As UFC President Dana White will tell you, winning three or four fights in a row in the world’s top MMA promotion is something to be marveled at. The sentiment was again shared with reporters at this past weekend’s post-fight press conference when Jon Fitch’s remarkable record of the past few years was commented upon. Fitch, an American Kickboxing Academy product, had gone on a eight-fight tear in the UFC before losing a decision to champ Georges St-Pierre – but recently turned in his fifth-straight victory since then (albeit all decisions).
Such a rebound to continue holding his world’s #2 welterweight status is unquestionably impressive. Now imagine if you will, a fighter who owns a truly next-level resume filled with brilliant KO and submission finishes with few decisions for variety. To boot, the fighter owns records for most consecutive wins and consecutive title defenses in the UFC. The man stands alone at the top of the fight game – he is Anderson Silva.
Dominant in seemingly all aspects of his matches – if not from the very beginning of each fight, he’s always turned the tides in his favor via bountiful skill. After a few lackluster showings, a true come-from-behind victory could not have happened at a better time for the belt holder. Silva was in need of a thrilling win coming into his Saturday night match against challenger Chael Sonnen. The champ had alienated fans and his employer alike with an embarrassing showing at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Dancing, taunting and hiding behind the ref were just some of the head-scratching antics “The Spider” fed patrons who were already on the fence regarding his professionalism.
Fast forward several months later to UFC 117 and the Oakland, CA show served as the stage for what is now going to be talked about as one of the greatest comebacks ever in MMA. Silva was the victim of a one-sided beating for over four rounds of action but maintained composure enough to summon his training with the legendary Nogueira brothers to pull off a miracle, last-minute submission.
The crass nature of Anderson’s answering of press questions following his recent disappointments was gone, the shaking of the head hung low was gone – replaced by just enough humility and a genuine smile. Perhaps Silva increasingly realizes we are all human and MMA careers eventually do end at some point. Maybe – the champ is hungry enough to give it his all in however many fights he has left in him and further extend a winning streak that won’t soon be anywhere near touched. If true, aspiring 185 lbs. kings will continue to have this seriously frustrating Brazilian challenge on their hands – and that’s great for fans.
In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of MMA fandom, Silva now sits in a throne again attracting high praise. His fights, even the ones for critical reasons (Leites, Cote, etc.) will be remembered forever in the sport. When a fighter of this skill level takes a rapid fall in popularity with the always-fickle MMA audience and instantly rebuilds the mystique that originally built him up – it perfectly exemplifies why MMA is so intensely beloved and defended by all surrounding it. Few competitive sports can offer the dynamics we witnessed at 117. Saturday, August 7 was the perfect storm not only for Chael Sonnen, but even more-so for the most dominant UFC champion in the promotion’s history.