of fighting at a higher weight is something which motivates him.
I mean no disrespect to Chael Sonnen. If Silva does ever vacate the middleweight division, an occurrence everyone felt was inevitable prior to this announcement, Sonnen would probably be the favourite to succeed him as champion.
Sonnen is not in Silva's class though. He has never stopped anyone inside the UFC, or the WEC for that matter. His last five wins have all come by way of decision and he has been submitted twice in his last seven fights. Silva is light years ahead of him on his feet and also has a superior ground game. How is the most dominant champion in UFC history supposed to motivate himself for a fight under these circumstances?
I think these 10 fighters would all have made better opponents:
George St Pierre
For me Anderson Silva is the UFC's single most valuable asset. George St Pierre has been almost equally dominant but he is much more methodical in his approach to the game. St Pierre's last victory was as much a tactical one as a technical one. He was far superior to his opponent, Dan Hardy, but he chose not to engage him on his feet choosing to rely almost exclusively on his wrestling to win the fight.
Silva is a more natural mixed martial artist. He is adept at all areas of the game. The fight starts on the feet and he is extremely comfortable there. If the fight does go to the ground the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt is not going to exactly be out of his depth but, unlike St Pierre, he is unlikely to feel the need to force the transition himself.
He has an innate ability to make his opponent miss which has caused people in certain quarters to question whether he could survive and even potentially prosper as a heavyweight. Unfortunately Sonnen's stand up is not going to test this ability in any way shape or form.
Silva is being treated like a naughty schoolboy. Dana White's message to him appears to be,
"You will just have to stay in the middleweight division until you start behaving yourself and then maybe I will let you fight with some of the bigger boys."
The arrogance with which Silva dismissed the challenge of Maia may not have been easy on the eye but it proved one point beyond all doubt: Damian Maia is not good enough to share a cage with Anderson Silva.
I had expected the UFC to take this lesson on board and to take more care when selecting his next opponent. Instead the organization has shown a total lack of imagination, grabbing the first middleweight they could find and saying, "you'll do".
If I was Anderson Silva matcmaking like this would have me contemplating retirement. This would be the worse thing which could possibly happen to the sport of MMA. Nobody knows what Silva is truly capable of. If you are taking the result, rather than the performance, into consideration he has passed every single test since joining the UFC with flying colours
Is he good enough to beat Brock Lesnar, or even Fedor Emalianenko? Nobody can say no with any sense of certainty until such a time as Silva has been tested and found wanting. There is no-one in the UFC middleweight division capable of posing such a test at present.
It is glaringly obvious to everyone, raging from casual fight fans to seasoned pundits, that Anderson Silva has outgrown the middleweight division. Why is it not obvious to the UFC matchmakers as well?