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By: Jason Amadi, MMATorch Columnist
2010 gave us some of the biggest and most anticipated fights in MMA history; fights like Lyoto Machida-Shogun Rua II, Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans, and Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin dominated the consciousness of the MMA community for the better part of that year, if not longer. But two years after the fact, no one talks about any of those fights. Two years later, there is only one fight from that year people are still talking about.
This Saturday night, UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva defends his title against Chael Sonnen in what is more than likely the most anticipated rematch in the history of the sport. Every fight Silva and Sonnen have had since their first meeting in August 2010 at UFC 117 have almost felt like perfunctory exercises they needed to perform in order to get back to each other. The fight that takes place this weekend will tell us who the better man is, but it won't necessarily answer some of the more pressing questions that we all have heading into the biggest fight of the year.
There's no disputing the enormity of Silva-Sonnen II, but it's hard to really get a sense of what this fight means in the grand scheme of things. For instance, what does this fight really mean for Anderson Silva's legacy?
Most fans, fighters, and pundits will tell you that Anderson Silva is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world today, and one of, if not the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. However, his detractors aren't shy about turning their noses up at the middleweight division and calling his quality of opposition into question.
At the time that Silva earned most of his signature victories, his opponents were on the top of the MMA world. "The Spider" really made his mark on the MMA scene by dethroning then Shooto Welterweight Champion Hayato "Mach" Sakurai, who was 18-0-2 at the time and atop of most people's pound-for-pound lists.
In Silva's UFC debut, he beat the breaks off of Chris Leben, who at the time was 15-1 overall and was a perfect 5-0 in the UFC. Silva took the UFC Middleweight Championship off Rich Franklin, who was a dominant champion and at the time 22-1 in his MMA campaign. Silva's signature beatdown of Forrest Griffin came just after Griffin had relinquished the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship; a championship in which he submitted Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and outlasted Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to capture.
Despite the fact that he sports accolades like these, critics maintain that Silva's competition to this point has been weak and that his dominance is little more than smoke and mirrors. If that's the case, then why would a second victory over Chael Sonnen change their minds? Heading into Silva-Sonnen II, a lot of people seem sure that Sonnen is "the guy" with "the style" to defeat Anderson Silva. However, not too long ago Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Demian Maia, Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami had the same hype behind them.
If Silva gets the job done this Saturday night, is that the kind of quality win he's needed all these years to silence his critics? Or despite all of the hype heading into bout, will a win over a 27-11-1 Chael Sonnen end up retroactively discredited like the rest (or worse)?
Conversely, what if Sonnen pulls out a win over Silva? The injury excuses of the reigning UFC Middleweight Champion seem to get on a lot of people's nerves these days, but unfortunately, they aren't really excuses. Silva is getting up there in age and seems to get more and more injury prone as time goes on. At this point he's had multiple knee surgeries, as well as problems with his elbow, shoulder, and ribs.
Chael Sonnen could legitimately have Anderson Silva's number, he could soundly defeat "The Spider" this Saturday night and end the greatest UFC Championship reign of all time. Beating arguably the greatest MMA fighter of this or any other generation is about as big an accomplishment as a competitor could hope for. But the question is, if Sonnen is successful, will his triumph be marred by excuses?
On July 7, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will do battle in the most highly anticipated fight of the year, and the MMA world will watch with bated breath. However, after we all resume our normal breathing patterns, will the fight have meant what we thought it did?
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JasonAmadi and direct your "Ask the Torch" questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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