Anderson Silva is one of the best fighters to ever compete in mixed martial arts and certainly one of the best to fight under the UFC banner. Unfortunately, he hasn’t won since 2012 due to age and injury, but he will try and earn his 34th win when he faces Derek Brunson at UFC 208 on Saturday.
Silva, 41, was the former middleweight champion of the UFC and at his best was the most-feared striker in the sport. His recent run of bad luck started in July 2013 when he was knocked out by Chris Weidman, losing his title. He got a rematch, but a leg injury ended his fight early in the second round.
From there, he earned a unanimous decision win over Nick Diaz, but the result was overturned and declared a no-contest when both fighters failed post-fight tests. Following that, he lost decisions to Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier, a light heavyweight who was much bigger and stronger than Silva, especially at this age.
Brunson, though, will be the most inexperienced fighter he’s faced in a long time. Brunson has been around for a while, but with a 16-4 record, it’s Silva’s best shot at getting a win late in his career. Brunson is coming off a TKO loss to Robert Whittaker in Nov. 2016.
Prior to that, Brunson earned five straight wins, besting fighters like Lorenz Larkin, Ed Herman, and Uriah Hall. Four of those five wins were TKO or KO finishes in the first round, with the other being a unanimous decision victory. He also has lost to Kendall Grove, Ronaldo Souza, and Yoel Romero, though those fights were in 2012 and 2014.
For Silva, he has stated that winning the belt isn’t his motivation any longer. He says he loves to fight, and though it drives his team crazy when he takes fights at short notice, this one with Brunson was announced just over a month ago. Silva wants a rematch with Bisping, whether the title is involved or not, and claims he will continue to fight another “six to seven years.”
That seems impossible at this point, but Silva has done the impossible before. He has a huge number of tools at his disposal and remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport. He can take out any fighter at any time, but he’s simply not landing with the deadly efficiency that he used to.
Brunson is a strong wrestler and has a lot of power in his punches, but his striking game isn’t particularly refined. Silva, despite being up there in years, hasn’t been outworked by younger fighters, and Brunson hasn’t shown that he can reliably land with technique.
Where Brunson wins this fight is likely in top position on the ground. Silva is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he has struggled to put together an effective offense or defense while being smothered by high-level wrestlers. But then again, there were flashes of that high-level Silva magic in recent fights. He essentially knocked out Bisping with a knee, who was saved by the clock, and he hurt Cormier with a kick.
Silva can win the fight on Saturday, but it’s yet another dangerous matchup.