Anderson Silva returns with career-defining victory over Diaz

Daniel Herbertson Columnist

By , Daniel Herbertson is a Roar Expert

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    It was an unfamiliar, tentative Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva in the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

    But remembering the story leading up to his unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 183, surely we must count it as one of the great moments in an truly outstanding career.

    We last saw Anderson Silva 13 months ago. He was screaming and writhing in agony, clutching a badly broken leg. Silva’s fibula and tibia had snapped in his attempt to avenge his embarrassing UFC title loss to current middleweight king Chris Weidman.

    All logic indicated that this gruesome, horrifically sad nightmare of an image was to be our last memory of this legendary fighter in the Octagon.

    The road to walking again on the mangled limb, let alone kicking, would surely be too long for the aging veteran – he was almost 39-years-old.

    Silva had already accomplished more in this sport than any other man.

    Among his astounding list of records the Former UFC Middleweight Champion could claim the longest UFC title reign (2,457 days), the most consecutive wins inside the octagon (16), the most consecutive title defences (10) and the most finishes in UFC history (14).

    It wasn’t just the numbers that made Silva great though, he had a legacy of unrivalled technical supremacy.

    His emphatic victories often came in moments of sheer genius and magic. The Matrix-like humiliation of Forrest Griffin, the devastating snap-kick KO of Victor Belfort, the last minute comeback submission of Chael Sonnen and the pinpoint accuracy of the violence in the rematch.

    But now, the weapon that devastated Belfort had betrayed him and lay limp on the canvas. Logically, we all knew that Silva needed to retire and rehabilitate.

    However, that Anderson Silva is a man who defies logic. His recovery diary reads like few other mortals.

    We first learn that the surgery to repair his maimed limb was successful. Soon we see videos surfacing of Silva kicking Swiss balls and later, kicking pads. Next it is announced that he has signed an outrageous 15-fight contract renewal with the UFC.

    Silva had always felt super human in the Octagon and now the speed at which he was recovering was truly like something out of a Spiderman movie.

    He had every right to rest on his laurels but because complacency is not a characteristic befitting a champion of his calibre, Silva was to defy the ravages of time, conquer the demons of his hideous injury, and made his return.

    Expectations were impossibly high – he is a super hero after all.

    Silva was nervous, cautious and lacking confidence in the bizarre opening moments of the bout, but as the fight progressed and his self-doubt dissipated, we saw Silva extend a lead over a bloodied Diaz.

    It was a solid performance and we occasionally saw a glimmer of brilliance in his movement and timing, but as the final horn sounded the cynical side in all of us felt as though it wasn’t the old Anderson Silva in there.

    It was the moment Silva’s hand was raised in victory when we finally learned how monumental this comeback was and could understand that this was one of the great, defining moments of his career.

    As he broke down in uncontrollable tears of relief and let out of 13 months of mental anguish and physical pain, we were reminded that man staging this return through adversity is a mortal human. With the cheerful, care-free facade of the pre-fight personality now dropped, Silva’s sobbing told the story of the difficulty that this victory represented.

    Anderson Silva still represents the pinnacle of our young sport. The best MMA fighter of all time has now taught us the depth of his greatness with this comeback through embarrassment and injury.

    There is truly nothing left to prove now and it seems as though we just saw Anderson Silva say goodbye and leave proudly, on his own terms.

    “I need to talk to my family. I love my job,” said an elated Silva post fight when asked about retirement. “This is me. I love to fight, but I need to talk to my family because this is more important in my life now.”

    It would be a fitting end to Silva’s storied career but unfortunately with prize fighting we rarely get that fairy tale ending.

    Silva’s long-time manager Ed Soares seems sure that we have not yet seen the final chapter, “It won’t be the last I promise. Let’s let him enjoy the moment.”