It almost wasn't fair to Yushin Okami (AKA "The Last Man To Beat Anderson Silva") that his first title shot came against the man who strolled in to the HSBC Arena last night, nonchalant as ever, to defend his championship for a record ninth consecutive time. It didn't matter that he'd already face the same namesake before, or even that he'd been scheduled to meet the champ back in 2008. The Anderson Silva across from him at UFC 134 was simply better than all the previous ones we've seen. And, as far as I can tell, the distance between Silva and the rest of the pack widens with every match.
I've come to realize I no longer watch Silva fights to see if he wins; I watch to see if he does something never before seen. It's like Jordan in the Finals -- you only bet against him if you don't like money. With all of his foreseeable matchups devoid of intrigue, it's becoming apparent: aside from Silva drawing more paychecks - and who can blame him for doing so - there's simply no reason for him to continue competing.
If he doesn't fight Georges St. Pierre, there's no one I'd like to see him face anymore. If he faces Brian Stann orMichael Bisping, it could be as laughable as the Forrest Griffin fight. Chael Sonnen gave Silva everything in his arsenal and still lost, decisively. If they were to rematch, I fully expect a healthy Silva to finish him sooner and in more devastating fashion. Surely, no sane person is demanding Silva go on a crusade of vengeance against the likes of Daiju Takase.
Perhaps the best thing for boxing's heavyweight division would be the retirement of the Klitschsos, and we may be seeing a similar scenario with Anderson Silva. Unlike the the nearly undisputed (his brother is the only competition) champion Wladimir Klitschko, Silva does employ an aesthetically pleasing style. But when the division has no intrigue, one must manufacture storylines in the vein of Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose entire box office appeal is comprised of a trash-talking ability first put upon the public in the lead-up to a fight with superstar Oscar De La Hoya. Silva doesn't talk trash; he's goofy and, if anything, a nerd. He dances around the ring like Muhammad Ali, but if he's speaking to an Ernie Terrell in the cage it's in Portuguese and we aren't privy to the conversation. Silva only has his championship streak, his unblemished UFC record, and with vain customers like myself, sometimes that isn't enough.That's not to say that I'll stop watching -- I'm a fiend and this is my dope. Every time Silva enters the cage, I'll be watching on the off chance he pulls another Matrix-esque move. But I can't comprehend him losing, and that takes away much of the enjoyable tension inherent to combat sports fandom.
This situation reminds me of tennis during the last decade. Only since the ascent of Nadal and the arrival of Djokovic has my interest in tennis been rekindled to former heights when Federer first supplanted Pete Sampras in the early 2000s. There was about a four-year stretch where I didn't care about mens' tennis simply because I knew what was going to happen. And though MMA has different weight classes and hundreds of other storylines outside the middleweight championship picture, I'll still yearn for the intrigue of title fights when Anderson Silva competes. He's so good that he hinders my imagination -- a rare feat lofting him to the greatest heights of athletic pantheon.