During UFC 117, the bittersweet Silva vs. Sonnen fight was layered in its dimensions.
This fight was clearly a nail biter for all MMA fans, no matter which side of the fence they strattled. "Will Sonnen actually pull it off?" was the statement of the night, and alas, he left himself open one too many times and failed to secure the win.
It's easy to get caught up in the emotion of the fight. Sonnen supporters felt let down at the bitter end, and Silva fans left the sports bars thinking, "Ah, pulling off a submission after getting beat up is something only a true champ can do."
Yet all MMA fans recognized something that hasn't yet fully manifested itself in MMA discourse: despite the victory, everyone saw Anderson Silva bleed. Oddly enough, not literally, but he showed major weakness, and this is tantamount to chumming water with great whites.
Sure, Silva escaped the waters after being badly wounded, but do you actually think the other sharks, or even the same one, will forget how badly he struggled to swim back to the boat?
The whole world saw what an aggressive wrestler was able to do to one of the UFC's best fighters ever, and it wasn't even a close match. At best, Silva was able to threaten a few submissions, but again, aggressive wrestling completely cut through the offense of Silva.
There has been a problem with Silva's opponents in the UFC: they have tried to out-technique him. Silva is a master technician when standing. When it comes to standing, he probably has no equal in the UFC, and as a result anyone who has tried to out-technique him has lost.
Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt, and Chris Leben are all examples of stellar fighters that at least started the fight by being willing to stand and trade with Silva, and he disassembled every one of them.
Griffin thought he could overpower him with strikes, Hendo thought he could loosen him up a bit and beat him on the ground (which did work in round one), Franklin tried to out-technique him, Marquardt was similar to Griffin in trying to use his power, and Leben came at him like the terminator without variance.
With fighters like Demian Maia and Thales Leites, they failed to even engage Silva, and as a result he picked them apart.
Other than Hendo and Chael Sonnen, Travis Lutter had been the most successful in facing Silva by gaining a full mount over him, though he actively sought to bring the fight to the ground and took a bit of punishment before doing so. Same with Hendo and Sonnen.
So it seems that any fighter that is skilled enough in wrestling or grappling and powerful enough to weather the storm it takes to get inside and take Silva down will do well against him.
For anyone to think that fights against Silva will still be one-sided, think again. MMA fighters learn quick, and being that the UFC holds the best fighters in the world, fighters have to stay a cut above the rest of the competition.
Silva took the match against Sonnen as seriously as any other since he wanted to make an example of talking bad about the champ, and being that Silva is arguably performing at the highest level he ever has, Sonnen really brought it home to "The Spider."
What happens from here onward will be interesting.
Vitor Belfort will likely not fight Silva the same he would have had he actually faced him instead of Sonnen. Nate Marquardt would likely look to forcefully bring Silva to the ground rather than to stand and trade with him, though we know Sonnen would likely fight him the same way.
Also, after Sonnen demolished Silva to the end of round five, a fight with Georges St. Pierre doesn't seem as appetizing as it would have been pre-Sonnen.
A lot of people made the claim that GSP wasn't skilled enough to bring Silva to the ground to do his work, but after seeing Silva completely ineffective against a superior wrestler and knowing that GSP took down BJ Penn and Matt Hughes (as well as everyone he's faced) at will, Silva would likely not put up too much trouble.
Despite the loss, the Silva vs. Sonnen was a win-win situation for Sonnen. He was the pioneer to do what no other UFC fighter has ever done: dominate Anderson Silva. Even if it was for only 23 out of the 25 allotted minutes, Silva looked helpless for much too long.
I predict it won't be long before Silva retires. Now that the secret to beating him, or at least beating him up, is out, a dog from every town is going to be knocking on that door.
Silva loves his legacy, and despite officially still having it due to the W on his record, he lost big on his reputation for dominating everyone he's ever faced in the octagon. Is it only a matter of time before someone beats him before his departure?
Be sure to comment and let me know your thoughts on Silva's future in the octagon.