It wasn’t quite the Anderson Silva of old who faced Derek Brunson at UFC 208 last Saturday night.
The former undisputed middleweight king was the sport’s most dominant fighter as he scythed his way through all opposition in a six year period, defending his 185-pound title a record ten times before losing it to Chris Weidman in the summer of 2013. But now, as he nears his 42nd birthday, it is clear to see that Silva is not the force of old.
His laser sighted accuracy is still there but the ability to deliver it to the chin of an opponent appears to be slightly stunted by the passage of time. Silva almost never employs kicks anymore, perhaps partly because his takedown defense isn’t what it was or perhaps the memories of his shin snapping in half in his second bout with Weidman are proving hard to erase. Nowadays, Silva is a boxer who occasionally adopts a muay thai stance. His clinch game, the very same weapon that he used to snatch the middleweight title away from Rich Franklin all those years ago is no longer the potent weapon it used to be as evidenced by the salvo of uppercuts Brunson scored with midway through the fight from that position.
Nonetheless, Silva walked away from the Barclay’s Centre as the winner of his bout with Brunson — his first official victory in five years — after which he spoke to the media and said that he did enough to win but seemed to admit that he’s no longer the same abrasive force that he used to be.
“I think I was more technical, and I moved more”, Silva said in the post fight press conference as reported by MMAJunkie. “In the last round, my opponent put me on the ground. But I was more offensive, and I attacked more. This is a good question for the judges.”
Silva has had more than one opportunity to walk away from the sport. The eye-watering injury he suffered in the second Weidman bout would have been ample reason for many to hang up their gloves but Silva remains intoxicated by his love of mixed martial arts.
“I have just one thing to say: I’m so happy, because first of all, I love fighting,” he said. “Second, sometimes when different people talk to me and say, ‘Why don’t you stop? You don’t need to prove anything.’ I respond, ‘This is my air. This is my heart. Fighting is my life. When I go inside the cage, I’m back to being 30 years old and happy, because this is my life.”
“I’m waiting for my next challenge in the cage, ” Silva added. “But now, I need to rest a little bit. I’m old,” he said. “I’m very old. But I have a lot of experience, and I have perfect timing. This is more important.”
It’s unlikely at this point that Silva will become a realistic challenger to the UFC middleweight title despite going on record saying the opposite. At this point in his career it seems as though The Spider is chasing fights that interest him, or that fans want to see.
So is now the perfect time for the oft-talked about Georges St-Pierre bout?