Two middleweight Mixed Martial Arts kingpins came to blows on Saturday, July 6 at UFC 162. The defending champion, Anderson “The Spider” Silva, entered the Octagon with all the prowess of a god. Nobody had beaten him in seven years. He was unanimously the greatest fighter ever to live. The Brazilian was untouchable, unmatched, and usually had his opponents solved like a puzzle and defeated long before they even realized it. UFC 162’s main event began the same way nearly all of Silva’s entertaining battles have. The Spider toyed with his prey like a cat with a mouse, taunting the young New Jersey born challenger, Chris Weidman. Anderson moved in a way that is unparalleled in the sport, fashioning himself in the likeness of a perfect fusion between Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson. He danced, he laughed, he poked his chin in the air and dared Weidman to take a swing. The challenger obliged, meeting his mark and landing a blow that caused the Champion to chuckle as if Weidman had just done something cute.
We have seen Silva fight this way time and time again. He breaks the will of men first, making them feel helpless and vulnerable, shattering their mental state and game plan before breaking their body with pinpoint precision and the best Thai Boxing the world has ever seen. Silva was unraveling Chris Weidman, and everybody knew it. Everybody, that is, except Chris Weidman himself. The challenger kept his composure, and kept moving forward with a barrage of punches. Silva continued to taunt and tease, knocking his own knees together and pretending to be stunned as Weidman landed a left hook. Then, for the first time in his glorious career, Silva took it too far. One got through. Chris Weidman switched up his combos by throwing a right cross and an awkward right hammerfist punch immediately afterward. The brief and unorthodox hammerfist attack was just enough to expose the Champion, who was already on his heels with his chin in the air in order to mock the young hopeful. Weidman used the brief and opportune opening to throw a left hook with bad
intentions. Silva’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, and for the first time in his UFC career, the greatest fighter the world has ever seen felt his limp body hit the floor. The giant had been slain.
So what? The best athletes in the world lose all the time, so how is Silva’s loss anything special? Well, imagine that we just saw Michael Jordan lose a game. Then imagine that instead of playing nearly 100 games a season, the physical demands of Jordan’s sport limited him to two games a year. Next, envision that every game Michael played in was a championship game. Is it sinking in? How about this, imagine that Michael Jordan was so good at basketball, that he became bored with the competition and decided to shoot half court shots on every one of his team’s possessions, winning every time.
Anderson Silva had successfully defeated his most recent opponents by keeping his hands down, his chin in the air, and allowing himself to be hit. This is absolutely ludicrous in every aspect of Mixed Martial Arts, but the fearless dynamo from the streets of Sao Paulo had won 16 straight fights this way. He could spar by watching nothing but his partner’s feet. Before a challenger could land a punch or kick on their target, Silva could anticipate where the strike was aimed, and move his body just enough to keep it exciting while not placing himself in any danger. Time and time again, the most brave and heavily trained fighters in the world returned to their stools wide eyed and terrified. They could not touch him. He was a ghost. An apparition. What was worse was that the truculent beast could hit them anytime he wanted. But this streak of supernatural perfection ended on July 6th, changing the sport forever.
Normally, when an athlete loses in devastating fashion, he demands a rematch in order to save his good name. In this case, however, it is Weidman, the victor, who is pushing for a rematch. The new champion has something to prove. The world knows what Anderson Silva can do when he chooses to un-holster his hands and feet. They know that had The Spider chosen to attack rather than play, the night could have ended much differently. Chris Weidman knows this better than anyone, but unlike any man before him, he knows he can win, and more importantly, Anderson Silva now knows he can lose.