Anderson Silva wasn't lying when he stated that he's years ahead of the competition. At UFC 101 on Saturday, he showed the world exactly why he's one of the most feared strikers in the sport by dismantling former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin in 3 minutes and 23 seconds. It looked to be a walk in the park for the UFC Middleweight champion.
It was fairly evident in the week leading up to this tilt that Forrest Griffin was being highly over-valued as a legitimate challenger to Silva. While a lot of fans agreed that Griffin's size could be a legitimate problem, it almost works to every challenger's disadvantage in the light heavyweight division. Speed is what kills competition in MMA, and the same case is made in boxing as well. Unfortunately, Griffin didn't have the game plan to stifle that speed.
The battle showed a lot of weaknesses that we've seen in the past that analysts, writers, and fans suddenly forgot about in hyping up this match-up as an epic showdown that would push Silva to the edge. Griffin's chin has never been granite, and his striking has never been mentioned in the same sentence as world class. His grappling was a question, but he has shown an above average aptitude on the floor. He's mostly known for being a very tough, well-conditioned fighter, but did the UFC actually believe he could pull off the impossible?
In retrospect, it's evident that the bout was made to give Silva some sort of challenge. The UFC knew Griffin would move forward to press the action, and Silva capitalized on that problematic gameplan by Griffin. It's a win-win as Griffin wasn't truly the skillful athlete to defeat Silva, but as our poll here at BloodyElbow.com stated -- fans truly believed that Griffin could win that fight. Silva now looks extraordinarily unbeatable, and the UFC probably got a dream come true in the possibility of Silva vacating his middleweight title in order to make the jump to the light heavyweight division.
What happens now? Will Silva need to defend his title against Dan Henderson? It's definitely a somewhat intriguing second match-up between the two fighters as Henderson was able to put Silva on the floor, but I think fans are giving Henderson too much of a chance because he knocked out Michael Bisping. Bisping made huge mistakes in circling into Henderson's power. Silva won't ever do that, and I think he's way too quick for Henderson to even catch him with a powerful overhand.
The post UFC 101 press conference had a bit of news that's much more interesting. Anderson Silva will likely move up and potentially take on some very tough challengers. Who will Anderson Silva actually battle? Griffin is currently ranked #4 on our USA Today/SBN Consensus Rankings, so does that make the case that Silva could potentially take on fighters like Rashad Evans, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and, for the right money, friend and equally mesmerizing fighter Lyoto Machida?
Photo courtesy of chroniclejournal.com
The other small issue in the back of everyone's mind revolves around Silva's contract. He is currently on a six-fight contract. His second fight under his contract was with Thales Leites. That would put Silva's next match-up as his fourth battle on his current contract. With all the rumors swirling regarding the Roy Jones Jr. bout possibly happening and quotes from Silva regarding a retirement down the road, there are some very strange things that could happen.
Silva cannot be a champion to leave his contract due to the champion's clause, and that becomes an issue if he truly wants to leave the UFC. With the move to the light heavyweight division, will it actually give Silva a reason to continue fighting? I think it does, but I also believe he will demolish the division with his speed and skill. The only real challenger to his greatness is Lyoto Machida. Even more of a problem, his dominance in the LHW ranks may turn his opponents into exact replicas of hesitant fighters like Thales Leites' performance against Silva.
What then? Will Silva eventually move to heavyweight? Interestingly enough, that's one of the most intriguing prospects due to the challenge of the weight gain and retaining speed and conditioning. If Silva truly wants to test his mettle if he dominates the light heavyweight division, there is not a fan in MMA that wouldn't watch that progression. It's definitely a farce at this point, but who knows what could happen with such a skillful fighter in Silva.
Right now, the question becomes whether or not Machida can keep his title.. and if Silva would actually be willing to fight Machida. Dana White has stated that it's possible, and that match-up could be a true "best vs. best" battle that every fan of this sport should be chomping at the bit to see. The only problem with seeing Silva move to light heavyweight is that we won't see the potential for a Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva battle. Will the UFC try to push it? I think it's a great battle, but seeing Silva's wizardry gives me the impression that GSP may have huge problems early trying to take down Silva. I'd still like to see it happen.