On Saturday December 28th at UFC 168, Anderson “the Spider” Silva (33-5) will get a shot at redemption against the man that dethroned him just months ago, Chris “All American” Weidman. The rematch against Weidman will mark Silva’s 18th fight in the UFC and the first step at redeeming himself after Weidman broke Silva’s 17 fight winning streak in the UFC.
On June 28th, 2006 Anderson Silva made his UFC debut against Chris Leben at Ultimate Fight Night 5 in a title-eliminator fight. At this point, Silva was considered to be a journeyman who could never crack the elite and lived in the shadows of his Chute Boxe stable mates Wanderlei Silva and “Shogun” Rua. Despite wins over top fighters in Carlos Newton, Jorge Rivera and Jeremy Horn, Silva was often remembered as the recipient of one of the most beautiful submissions in MMA history with his flying-scissor heel-hook loss to Ryo Chonan. Chris Leben was known as a tough, hard-hitting brawler who was always looking for the knockout. Leben was riding high on a 5-fight winning streak.
The fight started and Silva immediately started circling Leben to avoid any reckless punches from Leben. After 3 precise jabs from Silva, Leben dropped and bounced back to his feet. Silva continued picking away at Leben with his punches and threw a head kick that stunned “the Crippler”. Silva swarmed the dazed Leben with power punches but Leben refused to give up. At 48 seconds into the first round, Silva grabbed a Thai clinch on Leben’s head and delivered a brutal knee that finished off the Crippler.
Silva’s performance was flawless and he put the entire division on notice. His next test was against the UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin at UFC 64. Franklin was unstoppable at Middleweight and possessed some incredible power and solid striking. Silva dominated the champion with the same blueprint as the Leben fight, which involved a beautiful display of Muay-Thai, as Silva used his punches, elbows, kicks and knees to drop Franklin to the mat leaving him with a severely broken nose.
The Spider’s dominance continued for 4 more fights against Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt, Rich Franklin (in a rematch) and Dan Henderson, with Silva finishing all of these opponents in the first or second round.
After defeating all of the major challengers in the Middleweight division, Silva decided to test the waters in the Light-Heavyweight division and took on hard-hitting Muay-Thai striker James “the Sandman” Irvin at UFC Fight Night 14. Silva looked unstoppable as he used his footwork to stay elusive and avoid Irvin’s punching power. Silva caught a mid-kick from Irvin and dropped him with a perfect left hand. Silva earned a KO victory at 1:01 of the first round.
Silva’s reign over the Middleweight division continued for 7 more fights with wins over Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen (2x), Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami. For the sake of legacy, Silva took on two Light-Heavyweight fights against Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar (T)KOing both of them in the first round.
On July 6th, 2013 Silva’s legendary winning-streak finally came to a halt when Silva took on middleweight standout Chris “All American” Weidman at UFC 162. Silva was extra confident in this fight and taunted the young Weidman repeatedly throughout the bout. In the second round, Silva tried slip a Weidman combo but was clipped by punch and was knocked out at 1:48 of the second round.
Win or lose at UFC 168, Silva’s legacy is complete. He has dominated the Middleweight division and has validated his skills by moving up to Light-Heavyweight winning all 3 of his fights. Silva was reluctant to take an immediate rematch, perhaps sensing that it was time to pass the reigns off to a younger, hungrier fighter. Even with another loss to Weidman, Silva will always be remembered as the most dominant fighter in mixed martial arts history.