As “Sandstorm” blasted out of the sound system, the audience’s level of appreciation rang through the packed out MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. The blind aggression was in the face of the great Wanderlei Silva, with his lines and scars telling their own story.
While it is undoubtedly exciting to see “The Axe Murder” in that mindset, I couldn’t help but think why he would approach this fight in such a manner.
I know what you’re thinking—Silva can only fight one way. Swinging wide hooks from his hip, “a berserker” is the description they constantly play with in an effort to describe the wild attacks of the Curitiba native.
Dana White, in the post-fight press conference of UFC 132, claimed that Wanderlei Silva may have reached the “end of the road.”
The Boston CEO confirmed that the 27-second knockout to Chris Leben could have been the last action we ever see from one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the sport.
I believe these suggestions to be completely premature and in all honesty, perhaps the UFC should think of what was expected from Wanderlei Silva before he even stepped into the Octagon last night.
We all know the Pride champion. The Wanderlei Silva that only has one gear. Some of his fights were so graphic, you could see the Japanese audiences cover their eyes in an effort to block out what appeared to be an assault, despite it actually a competitive MMA matchup.
When Silva signed up to the UFC, we all expected to see the same man in the Octagon. Beginning his second wave with the promotion at 205, Silva fought Chuck Liddell and despite losing a decision, at least we still saw the man we had waited for.
Again, in May 2008, three years ago, Wanderlei banked the last knockout of his career against Keith Jardine up to this point. The punch went on to win him Knockout of the Night honours as well as Knockout of the Year honours at the MMA awards.
Then, the third part of the Rampage trilogy came upon us, with Rampage laying out the former Pride champion, with a left hook that signaled the end of Silva in the light heavyweight division.
This also signaled something else in Silva, in his next two fights we saw a calculated approach and a real game plan from the master. At a catch weight of 195, Silva was unlucky not to edge out a decision against Rich Franklin, the man who went on to “retire” Chuck Liddell.
This led to Wanderlei’s full middleweight debut, in February of last year at UFC 110. His opponent was Michael Bisping, a man known for his ability on his feet and his improving ground game. Silva approached this bout like a true professional, his game plan was evident and he was unlucky to not finish the fight on two occasions, coming out with the decision in the end.
Bisping is now going on to coach the newest season of TUF alongside Jason Miller, and is widely regarded as one of the top five middleweights in the world after stringing three wins together after his loss to Silva.
This brings us to last night. “The Axe Murderer” has such a long lay off due to injury, and was put into a fight where he was basically being coaxed into fighting in his old style. Something he hadn’t really done since his last knockout loss to Quinton Jackson three years before.
There was talk from the UFC of “Fight of the Decade” and with Wanderlei Silva’s loyalty to the fans, I think he decided he would go back to his roots and swing for the fences and hope for the best. This is not how Wanderlei should perform these days, and I think he showed an awareness of that in his two previous contests.
A tough contest still lies in Chael Sonnen who dished out the dirt after last night’s performance in an interview Ariel Helwani. However, with the outspoken former contender out for the time being, why not put one more challenge in front of this great entertainer before ruling him out altogether. He has shown he is capable of fighting in the new world of MMA, now let him try. He has given the sport too much, and he deserves another fight.