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Anderson Silva Is An All-Time Great? Not Yet

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Personally, I think this sort of analysis is strictly a product of UFC marketing and talking points seeping their way into world of MMA journalism:

Bulletproof.

It's the most fitting description of Anderson Silva during a five-fight run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship that has elevated him to the top of mixed martial arts' mythical pound-for-pound rankings.

With a solid career carved out in Shooto, Pride and Cage Rage, the 32-year-old from Curitiba, Brazil was a proven commodity when he arrived in the UFC in 2006. However, the ease with which he has sliced through his UFC opposition has landed Silva in conversations about the sport's all-time greats. The middleweight champion has been dominant in ending all five fights within two rounds by knockout, TKO or submission.

Except for one gigantic problem: he keeps fighting guys who compliment his style.

In every other division in the UFC, fighters at some point must deal with top-shelf, hard nose wrestlers. At middleweight, however, that's a bit of a problem. Blue chip wrestlers with other skills are in short supply in the 185lbs class and it just so happens that Anderson Silva's wrestling - while serviceable - is by no means top caliber. Worse, the two fighters who Silva fought with decent wrestling either choked or were inadequately prepared for battle. For all of Henderson's faults, being unable to compete is not one of them.

It's hard for me to crown anyone the sport's pound-for-pound top fighter or an all-time great when they haven't proven themselves against a wide range of styles in high quality opponents over time. If Silva is somehow able to control the clinch, make Henderson work for the takedown and ultimately knock him out, that would be truly be a remarkable statement. But until such time, I am not convinced that the brilliant striker is the sport's best.

As for the Lutter fight, it's hard to read too heavily into it. On the one hand, he was dominated but went into the fight with two injured knees. On the other hand, some of the tactics he employed to prevent guard passing and once mounted were very questionable. Where Lutter fell short with conditioning and toughness, Henderson will excel. All of this talk about his sluggish behavior at middleweight completely miss the point. For starters, he's coming off of a loss. Second, Henderson is the type of fighter who rises to the challenge. Dana White is doing Henderson a favor with this talk of Silva being the sport's top fighter. It only motivates him to reach new heights and prove such platitudes false. Silva is perhaps the only fighter at middleweight who Dan wants to fight.

And Henderson is extraordinarily tough. He fought Carlos Newton with a broken jaw and won. He routinely fights bigger men and does so with success. He's never been knocked out and is prepared for punishment every time he fights. My only concern with Henderson is whether he's healthy and whether his training camp was sufficiently grueling and technical. If the answer to those two questions are "yes", there's no doubt in my mind we'll see a new champion on Saturday. Not one bit.