Numbers don’t lie: 32-4, 15-0 in the UFC, 10 straight title defenses. 13 finishes in the UFC alone. Six years undefeated. Has only lost 6 rounds in the UFC. The numbers alone show arguably the greatest fighter the world of MMA has ever seen.
Your eyes don’t lie: No one fights in MMA’s top promotion and looks almost perfect. Everyone has multiple bad outings or loses fights eventually. Everyone but Anderson Silva. He’s destroyed (the only way to describe it) a long list of fighters from Vitor Belfort to Rich Franklin to most recently Chael Sonnen. No other current champion or fighter has looked as impressive for as long. Still, is Anderson Silva the greatest MMA fighter ever?
I racked my brain for arguments against Silva’s greatness and now that he finished his greatest challenge (Sonnen), I could only think of one: Silva competes in perhaps the weakest division in the UFC when it comes to talent. I’m not saying the Middleweight division has no talent. I stating that during Silva’s reign, no fighter within that division has been on his level.
Since 2006 (the year Silva entered the UFC), here is a list of champions and #1 contenders in the Middleweight division:
Now lets look at the list of champions and #1 contenders in the Light Heavyweight Division during the same time:
Looking at both lists, its clear that there is a big talent differential between those two divisions. The Light Heavyweight division has three current UFC Hall of Famers and everyone else on that list with the exception of Babalu has a legit chance of becoming a Hall of Famer. The Middleweight list has been top heavy as it contains three greats (Franklin, Belfort and Henderson) but drops of significantly with four fighters who are no longer in the UFC. There are rarely easy fights for UFC champions but you could argue that Silva has had 2-3 of them while in the UFC. Cote received a title shot when his biggest win was a split decision over Ricardo Almeida. Leites’ biggest win was over Nate Marquardt in a decision he only won because Marquardt had 2 points taken from him. Lutter’s title shot only came because he won the Ultimate Fighter Season 4 and his biggest win was over Cote. 10 title defenses is impressive but when 30% or more of the defenses were against fighters who were either outclassed or underserving…it takes a little away from the accomplishment.
The question is would Silva reach 10 title defenses if he were fighting in a talent pool like the Light Heavyweight division?
I’ll be back later this week to discuss UFC on Fuel 4, the Strikeforce card and the Khan/Garcia fight. If you have a comment about the blog, post below or tweet me at @aholbert32.