For the past seven years, Anderson Silva has been king of the middleweight division. On Saturday night at UFC 162, he will attempt to defend his title for the eleventh time. Since he acquired the belt by defeating Rich Franklin in 2006, Silva has defeated every single challenger that has been put in front of him. However, Saturday night may very well be the night that he finally runs out of worthy contenders for his middleweight crown. If Silva defeats Chris Weidman, he may have finally cleared out the division. After all, Weidman only became the number one contender by default. After a number of top middleweights suffered losses, he was basically the only viable man left standing.
Trying to pick Silva’s next title defense is no easy task, in terms of contenders, it is slim pickings in the middleweight division. Ignoring Weidman, who is the number one ranked fighter in the division, and moving down the list we reach number two and three ranked fighters (Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami), both of whom were knocked out by Silva in 2011. So barring fighting the same guys again, there isn’t much left to do for Silva at middleweight if he beats Weidman.
Outside of those top three ranked guys, there just isn’t anybody else who deserves a title shot. Michael Bisping is probably the best of the rest but he has consistently fallen at the last hurdle. He has participated in three title eliminator fights in the UFC, against Henderson, Sonnen and Belfort, and lost all three. This is a shame because Silva vs. Bisping could actually be a big event for the UFC if it was to be held in England. It would have the potential to be the sport’s breakthrough moment in the UK, a market that Dana White has been desperate to crack for years.
Silva is widely considered to be the pound-for-pound king and the greatest of all time but he is aging and, although he shows no signs of slowing down, he has a limited amount of time left in the sport. He has firmly established himself as the greatest middleweight of all time, there is nothing left to prove in the division and with no real challengers left now would be the time to turn his attention toward super fights before father time catches up to him.
Silva’s rhetoric leading up to UFC 162 would suggest that his focus is intensifying on the super fights. I cannot recall a single word being said regarding his next fight at middleweight. Apart from Weidman, the two names to come out of Silva’s mouth the most have been Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones. Quite the contrary to his past behavior on the subject, Silva has actually been fairly vocal on the subject of super fights.
However, his attitude toward his two potential adversaries has been night and day. When asked about GSP, Silva has been unusually mischievous in his answers. On Monday in an interview with ESPN, Silva made the comment that GSP was “no good” and also insinuated that Pierre was scared to fight him. This is in complete contrast to his answers about Jones, in which Silva has been nothing but respectful and courteous. At a press lunch on the same day, he even went as far as saying “If I fight Jon Jones, I don’t think I’m going to win”.
It is always difficult to second guess Silva, notorious for having fun with the media, he seems to enjoy misleading them wherever possible. So it is wise to take what he says, in public, with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, he seems to have his sights set firmly on a super fight. Which is probably the right move, he is 38 and his accomplishments at middleweight are indisputable, he has a finite amount of time left in the sport and it would be more effectively spent on pursuing fights that would enhance his legacy.