Three years ago, Anderson Silva was the undisputed pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. He was coming off the destruction of Chael Sonnen in his most anticipated title defense and a move up to light-heavyweight where he dispatched Stephan Bonnar in effortless fashion.
Fast forward, and Silva has now officially lost back-to-back fights and one no contest.
Regardless of how you view the fights with Chris Weidman, Silva lost both within the rules.
Finally, it was a less than stellar Silva that fought Nick Diaz to a unanimous decision in January of last year.
It’s now a little more than a year since then and the third chapter in the career of “The Spider” is more tangled than the first two.
To recap, anabolic steroids were found in his system during tests for his fight with Diaz at UFC 183. Throughout the course of his hearing, Silva vehemently denied taking the drugs. Instead, stories were spun about receiving sexual enhancement drugs from friends in Thailand as reason for the presence of the substances.
That absurd story was dismissed and the Nevada State Athletic Commission declared that Silva finish his suspension.
Which brings us to this Saturday’s match-up with Michael Bisping on UFC Fight Pass. Bisping remains a top ten fighter in the division and is the second most high profile contender coming off a win, the other is Vitor Belfort.
Belfort will be facing fellow top contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza later this year, but Bisping has a chance to leap to the front of the line for a title shot with a victory over Silva in his native England.
The same goes for Silva if he can get past “The Count” in spectacular fashion.
Today’s UFC is different than the one Silva ruled over years ago. “The Spider” is 40 years old, turning 41 soon. The current champion Luke Rockhold is 31. The stars of yesterday have fallen away to give rise to new faces like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor.
So why is that Silva has the chance to compete for the belt with a victory over Bisping tomorrow?
It’s the mystique, in my opinion. Even now that both fighters have moved on, the underlying thinking remains that the first fight with Weidman was one that Silva was winning before he was careless. The rematch ended in a freak accident and one that left fans without a victor decided by skill.
Even the bout with Nick Diaz, where Silva looked flat against an opponent he would have dispatched quickly before, was one that fans felt was an anomaly. The injury, the ring rust, all of them were perceived factors that would not exist in his subsequent fight.
Now, one has to wonder which Anderson will show up. With more than a year of training, it could be that he is more comfortable and shows more of the striking that made him a legend. If so, then a vintage Silva performance is in the cards.
On the other hand, father time remains undefeated. For all of his vaunted skills, Silva is not about to go on another seven year reign atop the middleweight division at this point in his career.
Of course, all of that remains in a future yet to be seen. Tomorrow night will be determined by which Anderson Silva shows up. A tactical Silva who is accurate and uses his wide arsenal of strikes stands a good chance to defeat Bisping within the distance.
Any slippage however, and it is more likely that a tentative Silva is outworked by the volume striking of the Englishman. There is also the factor of fighting five rounds, which Silva hasn’t done since 2010. Bisping has some of the best conditioning in the UFC and the fight favors him the longer it goes.
There’s more than gold on the line, the end of his career will come into focus tomorrow night.