This fight is worth exponentially more than all the clichés and hyperbole that it could ever be attached to in my opinion. This, more so than any other contest, engrained in me a true appreciation of the unpredictability of Mixed Martial Arts. To put it into context, I first became interested in the UFC in 2011, and instantly was hooked. I immersed myself in UFC content, fascinated by the vast variety of approaches the competitors undertook for fights.
I had seen this kind of variance before in combat sports, in boxing for example, in which competitors can often have a preferred range to engage their opponent in. However, in MMA, fighter’s methods to attain victory could be completely dissimilar, with emphasis on different fundamental skills leading to various paths to victory.
The style that initially attracted me more than any other was that of Anderson Silva. A Muay Thai specialist, Silva utilised seemingly laser-guided precision counter-striking at distance, with devastating knees in the clinch should his opponent get close. It almost appeared as if Silva showed a level of distain for his opponents, employing showboating tactics in a manner akin to that of Roy Jones Jr in boxing, taunting wholly unabashed.
Leading into his fight with Weidman, Silva had emerged victorious in his previous 14 fights, and had held the Middleweight title for over six years. His opponent Chris Weidman, came into the fight an undefeated prospect with an impressive résumé to boot, but in the eyes of myself and many other fans at the time, was another lamb to the slaughter.
The contest at UFC 162 initially appeared pedestrian enough, Weidman trying to assert his extensive wrestling experience on to Silva, to negate the striking power of the Brazilian. Weidman succeeded in completing an early takedown but Silva remained active in his defence on his back, negating most of the ground and pound.
The remainder of the round saw the two engage at striking distance, Weidman displaying his characteristic tenaciousness by continuing to engage and Silva employing his usual disregard for his opponent’s attack. Silva directed his warfare to the psychological front in between rounds, gesturing to Weidman imploring him to refrain from looking for takedowns and instead continue the fight in striking distance.
He would get his wish.
Early in the second round, Silva amplified his antics, feigning damage from Weidman’s boxing. However, the American continued his unrelenting offence. As Silva dropped his hands to weave away from a right hand back-fist, Weidman timed a perfect left hook and followed up with efficient ground and pound to become the new world champion.
The dethronement of Silva was of indescribable importance in my falling in love with MMA. The elation evident on the family and teammates of the new champion in direct contrast to the heartbreak of the crestfallen Silva, perfectly encapsulated both the thrill, and the agony that makes the sport so enthralling.