This weekend’s main event has implications that go far beyond who will hold the UFC middleweight title by the end of the night. UFC 148 may have started out as an epic event, and merely fell down to just a good one because of injuries everywhere, but the main event didn’t change. That’s the one fight on the card everyone cared about more than anything else. It’s why despite Urijah Faber/Renan Barao being moved to Calgary, Rich Franklin going to Brazil to face Wandelei Silva instead of Cung Le in Nevada and why Michael Bisping exiting didn’t feel all that bad in the long run. Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva 2 is the biggest fight of the year for many reasons. But the biggest one is directly in front of the Brazilian: legacy.
For “The Spider” it’s a matter of putting the finishing touches on his. He’s gone six years as the middleweight champion. He’s defended it nine times, going up twice to light heavyweight and dominating two game fighters in that division as well. Considering he started out as a top Brazilian prospect in Pride who never really panned out like he was supposed to, going 3-2 in the process, his run in the UFC has been all that much more significant. All that potential he had earlier in his career culminated with a title run of epic proportions. It’s odd to think that of all the fighters who went from fighting in Pride to fighting in the UFC he’s had the most amount of success.
From the time he destroyed Rich Franklin for the title over 20 men have held titles in other weight classes. When he won the title Georges St. Pierre was still a month away from winning his first at welterweight, Urijah Faber was a newly crowned featherweight champion in the WEC and current bantamweight champion Dominck Cruz was a prospect fighting in regional promotions.
When Silva won the title Chael Sonnen was rebuilding his career as a middleweight in Bodog Fights after washing out of the UFC the first time around as a journeyman light heavyweight.
Anderson’s legacy as a fighter is mostly complete. No matter what he does from UFC 148 and onward he’s made a claim to being the best fighter of his generation. That much is not in dispute. If he walked away after UFC 148, win or lose, he’s in that rare air that Fedor Emelianenko resides in and Jon Jones has the potential to be in. He’s set the standard by which UFC champions will be rated by in the future. Will they be as dominate as he was?
UFC 148 is lined up to be a moment for Anderson Silva that will help shape his final place in the brief history of MMA.
Silva is perhaps a handful of fights away from retiring and Sonnen is his biggest rival; vanquishing him again might be the final touch on his career. Don’t count out Anderson at least considering retirement if he destroys Sonnen in spectacular fashion. It’s been rumored for some time and perhaps explains his reluctance to face Sonnen in Vegas instead of the soccer stadium in Brazil like it was planned. A win there, in front of 80,000 of his countrymen, would have been the ultimate exclamation point of his career. He could walk away there, a victory over a man who insulted his family, his career and his country, and be a hero to his countrymen.
In Vegas it’s not quite as grand but still an accomplishment in and of itself. If he stops Sonnen, what else is left that matches that singular accomplishment in breadth or depth? Not much.
Outside of a super fight with GSP or Jon Jones, which are more impractical as time passes, a fight as high a profile as this one doesn’t exist for him. There’ll be challengers and title defenses if he walks out of UFC 148 with his title but nothing with the sizzle of Chael Sonnen. It’ll feel the same as Yushin Okami or Vitor Belfort for Silva as it would be for Mark Munoz or Hector Lombard. Those are still high profile fights but Sonnen is the steak and everyone else remains lesser cuts of meat.
A win over his biggest rival a second time is the cherry on top. Another win over Sonnen gives him the finishing touches to his resume; his tenth title defense would be his greatest to date. A win here and his legacy is secure. We might even see him cry for a spell: much like Alexander, he’ll have run out of things to conquer.
Tags: anderson silva, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 148