Is This The Beginning Of The End For Anderson Silva?
The date was November 3rd, 2003. Roy Jones Jr. was thought to be invincible and fresh off his unanimous decision victory over John Ruiz to become the first middleweight title holder to win a heavyweight championship in 106 years. He then dropped back down to 185 lbs to fight little known Antonio Tarver and reclaim the light heavyweight championship he left behind when he won the heavyweight championship. It was a fight few gave Tarver a chance to win. But those skeptics would be surprised on this night. Tarver took the fight to Jones and ripped the invincibility veil apart right in front of everyone’s eyes. It would be the first time Jones was faced with adversity and the great champion dug down deep to make a dramatic comeback and win a majority decision victory. At that time, fans and critics alike said Jones needed that kind of a challenge to prove his greatness. But little did they know, this would be the last time Roy Jones Jr. would be the best fighter on the planet.
When looking at Anderson Silva‘s come-from-behind miracle against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, you can’t help but draw the comparisons to Jones, Jr. Both are fighters with extraordinary athleticism. Their uncanny reflexes have carried them through their respective careers and they have delivered awe-inspiring performances (as well as a few uninspired performances which had critics questioning their greatness). Never had we seen fighters of their talent and caliber in combat sports. And, for both fighters, it took one individual with a world of determination and literally nothing to lose to bring Superman back down to earth.
When Jones fought Tarver in the rematch on May 15, 2004, most thought the previous fight was a mere aberration and Jones was considered the heavy favorite to wipe the boxing ring with Tarver’s carcass. Jones offered several excuses as to why he didn’t look like the Jones of old in the first bout and Tarver—who never shied away from speaking his mind—verbally lambasted Jones all they way up until the staredown. When referee Jay Nady asked the fighters if they had any questions, Tarver shocked everyone when he replied “I have a question.” Tarver would stare daggers through Jones and ask “You got any excuses tonight Roy?” Moments later, Jones was on his back after a Tarver left hook blasted the pound-for-pound great and turned the herculean boxer into a mere mortal for the rest of his career.
With talk of an immediate rematch between Silva and Sonnen, many are already figuring that Silva will call upon his Godly gifts and strike Sonnen down definitively in a return bout. But one has to think Sonnen is in the very same place Antonio Tarver was six years ago. He knows he can beat Anderson Silva. He beat up the most feared striker on the planet for four and a half rounds and shred the mystique in front of a rabid crowd at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. He—like Tarver—verbally lambasted Silva at every opportunity, promising he would thoroughly dominate “The Spider.” Imagine what Sonnen would be saying if a rematch were granted. To say his confidence would be out of this atmosphere might not be giving his ego credit for its size and reach. Silva, like Jones, Jr., offered an excuse as to why he wasn’t his usual self in the first bout. During the post-fight press conference, Silva stated he hurt his ribs badly and was advised by doctors to sit the fight out. It sounds eerily familiar. It also sounds like a man who cannot explain how or why he wasn’t the dominant fighter.
Here’s another interesting statistic. Jones was 34-years-old when he fought Tarver the first time. Anderson Silva had just turned 35 when he fought Sonnen. It begs the question whether or not we’ve seen the last of the great Anderson Silva. Simply put, is Silva getting old?
Speed and reflexes are the first things to go when athletes begin to deteriorate. And when you are known more for your athletic gifts rather than your technique, it means your entire aura is on its way out the door. It’s the difference between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Roy Jones Jr. While both are incredibly gifted, Jones Jr. has never been praised for his technique. Jones broke every rule in the boxing book, whereas Mayweather’s defense and ring intelligence will always be a part of his game. Without his speed and quickness, Silva becomes a mortal when locked in the octagon. His takedown defense has never been great and Sonnen proved even a mediocre striker can give the Brazilian problems. You want a wrinkle of irony? Discussions of Roy Jones Jr.–Anderson Silva fight almost came to reality back in 2008.
I could be jumping the gun on this whole ordeal and Silva may just annihilate Sonnen if they do fight again. But you have to put some serious thought into this and consider we have seen this exact same story play out in a boxing ring instead of an eight-sided cage. But what is Silva to do if he really thinks his best years are behind him? Retire? His warrior’s heart won’t let him walk away from the sport, especially after being roughed up by a fighter who many thought he should have destroyed. Who knows what to make of it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens the next time Anderson Silva steps into the cage.