After 15 years of putting on fight after spectacular fight—thrilling fans around the world with his exciting, throw-caution-to-the-wind style—it is time for Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva to call it a career.
Tonight, Silva will compete in his 47th mixed martial arts bout when he faces former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le at UFC 139. This will mark his seventh fight inside the Octagon since Zuffa purchased the rights to Pride Fighting Championships.
During the course of his UFC career, Silva has only amassed two victories against Keith Jardine and Michael Bisping. On the other side of the coin, he has lost four times—two of those losses coming by way of brutal knockout.
Although Silva is only 35 years old, his "fighting age" is much older. During the course of his career, Silva has been through absolute wars against the likes of Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, Mirko Cro Cop and a slew of other great fighters.
If there was a turning point in his career, it was his fight against Cro Cop at Pride Absolute Conflict in 2006, which marked the second time in Silva's career that he had been knocked out.
This knockout was much different than the TKO loss he suffered against Vitor Belfort at UFC Brazil in 1998. Silva was able to rebound from the loss against Belfort, but he has not been the same after being knocked out by Cro Cop.
Since the loss to Cro Cop, Silva has entered the octagon with the same reckless style that has made him a fan-favorite all over the world. However, he has paid the price, being knocked out three times—all in brutal fashion—in the seven fights he has had since the Cro Cop fight.
In every sport, there comes a time in an athlete's career when he or she needs to make the tough decision about when to call it quits. In Silva's case, he has provided MMA fans with more action and excitement than nearly any other fighter ever to compete in the sport.
Add to that the fact that he seems more concussion-prone now, and it makes sense that tonight should be his final MMA bout.
After his fight against Cung Le, Silva should walk out of the Octagon with his head held high, regardless of the outcome, knowing that he is—and always will be—a legend who will go down as one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters ever to compete.