Is Anderson Silva the greatest MMA fighter ever? (Part 2)
Yesterday, my friend and colleague Sam Brown laid out a credible case for why UFC 148 headliner Anderson Silva should be considered the best fighter in the relatively brief history of MMA.
Today, it’s my job to make the case against Silva, a man who is unbeaten in 14 appearances in the UFC Octagon and who has held the middleweight title he’ll defend Saturday night in Las Vegas against Chael Sonnen for nearly six years.
The reason I wouldn’t put Silva at the top of the list of all-time greats in MMA is simply that he’s in the wrong division.
When you look back at Silva run of dominance in the UFC, you see a couple of fights in the light heavyweight division, and more than a couple less than stellar challengers for the middleweight title.
Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, and Demian Maia were all secondary options opposite Silva; replacement fighters when Plan A fell apart or couldn’t come together in time.
It’s not Silva’s fault that there wasn’t greater talent to be lined up opposite him at the time, but part of why he opted to step into the cage at light heavyweight on two occasions is that there was no one for him to face at middleweight.
And let’s not make too much of beating the stuffing out of James Irvin either, okay? Stopping Forrest Griffin was certainly a much more impressive task, but – as I’ll argue later this week – the former Ultimate Fighter winner is one of the more overrated fighters in recent memory as well.
(It’s nothing personal, I just think he benefitted from a perfect storm of charisma, TUF timing, and a couple solid wins, but that’s an article for another day.)
Back to Silva.
I find it fitting that we’re having this discussion now, on the eve of his rematch with Sonnen, as prior to his first fight with “The American Gangsta” there were a lot of people arguing that Georges St-Pierre had passed the middleweight champion for top spot on both the mythical pound-for-pound rankings and the race to be crown the best to ever step in the cage.
While St-Pierre’s lack of activity and current injury situation, coupled with Silva’s return to finishing opponents in spectacular fashion following “The Demian Maia Incident” has him back on top, a case could certainly be made for the French-Canadian welterweight champion to be ahead of Silva.
GSP has fewer career losses (2) than Silva (4), and has avenged both of those defeats, having put the boots to Matt Serra in their rematch, and topping Matt Hughes twice since losing to him at UFC 50 in just his eighth professional bout.
That’s the other thing: while Silva has had a few lay-ups over the years – fights that were against mediocre competition due to a lack of depth in the division – St-Pierre has been piling up wins against the best the welterweight division has to offer for the last eight years in the UFC, and few would argue that there has been a more historically deep division than the 170-pound ranks.
Truthfully, I think a valid case can be made for both fighters. If you’re going strictly on wins and losses, it’s hard to argue against Silva and his undefeated reign of terror in the UFC.
If you want to look at quality of opposition throughout their career, I give the edge to my fellow Canadian, and not just because we share a home and native land either; he’s consistently fought the best there is in the deepest, most competitive division in the sport.
Don’t expect this debate to end any time soon either – Silva and St-Pierre will be neck-and-neck for years to come if they both keep winning, and Jon Jones will surely join them if he continues to dominate the competition the way he has of late as well.
Sam thinks Silva is the best ever, and I’d cast my vote for GSP. What do you think? Let us know below in the comments section.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).