A few months ago, before Vitor Belfort withdrew from his UFC 147 bout with Wanderlei Silva, BJPENN.com ran a story about why Wanderlei Silva shouldn't be considered an underdog for that fight. As the author of that article, I stand before the MMA community humbled.
Not only did Belfort withdraw, but he was replaced by a different competitor who hadn't fought in 16 months and who wasn't even in peak physical shape as the bout ultimately took place at a catchweight of 190 pounds. That new competitor was former UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin.
Franklin came in to the main event on his white horse, saving whatever was left of that event, and despite a second round scare, out-pointed Wanderlei Silva for the better part of five rounds.
Silva had no answers for Franklin's technique and looked stagnant for most of the fight, hardly utilizing any head movement or serious technique and instead relying on short bursts of aggression that left 'The Axe Murderer' gassed and unable to fight back most of the time.
Now, after an uninspiring performance against a fighter that isn't top ten in either weight class in which he competes, what's next for Wanderlei Silva after such an illustrious career? Or better yet, when should he realize when an illustrious career has come to an end?
Upon joining the UFC in 2007, Wanderlei Silva was still a highly touted fighter, and was considered one of the best in the world, despite back-to-back losses in Pride, the latter of which costing him his middleweight belt that he held for six years.
He fought Chuck Liddell at UFC 79 in his UFC debut in what turned into a fantastic fight that is one of the best of all time. Silva went on to lose that fight by decision. Since then, Silva has gone a disappointing 3-4 (4-7 all-time in the UFC) in the next seven fights since the loss to Liddell, and despite a drop to middleweight, has fallen off the map in terms of title contention with big losses to Chris Leben in 27-seconds and most recently to Franklin.
As a huge fan of Wanderlei Silva, I always go into denial mode when talk of his chin or aging legacy come up. These are glaring flaws for a fighter and are perhaps no more apparent in any fighter than Silva, who just can't keep up with the berserker mentality that he still holds on to.
At this point it's about health. Wanderlei Silva has proven himself and love him or hate him, no fan can deny looking forward to seeing him fight as a brawl is guaranteed, no matter which fighter comes out as the victor. After a while, however, these knockdowns and knockouts add up and that 'magic number' that UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg speak of, isn't some cautionary tale for would-be brawlers but instead a very real and serious issue that some fighters must come to terms with.
Silva has stated numerous times that, despite his violent fighting style, he never wishes to hurt his opponent in any serious way. Silva now needs to worry less about his opponent and more about himself.
Sure, if he had secured that second round TKO in his fight against Franklin, this article would be written much differently, citing a huge step up for Silva and perhaps just one more title run. But honestly I believe that this article would still call for Wanderlei's retirement. As a 48-fight veteran, Silva has been-there and done-that with everyone in MMA and has had four Fight of the Night performances in his most recent fight streak in the UFC.
Although it pains me to ask Wanderlei to retire, it is much easier to to do than watching him tarnish a legacy by sticking around too long, only leaving the sport when he physically can't fight any longer.