(DISCLAIMER) I understand that rankings are 100% subjective, and that two people could watch the same fighter progress through his whole career, and end up thinking exact opposite things about said fighter. But I'm going to try to break down, and decipher, where some of these guys stand, in the eyes of its smartest fans (yes, that is us BElitists).
Last time, we debated about Rich Franklin, and if he was an All time great/elite fighter. The results came back as I expected. 51% voted that, while a great fighter, Rich isn't going to get confused for one of the best ever.
Ok, next on the chopping block: Wanderlei Silva.
There may not be a more loved fighter on earth. When people talk about having a fan base, Wanderlei takes the cake. And it is well deserved. The guy would fight to the death, and then shake every fan in the arena's hand before going home. There might not be a fighter who, while in the ring fighting, is more of the complete polar opposite while out of the right then Wanderlei. He's a true fan favorite...but is he one of the greatest, most elite fighters of all time?
1. 16-0-1 (1 no contest). Name me one other fighter, who isn't considered an elite fighter, that went undefeated for 4! years, winning 16 of 18 fights (one being a draw, and one being a No contest after Wanderlei kicked Yvel in the balls..he probably deserved it). That streak alone is remarkable, but to do it against the opponents he did...incredible. Guy Metzger, Dan Henderson, Kaz Sakuraba (x3), Kiyoshi Tamura, Hidehiko Yoshida, Rampage Jackson (x2), Ikuhisa Minowa and Yuki Kondo were all upper echelon fighters who fell victim to the "Axe Murder" during his ridiculous run (his 1 draw was with the killer HW version of Crocop).
Even after he eventually lost (to a huge Mark Hunt), Wanderlei still was able to give hell to some of the biggest named fighters in Japan. Fujita, Arona, Nakamura and Yoshida all lost to Wanderlei before his departure to the states.
2. The Axe Murderer. Anyone who has seen Wanderlei fight knows why he has the nickname "The Axe Murderer". The guy fights with reckless abandon, destroying anything that gets in his way. In fact, his original nickname in the sport was Cachorr Luoco (Mad Dog), but the Brazilian government made him legally change it, so that his opponents knew that being murdered in a fight with him was a real possibility (JK).
Out of his astounding 33 wins, 22 have been by knockout. And most of those knockouts were KNOCKOUTS!!! If anyone wanted to argue that this sport was too brutal, all they would have to do is find videos of Wanderlei during his pride run. Find someone who has more wins via Head Kicks, Stomps or Punches and Soccer Kicks...I dare ya.
The guy is/was a machine.
The thing that made his fighting style so intriguing is that Wanderlei has a Brazilian Jiu-Jistu black belt. Sure he only has 4 submission wins to his name, with only one of those being something other then tapping to punches (a RNC), but the fact of the matter is that when Wanderlei went to the ground, although it wasn't where he preferred to be, he wasn't helpless either.
3. He ALWAYS fought the best. Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Metzger, Eugene Jackson, Yvel, Sakuraba, Tamura, Yoshida, Fujita, Mark Hunt, Arona, Nakamura, Liddell, Franklin, Rampage and Minowa were great fighters. Even with his career heading towards its twilight, Wanderlei is still fighting the best, and still kicking ass!
3.5. This really should have no regard to where he stands amongst the greatest fighters, but in many fan's eyes (especially mine), Wanderlei might be the easiest guy to cheer for. In a sport where you see guys like Brock Lesnar refusing to do interviews and talk to fans, or guys like Chael Sonnen who hurls insult after insult at anyone he can find, Wanderlei is the opposite. He know's that his fans love him, so he goes out and puts on a great performance every time.
He famously ignored the UFC personnel who tried to save him from staying past his allotted time slot during a UFC fan expo. With hundreds of fans waiting for a picture with the Axe Murderer, the UFC lady tried to escort him away, yet Silva refused, saying that the fans have been waiting and he'll wait till every single one gets their picture. Thats cool.
1. 1-2 (His UFC record before leaving pride). Many people, while trying to make a case against Silva, will point to the fact that he wen't 1-2 in the UFC before leaving for Pride. The first loss was a TKO loss to Vitor Belfort, and the next one was a dominating decision loss to Tito Ortiz. While, 1-2 isn't the worst, and you could argue that he was still young in his career, the fact is that he got bounced out of the UFC.
2. Pride allegations. These aren't coming from my mouth, but there were always rumors that some of the best fighters in Pride were taking steroids. Whether or not they were, its impossible to prove now, but the fact of the matter is that many fighters came across the pond and suddenly dropped off from their previous high standard of fighting. Couple that along with the fact that Japan is known for its lackadaisical (do they even test fighters?) drug testing, and it isn't hard to see where some of the allegations came from.
3. His losses. Vitor, Tito, Hunt and Arona were all tough fought losses, and were very sporadic in Wandy's career. But then, as the end of Pride started, Wanderlei's career went into a spiral. Losing 5 of 6 fights to fighters like Crocop, Henderson, Chuck, Rampage and Rich Franklin isn't something to be ashamed of, yet it still puts a dark mark on the end of a outstanding career.
There it is folks. Is the "Axe Murderer" one of the greatest of all time, ranked along Fedor, Anderson, and BJ? Or will he forever be remembered as a great fighter, but never good enough to be the absolute best, like his recent foe Rich Franklin. Regardless of what we decide, Wanderlei will go down as one of the best entertainers, and most exciting fighters of all time.