Anderson Silva was all smiles Saturday night, having dispatched Yushin Okami in highlight-reel fashion, having retained his UFC middleweight title, and having extended his records for consecutive victories and title defences in the promotion. As MMASucka columnist Trevor Dueck said, he may very well be the sport’s Muhammad Ali. When Kenny Florian asked Silva who his next opponent should be, he answered with a wry smile “my clone”.
While on the surface that sounds like an ideal option, modern technology has yet to catch up with the wishes of MMA fans, so the only place we can see Anderson Silva vs. Anderson Silva will be through our video game systems. But there’s one more option out there for the man known as “The Spider”. One other man who has run roughshod over his weight class. One other man who is a borderline national hero to his people. The affable Canadian with the expensive suits and instantly recognizable francophone accent. Georges “Rush” St-Pierre.
Whenever the discussion of greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the sport comes up, the debate is invariably between the names of Silva and GSP. Fedor Emelianenko is on the down slope of a great career, and light heavyweight phenom Jon Jones has yet to show if he can maintain his current streak of dominance over the long haul. Silva and GSP are two men who have battled the best in their respective divisions and stand head and shoulders above the competition.
MMA fans have been clamouring for the showdown for a couple of years now. But Dana White was always quick to throw cold water on the idea, saying he was only in favour of such a match-up if both men had cleared out their own weight classes. Both champions appear close to doing just that. If GSP is able to do the expected and defeat Nick Diaz in October, there isn’t a front-running challenger that springs to mind. With Silva avenging his DQ loss to Okami, there aren’t too many legitimate contenders waiting at middleweight. A rematch with Chael Sonnen is a possibility, but even if he is able to defeat Brian Stann he won’t have the advantage of fighting an injured Silva and having his testosterone levels artificially inflated.
Some pundits, such as Mauro Ranallo, have suggested that a Silva-GSP fight wouldn’t be as competitive as the average fan seems to think. They cite Silva’s size advantage and previous successful trips to the light heavyweight division and suggest that if Zuffa were to go in the “superfight” direction, that a Silva-Jon Jones fight would be more palatable. While no one would turn their noses up at such an encounter, there are several things a Silva-GSP showdown has going for it that a Silva-Jones match-up does not.
One is the depth of the light heavyweight division and the current glut of top contenders for that title. Beyond the upcoming Jon Jones-Rampage Jackson title fight we have Rashad Evans waiting in the wings for a title shot, and former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is back in the title picture after his quick TKO victory over Forrest Griffin. The light heavyweight division hasn’t been “cleaned out” the way Silva and GSP have done with theirs. Silva challenging for the 205 title would also potentially pit him against Lyoto Machida, Silva’s teammate at Black House (which may or may not include Steven Seagal). Silva has said in the past that he has no interest in fighting his teammate, and that he would leave supremacy in the light heavyweight ranks to Machida.
The size factor is a legitimate concern, as standing next to each other the size difference between Silva and GSP is readily apparent. But GSP is on record as saying that if he were to move to middleweight to fight Silva, the move would be a permanent one. He has also stated that he would take the time and put on the weight slowly and “the right way”. Given that he has one of the most demanding MMA exercise programs in the sport, one would imagine his strength and conditioning coaches would make sure he gained the maximum benefit from moving up a weight class. A move to middleweight also opens up new challenges and new match-ups for GSP, while allowing his training partner and welterweight phenom Rory MacDonald to set his sights on the top of the division.
Silva is 36 years old and has cemented his place among MMA’s all-time greats. He has expressed his desire to retire after his current contract, which contains four more bouts. Presumably, from here on out he wants nothing less than the biggest fights available. At this moment in time, there is no fight out there bigger than a war pitting the two men who have wreaked havoc on their weight classes against each other. Even Dana White is beginning to warm to the idea, saying that given both men’s dominance, “there wouldn’t be a big enough stadium” to hold the fight and the match-up is starting to “make sense”. MMA fans chomping at the bit to see the fight made will now have to wait and see how Dana reacts after GSP-Diaz is in the books.