When we talk about mixed martial arts legends, often we measure greatness in terms of success. Living legends of this era of the sport like Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva have known very little more than pure success across their careers.
They found that success at the highest level of the sport and in championship form. Looking back fighters like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture also forged their legacies in UFC gold. These men are legends without question.
But they are not alone, their success may define their legacies, but unwavering success is not the only litmus test for greatness. Take Don Frye for example. Sure he held a title or two over his career, but his fans celebrated him for his war; for what he brought into the cage with him.
It was not just his titles that captivated an entire generation of die hard “Predator” fans. It was his gentle touch, and appreciation for small talk. No, no it was not. It was his warlike, beast mode, mustached weapons of mass destruction that lured the Frye-onians.
Like Frye, there are many other fighters who may not be perennial championship contenders but they hold a very special place in the heart of MMA fans in the know. Clay Guida comes to mind but there are many more.
But no fighter on the planet is more celebrated for his fight every but as much as his recent success, than Wanderlei Silva. Show me any fight fan who can't pick Wand out of a line up and I'll show you a Tapout fashion statement who showed up when Lesnar crossed over.
The MMA community has a very “what have you done for me lately” mentality. Just ask Fedor. You can go from one of the most talked about fighters in history to old news after one triangle choke, and one doctor stoppage. Then you become just another heavyweight looking to prove you still belong.
Wanderlei has somehow circumvented the idea that winning is the only thing that matters. When it comes to his career, there is plenty of success make no mistake about it. He is no stranger to being a champion looking at his days in Pride. But checkered across his record are scattered and lately some clustered losses.
What die hard Wanderlei fans already know and will be happy to explain to anyone who may not realize is this; Even in his losses Wanderlei has found a way to make almost every fight spectacular. His most devastating failures of course reflected a superior opponent but more often than not they also reflect the results of a war he imposed.
His fight with “The Iceman” will go down in MMA history right up with Griffin vs Bonnar. His loss to Rich Franklin was razor thin in an amazing bout. What fans remember is not just the loss reflected in the right side, they remember how hard he fought for them as he lost. It is not every fighter who can lose so impressively as Wanderlei.
The fighter in this world is a rare breed. Most will fight if challenged for life or limb. Few will seek out the competition and sacrifice that can be found preparing for and participating in MMA. Among that certain brand of human being there are even more elite individuals who stand out among the crowd.
Wanderlei Silva is a gleaming beacon of light that is undeniable. His archives of outright war, competing both in and outside the comfort zone of his ideal weight class, are stunning to put it gently.
Having built his modern legacy competing with some of the sports greats, Wanderlei has proven his own greatness win, lose, or draw. Often it has been the opponent that became the catalyst for the best Wanderlei we have ever seen. For example Michael Bisping opened the door for Wanderlei to fight his fight, an aggressive and reckless format of hand to hand combat.
And once again, “The Axe Murderer” shined over a man many consider a top UFC middleweight.
With that in mind Silva's next opponent is very much the type of fighter who will leave the door wide open for him to really open up and make it a scrappy and dangerous fight. Chris Leben is one of those fighters who is not the most tactical, or the most analytical when he gets inside the cage.
Like Silva, Leben is an all out in your face type of fighter with a granite chin and hands of stone. He loves to fight, not simply to win, but to fight and his own resume reflects some amazing bouts, some wins, some losses.
See when Leben (25-7) and Silva (33-10-1-1) enter the cage together the only people in the entire arena concerned with scoring will be the cageside judges. When Dana White says “Never leave it in the hands of the judges”, these two listen.
Just for fun, how about we do some MMATH. At UFC 132 Silva and Leben bring into the Octagon with them a combined seventy seven professional MMA bouts. The experience they bring to the table alone is astonishing.
Of Silva's thirty three wins, he finished 80% of his victims, twenty three by KO, three by submission. Of Leben's twenty five wins, he finished 76% of his victims, thirteen by KO, and six by submission. Face it fight fans, the boys come to bang.
What it really amounts to is pure matchmaking genius, and a clash of styles between top middleweights that rarely happens. At the end of the day, the run Anderson Silva is on is not of this world and will long be recognized as the bar of measurement for all time greatness but few can challenge him.
Wanderlei and Leben are not the most elite fighters in the division. They are not the most hyped fighters at middleweight. But damn it they pose a challenge for one another. There is a chemistry in their styles that is guaranteed to prove volatile when they mix.
So while Anderson Silva continues to consume contenders, these two will prove the be the meat and potatoes of the division. These two will remind fight fans what it is they really love about the fight game and quite simply they love the fight.
They may enjoy taking in the undeniable greatness of an Anderson Silva, but they will not be able to stop talking about the battle of the ages that is about to take place between Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben.
The facts are simple here fight fans. Two of the sports most notorious brawlers, both needing something different from this fight, but both looking to find one answer to everything at UFC 132. The answer is open war, it is something both men are very well acquainted with, it is something their fans have grown to expect from them. Neither man has ever been in the business of letting their fans down. So simply put, don't miss this fight.
The bad men are coming to town, and they have a few things to sort out. Things are about to get ugly.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.