Great, but how great?
Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris. Steven Seagal vs. Jean Claude Van Damme. The Karate Kid vs. A.C. Slater. These are just some of the theoretical fights my friends and I debated as kids.
It has never stopped being fun.
Not because I want to see the fight—RJJ is 42 years old, and I have no interest in watching old boxers; it is just too depressing (hear that, Evander?).
What is amazing is how much these two fighters have in common. They will both go down in history as two of the best fighters of their generation, maybe of all time, but the similarities don’t stop there.
RJJ always has the best ring entries...
Both considered best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Let’s start with the good. Both of these men have gaudy overall records: 54-8 for RJJ and 30-4 for Silva. They both have enjoyed lengthy win streaks: 34 for RJJ and 14 (and counting) for Silva.
RJJ hit Montell Griffin after he was down, and Silva head kicked Okami while his knees were down; otherwise, these streaks would have been longer.
RJJ quickly avenged his loss by knocking out Griffin five months later, and Silva is finally going to get his rematch at UFC 134.
RJJ reached best P4P status in 1994 after beating Bernard Hopkins, and Silva got the crown probably in 2009 and still holds it depending on who you ask.
Not exactly Ali vs. Foreman
Both doomed by their mediocre weight class.
Roy Jones Jr. was in the purgatory between weight classes and fought mostly at middleweight and light heavyweight, both divisions which were low on talent during his peak.
The same could be said of Anderson Silva, who has plowed through the competition in the middleweight division, which is the least compelling weight class in the UFC.
There just hasn’t been the steady stream of competition in the middleweight division that has existed at lightweight, welterweight and light heavyweight.
You can’t blame them for this, and of the two, Silva has fought the tougher competition. You could also say that RJJ and Silva make the competition look feeble.
But fighters are always measured by the quality of their opponents, and there hasn’t been much for either of these guys, which brings me to the next point.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This was a title bout?
No epic fights.
Fighters are remembered for the wars that make you pick up the phone and call people.
Ali had Frazier and Foreman; Sugar Ray Leonard had Hearns, Hagler and Duran; Rocky had Apollo, Mr. T, Drago, Tommy Gunn, brain damage and his wet blanket of a wife.
Sure, RJJ had his two fights with Hopkins (hardly Rumbles in the Jungle), and Silva has had Henderson, Griffin, Franklin, Belfort and, to a lesser degree, Sonnen (tainted by Sonnen’s PED use and Silva’s injured ribs), but would you really call any of those epic fights?
I’d argue more people will remember Griffin vs. Bonnar or Gatti vs. Ward, none of whom are as gifted as RJJ or Silva.
Will you be telling your grandkids you saw Jones Jr. vs. Ruiz or Silva vs. Cote? I didn’t think so.
It’s too late for RJJ. Silva still has a shot at a few legendary fights, but only if he decides to switch weight classes. You aren’t getting any younger, Anderson; get up to the light heavyweight division and let’s see some carnage.
Both RJJ and Silva have been accused of being boring
Accused of playing it safe.
Although both Roy Jones Jr. and Anderson Silva have some flashy knockouts and submissions, they have both been accused of playing it safe to protect a lead.
With RJJ, it was really the hallmark of his career. He so outclassed most of his opponents that he could dominate on points without subjecting himself to much of a beating.
During his prime, he didn’t even have to keep his hands up. He was simply impossible to hit and would occasionally dance and run his way to a decision.
The same could be said of Silva, who was criticized harshly by Dana White (and by the crowd) for his lackluster effort against Cote, Leites and Maia.
Just like Daniel LaRusso vs. A.C. Slater, I am sure RJJ vs. Anderson Silva would have made for a great fight at some point years ago.
Then again, maybe they would have just taunted each other and ran around the ring/octagon for awhile...who knows? We probably won’t get the chance to find out.
Either way, these two will always be remembered as great fighters that just didn’t have the opponents to push them to the status of Ali, Ray Leonard or even Balboa.