For those of you that saw UFC 117, I think you will agree that is was one of the greatest MMA events of all-time. It was a night of fights that was filled with three round wars, a veteran's resurgence, a thrilling come from behind knockout and was topped off with one of the most epic title fights we may ever see. Even though UFC 117 just happened this past Saturday night, there have already been numerous articles written about it, particularly the Silva-Sonnen fight. Some feel that this is the first sign of Silva's inevitable decline. Others think that the fight proves that Silva is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Yet, everyone agrees on one thing, the fight was legendary.
As many other MMA writers and bloggers have pointed out, this was a career defining fight for Silva. He needed this fight. He needed a fighter to push him further than he has ever gone before then push him even further. Sonnen did just that. Without this fight, without this win, Silva could have fallen in the Tiger Woods' greatness realm. The biggest knock on Tiger throughout his career has always been that he doesn't have another golfer to challenge and push him. The golfer he is most compared to, Jack Nicklaus, had Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to challenge him at every major. Tiger has no one. He has had the occasionally golfer to challenger him in spurts like Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Ernie Els, but none of them have been able to do it consistently. Whether Tiger breaks Jack's record for most career majors or not, people are always going to wonder if Tiger was that good or was his competition that bad.
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With this bout against Sonnen, Silva avoided the Tiger Woods' greatness dilemma. For so long, we have seen Silva absolutely demolish his opponents that the question had to be raised if his opponents we really that bad (some probably were) which made Silva seem better than he actually is. However, all those doubts got erased Saturday night. Silva proved his championship mettle. He proved that he could be taken into extremely deep waters and come out a winner. He proved he could beat someone that was his equal on fight night. This singular fight moved Silva's legacy from Tiger Woods-esque to Muhammad Ali-esque.
Remember, Ali isn't remembered as the greatest of all-time because he walked through all his opponents. He is the greatest because he fought in fights that were wars and came out a winner. He is the greatest because he looked human and beatable in fights but still ended up with his arm raised at the end. If you need proof, watch any of Ali's fights with Joe Frazier, in particular, the third fight a.k.a "the Thriller in Manila". For fourteen rounds, Ali and Frazier took each other's best shots. It was brutal. So brutal that Ali even has said that fight was the closest to dying he has ever been, but he still won. By looking mortal for almost forty-five minutes, both men became immortal.
The same thing happened to Anderson Silva at UFC 117. On a night where he may not have had his best stuff he came out a winner. On a night where he looked human for almost twenty-five minutes, he managed to come out a champion. On a night where he was beaten, bruised and bloody with no hopes of coming back, Silva came out a legend.
No matter what happens from this point on, whether it's losing to Sonnen in a rematch or going on another tear through the UFC, Silva's legacy is set. He did something that I am going to tell my kids about and they are going to tell their kids...greatness.