Anderson Silva, 41, looked every bit his of age at UFC 208, where he fought and won in the co-headliner against fellow middleweight Derek Brunson.
If there’s one thing everyone can agree on — though most probably also agree he was gifted the decision against Brunson — it’s that by no means was this the best version of “The Spider.” In fact, it probably wasn’t the 10th, 15th or 25th best version of Anderson Silva.
It was very much what you would expect to see from a 41-year-old version of one of the flashiest fighters in history. There were some classic Anderson Silva moments where he unleashed something incredible, though most missed their mark against Brunson, and plenty of others where those fast-twitch fibers and reactions were not there and will no longer be there. It’s the hand you’re dealt when Silva, all 43 professional fights of him, competes these days.
And you know what? That’s fine. In fact, Anderson Silva should keep fighting.
Any chance to see him compete, even if it’s just a few seconds’ glimpse into one of the most magical and creative fighters to step into the Octagon, is worth it.
For many, this writer included, the first live fight where we were exposed to Silva came in his utter destruction of Chris Leben nearly 11 years ago. He went on to demolish Rich Franklin a pair of times and then there was his big match-up with Dan Henderson at UFC 82 in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008.
Silva had not yet become a household name with casual fans, but the sold-out crowd at Nationwide Arena oohed and aahed with every dynamic move he made that night. His dominant performance and submission of Henderson in the second round was awe-inspiring. However, what was even more evident was the massive respect the other fighters on the card — Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Diego Sanchez, among others — had for him and what he had just done over the past two years. They talked as if Silva was a mythical creature or a superhero, treating him as the sport’s Michael Jordan.
In a way, Silva was MMA’s version of Jordan, moving with lethal elegance that nobody had seen before. It has kept me mesmerized over the years, even on the nights where he used his superior talents to coast against opponents like Demian Maia and Thales Leites. Fights like the ones against Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin were poetry in motion, even if you knew it couldn’t last forever. Father Time remains undefeated, even against the likes of Silva, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still hope for magic.
It’s short, rapid bursts now and nowhere near as breathtaking, but it’s still easy to get swept up in the moment and hope for one more moment of Silva magic. That’s the great — and sometimes not so great — thing about combat sports. Once you see a fighter in their prime and watch them do something astonishing, you never want those moments to stop. They are permanently ingrained in your mind, and no matter the situation, even if it’s a 41-year-old Silva fighting on fumes, you harken back to those memories and hope for one more.
Silva had the opportunity against Daniel Cormier. He nearly got one at the end of round three against Michael Bisping. Then there was Brunson. Silva fans kept hoping for a moment that never quite happened.
It may never happen again, either, but that’s OK. It won’t stop us from hoping there’s still a little more Anderson Silva greatness left.
Silva seems of sound mind and body, and even if there’s not another title shot involved, there is still the potential for plenty of excitement. There are match-ups galore that would still be fun. There’s Nick Diaz. There’s a Belfort rematch. There’s the much-ballyhooed Georges St-Pierre superfight. That’s not even taking into account a possible rematch with Bisping.
It’s never fun to watch your favorites get old, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting one more incredible moment, either. So keep fighting, Anderson Silva. Fans will be fine with whatever version you have left to give us.