UFC middleweight champion running out of options
Anderson Silva makes it look too easy.
The way the UFC middleweight champion is able to bob-and-weave in the cage, taunting opponents with impromptu hand-jive routines before blasting them with pinpoint jabs that put them on their backside gives the illusion that his opponents aren't talented.
They certainly are, they just aren't on the same level of Silva.
Nobody is. The 36-year-old Brazilian is the best the sport has ever seen; a once-in-a-lifetime combination of substance and style.
He's Muhammed Ali and Roy Jones Jr. in their primes recreated in the cage, assassin and entertainer all rolled into one. He makes difficult appear pedestrian, turning daunting into a day in the park.
It really is a sight to behold.
Saturday night's display of showmanship and sniper-like accuracy added to Silva's ongoing writing of the UFC record books. He's now won 14 consecutive fights in the Octagon — 15 straight overall — and defended the middleweight title for a ninth time. He has beaten every challenger who has climbed the ranks during his reign of terror, and successfully stepped up in weight twice when there was no one ready to face him in the 185 pound ranks.
After more than five years of complete domination and admittedly only having a handful of fights left before he hangs up his gloves, what's next for the UFC middleweight champion?
Here are five options to consider.
1. Winner of UFC 136 fight between Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann
This is the lay-up of the group; the easy pick for what comes next for Silva.
Stann has rocketed up the rankings in 2011 thanks to emphatic, technical knockout victories over Chris Leben (UFC 125) and Jorge Santiago (UFC 130). The decorated Marine is 3-0 since making the move to middleweight, and looks more and more polished each time out. As a former light heavyweight, he could have the size to match Silva in the cage. His athletic and military backgrounds will also keep him from being overwhelmed or thrown off his game by the champion's aura and antics.
I think if Silva could hand-pick the winner of this fight, he'd choose Sonnen. Though he's played coy when the subject of Sonnen has come up, I have a feeling he'd really like to face the verbose Oregonian when he's completely healthy, and put a beating on him. You know Sonnen wouldn't back down from the fight, and their UFC 117 encounter was one of the most compelling bouts of 2010, so the chances are we'd get another must-see-TV event the second time around too.
2. Dan Henderson, Option #1
The idea of a second meeting with the current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion in the middleweight division has been floated in recent weeks, with Henderson saying a rematch with Silva is the only way he'd consider moving down to 185 pounds again.
He's a big enough name to step right in and challenge Silva for the title, and depending on how things go in Houston between Sonnen and Stann, instantly inserting Henderson into the title picture could make sense. He'd put himself in the title mix with his UFC 100 bombing of Michael Bisping before parting ways with the UFC, so it's not too much of a stretch for his current three-fight winning streak outside the organization to earn him consideration upon his return.
3. Dan Henderson, Option #2
Here's where things could get interesting.
Since Henderson isn't really all that inclined to move back down to 185 — and has been far more successful fighting at light heavyweight under the Strikeforce banner — why not do this one again in the 205 pound division?
Silva is just as lethal at light heavyweight as he is in the middleweight ranks, and on the off chance that Henderson lands a haymakers, fighting at 205 protects the middleweight title. If you make this fight at middleweight and Henderson wins, he has to stay there, something he's not that keen on doing at this stage in his career.
The other positive to contesting the fight in the light heavyweight ranks is that you can easily set this bout atop a pay-per-view card and watch the buys come rolling in. Silva has now delivered three consecutive "did you see that?" performances, and Henderson is a decent draw on his own, so the combination of the two gives you a headlining act people will pay to see without a title being involved. Those kind of pairings are hard to come buy these days.
4. Georges St-Pierre
It seems like forever eons have passed since the potential for this fight dominated the headlines, but it was only eight months ago, max. The hypothetical superfight overshadowed GSP's UFC 129 title defense against Jake Shields early on, but fell by the wayside in the wake of Jon Jones obliterated Shogun Rua and St-Pierre jabbing out another decision against Shields in Toronto.
Silva has once again vanquished all challengers in the middleweight ranks, and if St-Pierre is able to dispatch Nick Diaz in October, he'll have done the same in the welterweight division. Both men are fighting to bolster their legacies at this point, and a win over the other would establish the victor as the unquestioned greatest in the history of this sport.
This fight would have to take place at middleweight; a catchweight fight does nothing for either division. St-Pierre has said he'd prefer to move up permanently if such an opportunity presented itself, which would not only give the Canadian superstar a whole new list of challengers to face, but also creates an opportunity for a new champion to emerge in the 170 pound ranks as well.
If this fight were to come together, it would be massive, though it's not the biggest option out there.
5. Jon Jones
Is there any specific need to move Silva into a battle with the light heavyweight champion? Absolutely not; the division is full of contenders, and the next in line has already been determined.
But this is Mayweather vs. Pacquiao — the fight everyone wants to see and no one would dare miss.
Personally, I don't know if there are any obligations that could keep me from watching this fight if it were to happen, save for maybe the birth of my first child, and even then I would spare no expense to get PPV in the delivery room so I didn't miss this fight. And yes, the child would probably end up being named something like Jon Anderson Kyte in this hypothetical scenario, even though I've promised the missus that I won't try to name our offspring after fighters.
Jones is viewed as the heir to Silva's throne; an otherworldly talent who already looks like he's toying with the competition despite being just 23-years-old, and only three years into his career. There would be no time for games against Silva, possibly the only active fighter with the speed/skill/intangibles to challenge Jones at this point in time.
From Silva's standpoint, the chance to beat a fighter a dozen years his junior while he's considered one of the sport's elite would be another incredible achievement to add to his resume.
This would be an automatic "where were you when" fight and has monstrous pay-per-view potential.