Why Anderson Silva Wants to Fight at Heavyweight and Why He Should!
There are a number of reports coming out that UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson “the Spider” Silva wants to make another jump in weight class, actually make that two! The two Josh’s (Joshua Stein at MMA Opinion and Josh Gross at SI.com) amongst others are reporting that Silva has a desire to make the jump to heavyweight and has expressed a desire to fight Frank Mir, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Mir’s career (first he has talked bad about some Brazilian Ju Jitsu practitioners and he beat Silva’s partner and friend Nogueira). The fact that Silva would want to jump up two weight classes and that he has already singled out a possible opponent should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed MMA; it is not like it has never happened before! For any new comer to the sport, MMA and the UFC were founded on the idea of two things: First to prove what style of martial arts and fighting is king and second to prove who the best fighters are. Everyone knows that there were no weight classes early on, but few understand the true reason why, the same with no time limits, which was to test the fighters skill and heart. Those days are long gone except for in places like Brazil (Rio Heroes) or in underground fights, none of which would appear to vie for a fighter of Silva’s caliber. He can however prove himself and test his “metal” by putting himself not only against the best fighters possible, but also by getting into a cage with fighters who are bigger and stronger than he is. Actually this should be applauded by many people, especially in the days of Brock Lesnar and others.
MMA has taken a turn from the early days of the sport. Aside from the “barbaric” aspect of the sport that its detractors focused on, in the beginning MMA did what it said it would do: put the best fighter against the best fighter. At the days of its conception there would be no debate in an organization about GSP vs. Silva because it would have to happen in order for one to be a champion. While the addition of weight classes, time limits, gloves, and other rules have made the sport flourish, sometimes one would long at least for the days when a great fighter would face another regardless of weight. Yes the MMA world has changed but perhaps not always for the best. Now a days there is a tendency for fighters to cut weight in order to be “bigger and stronger” at lower weight classes. Fighters like Brock Lesnar have to cut weight just to be able to fight at 265, while others cut down to make a fight weight and then attempt to gain it back by fight time, when they could fight at higher weight classes otherwise. While there will be controversy on weight cutting, weight classes, and the pluses and minuses of it, everyone can agree that when a fighter does not make weight it often really throws a wrench into the works.
However, Anderson Silva is keeping the spirit of the early days in MMA and martial arts in general alive as others have before him. Rich Franklin (before his move to 205), BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, and others have jumped up in weight class or fought at catch weights in order to face top notch opponents. And this has been done in the UFC, forget about Japan where this occurs in so many events over there and aside from the so-called “freak show” status, there is a reason why such events are necessary to allow MMA to claim that it is as close to “real fighting” as one can get. A lot of the appeal to martial arts has been that they allow a smaller person the ability to fight off a larger opponent, of course as long as that opponent is less skilled than the other. Brazilian Ju Jitsu arose from this perspective as has numerous other martial arts as many were either taught for use on a battlefield or in what would be called “street-fights” (the term “self-defense” is a modern term and is applied to every school whether it is “combative” or not, some of which are unproven). Unlike boxing, wrestling, judo, etc… which are entirely sport in there modern forms, MMA does have an element of the traditional combat styles that must be kept alive, and fighters jumping weight are a big part of that aspect.
Anderson Silva’s move to light-heavyweight proved that he could take on anyone in that division and be successful. He could legitimately challenge for the title if it were not held by his friend Lyoto Machida, who he has expressed no desire to fight. So what is left for Silva in the division? There could be the prospect of fighting Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, or Mauricio Rua depending on their respective fight outcomes, but that won’t be for months. But Silva’s venture into light-heavyweight is one that he has done before and he also walks around at a weight that would make him a resident in that weight class. The weight class may not be the one he fights at, but he still has to cut some weight to be in it so it is not a true reach. At middleweight Demian Maia is the only legitimate contender he has not beaten yet and of course his title shot is to be determined by his fight with Nate Marquardt another fighter he has beaten. Dan Henderson is supposedly the next in line but Anderson has already beaten him and the “super fight” with GSP seems to be a myth that will not happen for a variety of reasons. If Anderson is looking for a challenge it may be in the heavyweight division.
And there is the challenge may be the ultimate one and one he has not faced before. imagine the match ups that could happen there: Cheick Kongo and Mirko Cro Cop offer stronger strikers who may have more powerful strikes than Silva does, Frank Mir and Gabriel Gonzaga offer skilled Ju Jitsu, and of course you have wrestlers like Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar. All of these fighters and others offer a challenge to Silva in terms of power and size that Silva could not match, but also they offer style match ups as well. Throw in Randy Couture and you also have a match up in experience to go with wrestling abilities that are superior to Silva’s. In every case Silva’s best chance to win would be speed and skill, it is doubtful he would overpower any of them (although his cardio may prove superior). He could also legitimately make a run at the title and not have to worry about fighting a friend as long as Noguiera does not recapture it. In a perfect scenario this jump would allow Silva to remain interested in fighting in the UFC and MMA for as long as he wants and is relevant. It would also provide the fans with a number of “super fights” that would drive PPV numbers up and perhaps grab more attention and fans. Finally, it would bring MMA full circle if Silva is able to have success at the heavyweight division. As a true mixed martial artist Silva would prove that size and power can be overcome with superior skill, that a smaller man can beat a big man, and that this could happen even if the larger man is a skilled one at that. That would be something MMA could hold out for the world to see, something that has been lost as of late.