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Gods of War: Anderson Silva

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With UFC 148 coming up and Anderson Silva preparing for his rematch with Chael Sonnen it seemed the right time to add the first Mixed Martial Artist to our small but growing Pantheon of martial excellence. Joining Braulio Estima and Masutatsu Oyama will be the long time UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 14, 1975 Silva was born into a humble household. Silva took to martial arts quickly and wanted to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a child, but his family could not afford the costly lessons. So Silva learned what he could from his friends and at age 14 enrolled in a Taekwondo class that his family could afford. Silva spent his teens learning Taekwondo and the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira.

SIlva started training Muay Thai under Fabio Noguchi, at his gym and would eventually discover the Chute Boxe gym in Curitiba. At Chute Boxe, Silva got hard lessons in fighting as their training sessions were famously intense. Full contact sparring in which team members knocked each other out was the norm at Chute Boxe and Silva had true masters to learn from in MMA legends Wanderlei Silva and Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons. And under the tutelage of Chute Boxe's coaches, including the legendary Rudimar Fedrigo, Silva would grow into a formidable fighter.

And it would be Anderson's turn to fight very soon. Silva fought in Muay Thai matches but no reliable source for how many matches or his record in these matches exists. What is confirmed is that Silva cut his teeth in MMA as a welterweight in 1997 with his first and second pro MMA victories. Silva then spent 1998 working on his boxing to make his professional boxing debut, which he lost by TKO. Sadly there is no video of this match. In 2000, Silva made a his return to MMA, but it did not go well as he lost a grappling based decision to the jiu jitsu fighter Luiz Azerdo. At this point in his career Silva was just out of his depth grappling wise, but refused to give up.

Later that year Silva got back into the win column notching a quick head kick TKO victory. Then after dominating another opponent, Silva made his Shooto debut in Japan in 2001. Tetsuji Kato would prove to the be the first real test in Silva's young career. Kato was able to take Silva down and nearly submitted Silva in the first round. In the second round Kato was able to tag Silva on the feet and in the third again taking Silva down. The young Brazilian fighter answered the challenge however; nearly submitting Kato in return in the first round, hitting Kato hard in the second round and locking on a loose triangle in the third and then using it to strike the exhausted Kato. Silva would win a hard fought, but unanimous decision.

Silva returned to Brazil and scored a quick victory, showcasing some improved grappling. Then Shooto invited Silva back for a fight in late August, this time against their Welterweight Champion Hayato Sakurai. (Please note, the Shooto Middleweight division was limited at 168 lbs, so to avoid confusion I am referring to the division as Welterweight so it aligns with modern weight classes.)

With a 18-0-2 record at the time, Sakurai was considered to be the best Welterweight in the world. Sakurai had beaten Luiz Azeredo, the last man to defeat Silva, and Frank Trigg by decision. Also with a win over Tetsuji Kato, Sakurai also won the lineal UFC Welterweight title, and while it is not an actual title it does help create a picture of the contemporary accomplishment of Sakurai. Silva, by contrast, was a relative unknown and what happened in his match with Sakurai shocked the MMA world.

Anderson Silva vs. Hayato Sakurai 1 / 3

Anderson Silva vs. Hayato Sakurai 2 / 3

Anderson Silva vs. Hayato Sakurai 3 / 3

Silva's victory over Sakurai still ranks among the all time greatest upsets in MMA history. He followed up this victory by forcing Roan Carneiro to submit to strikes after scoring a nifty closed guard sweep. It was after this win that Silva was given a chance to return to Japan, this time in the Pride Fighting Championships. His Chute Boxe teammate Wanderlei Silva had become a huge star in Pride, and Anderson Silva was brought in as another exciting fighter from the same gym.

It was in Pride that Anderson's sense of humor and showmanship began to assert itself, as the promotion wanted larger than life personalities from their fighters. Silva won three straight fights in Pride, including a match with former UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Newton, but also became known for his impersonations and dancing. That ended however when Silva lost at the hands of Daiju Takase, a Japanese journeyman, by triangle choke. Silva was released from Pride.

Around this point that Silva's relationship with Rudimar Fedrigo and Chute Boxe began to break down. The team was full of talented fighters and Silva was beginning to feel neglected. He was working very hard to support himself and his family, working at a local McDonald's to pay the bills while he trained. Slowly Silva began to resent the amount of control Fedrigo exerted over his fighters and Silva left to found his own gym and then evetually began training the Nogueira brothers, the sworn enemies of Chute Boxe.

Silva stayed very busy after leaving Pride, defeating Jeremy Horn and winning Cage Rage Middleweight Title when he bested Lee Murray. Silva was then invited back to Pride, where he lost to Ryo Chonan when the Japanese journeyman pulled out a desperate flying scissors to heel hook submission and Silva was again dismissed from Pride. Silva returned to England and defended his Cage Rage title, knocking out first UFC veteran Jorge Rivera and then Curtis Stout. It was also in 2005 that Silva returned to professional boxing and notched his lone boxing win by TKO.

At the start of 2006 Silva traveled to Hawaii to face off with Yushin Okami, a match which ended very quickly when Silva rocked Okami with an illegal up-kick and was disqualified. Silva then defended his Cage Rage title one last time against Tony Fryklund and won with one of his most memorable knockouts. He dropped Fryklund with an uppercut elbow strike that he had seen in a movie and wanted to try in a fight.

Anderson Silva vs. Tony Fryklund - Cage Rage 16 - Back Elbow Knockout

This victory finally opened a door for Zuffa and the UFC, who were looking for a new contender to face their current Middleweight champion Rich Franklin. For his debut match the UFC match Silva with one of their new stars from The Ultimate Fighter, Chris Leben. Undefeated in the UFC thus far, Leben was considered to be a hot contender who with one more win would stamp his ticket to a title match. Silva turned in one of the single most dominating performances in UFC history, knocking Leben out in under a minute.

This victory set the tone for Silva's UFC career, as it seems that Silva hit his stride as a fighter when he entered into the promotion. Having dispatched the man seen as the best contender for the belt, Silva then was given the title shot. If the speed and violence with which Silva defeated Leben with surprised UFC fans, his title fight with Rich Franklin left them in a state of shock.

After a few minutes of feeling the UFC Middleweight Champion out, Silva soon discovered he had a huge advantage in the clinch and punished Franklin with knees until John McCarthy stepped in to stop the match.

Franklin had been pushed by the UFC as a man who could be a dominant champion and Silva left him in a broken mass on the canvas. the path of his career altered forever. Since then Silva has become the most dominating champion in UFC history, ruling the Middleweight division for almost six years.

Silva's first title defense was supposed to be against Travis Lutter, who had won the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter, but the fight was declared a non-title fight when Lutter missed weight. Lutter had some success against Silva on the ground, but Silva eventually was able to lock on a triangle and forced Lutter to submit to a barrage of elbow strikes. Silva's actual first title defense came in a rematch with Rick Franklin, who had reconstructive surgery on his face to repair the damage done in his first fight with Silva. Silva again brutalized Franklin. Silva's first true test in the Octagon came against MMA legend and all time great Dan Henderson, who used his wrestling to take the first round against Silva. The champion responded by rocking Henderson on the feet with a kick and then locking in a rear naked choke to finish the mat.

What would follow would be something a low period for Silva as he would dabble in fighting at Light Heavyweight against James Irvine and the put on perplexingly passive performances against Partick Cote, Thales Leites and the finally culminating in the horrendous fight at UFC 112 against Demian Maia. While UFC fans were treated to his masterpiece of a fight against Forrest Griffin in that time period, it represents something of a low point for his UFC career.

The rivalry with Chael Sonnen provided a much need boost to Silva's waning popularity, giving him a foil to play his soft spoken respectful attitude against. And the dramatic comeback fashion in which Silva won went a long way to repairing his image with fans, as well create one of the most memorable moments of his career.

Silva then would finally develop the star-power in Brazil that had so long eluded him when he defeated long time Brazilian star Vitor Belfort and then bring down the house of UFC: Rio with his TKO win over Yushin Okami.

Silva is the longest reigning UFC champion in history, has fought professionally in MMA, boxing, and Muay Thai and has black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Taekwondo. He is a consummate martial artist and win or lose at UFC 148 is most certainly a modern day God of War.