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Monday October 22, 2007 8:52 PM PST

 

Potential challengers to Anderson "Spider" Silva

By Gary Herman

Anderson "Spider" Silva couldn't possibly have looked better in the past twelve months. Starting with his three minute demolition of Rich Franklin to claim the UFC title, Silva also mowed through top contenders Travis Lutter and Nathan Marquardt as well as a rematch with Franklin.

Not only has Silva looked dominant in his fights, he has looked downright indestructible. For as much as Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg were lauding the way Franklin looked coming to the ring, fans at home could see the fear in his eyes. Franklin almost appeared to be on another planet. He was walking to the cage, but his brain was definitely somewhere else. There was no confidence in his walk, and there was even less confidence in his fighting.

To see Franklin stare at the clock whenever the opportunity arose was a sure sign that he just wanted to make it the distance. Unfortunately, Silva would not allow that to happen. His pin-point striking and highly underrated stand-up defense was far too much for the former champion.

That being said, many people are saying that Silva is unbeatable. Really? Silva is unbeatable? Sure, he has looked awesome, but please don’t forget that this is the same guy that was submitted twice in Pride over the past few years. Once by Ryo Chonan on a miracle flying leg-lock and a second time by triangle choke to Daiju Takase. Yes, the name was Daju Takase. Takase’s record is paltry 7-11-1.

Many people said the same things about Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre in the past year, and neither currently holds a title of any kind.

But who are the current challengers to Silva? At first glance, the pickings look somewhat slim, but if you look behind the current obvious UFC middleweight, there are some very intriguing possibilities for Silva. The following list shows some potential match-ups for Silva. Silva should definitely be favored in all the fights, but some of the matches certainly present some intriguing battles. There are some liberties taken based on weights and organizations, but all the opponents listed could very well be the man to defeat the "undefeatable" Silva.

Top 6 potential opponents for Anderson "Spider" Silva:

1. Dan Henderson - Sure, he wants to fight at 205, but if the UFC can convince him to drop to 185, Silva vs. Henderson is your marquee bout at middleweight. Being that Henderson is also the Pride champion just makes the fight that much bigger. Henderson's powerful right hand and wrestling experience make him a difficult match-up - not to mention thr best characteristic which is his heart. Henderson will take on any man at any time. From heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera to light-heavyweight Wanderlei Silva, no man is safe. As you are considering Silva unbeatable, doesn't Henderson’s name make you stop and think for a second?

2. Paulo Filho - The likelihood of this match-up happening is almost nil due to Filho and Silva's friendship, but stranger fights have happened before. Filho's methodical jiu-jitsu style makes him one of the top middleweights in the world. Unfortunately, his ground based attack also makes him one of the most boring. Filho boasts an undefeated record that includes victories over Murilo "Ninja" Rua and Ryo Chonan. For the time being, he is languishing in the WEC, but once the UFC realizes Silva has no real competition available, will it be long before they come knocking?

3. Georges St. Pierre - St. Pierre is a big welterweight. He is also a tremendous athlete with an excellent well-rounded attack. He is the one fighter that may be able to match Silva's speed and athleticism. St Pierre has also talked about fighting for the 185 championship once he establishes himself again as the top 170 pound fighter in the world. St Pierre, the welterweight champion, vs. Silva, the middleweight champion? That is fight no one would miss.

4. Matt Lindland - In Matt Lindland, we're talking about a guy who moved up to light-heavyweight to lose a razor close decision to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and also moved up to heavyweight to take on (and lose to) Fedor Emelianenko. Lindland is a man that will surely relish the opportunity to battle Silva (is it any wonder he trains with Dan Henderson?). He also has the pedigree to do some damage as Lindland is one of the best wrestlers within the MMA world. He also has a ton of experience training with Randy Couture. Who better to learn from to come up with a game plan to beat an unbeatable opponent? Lindland has fought in the UFC before. Maybe it's time to bring him back one more time.

5. Robbie Lawler - A puncher's chance - pure and simple. Lawler is not the most technically sound fighter. In fact, he is probably the least technically skilled fighter on the list, but Lawler is a guy in a great shape that will come forward the entire fight. He also knocked out both Frank Trigg and Ninja Rua recently in devastating fashion so the confidence is definitely there. Lawler will throw bomb after bomb hoping one will connect. If (and that is a very big if) he does, Lawler could slug his way to victory.

6. Matt Hughes - Hughes has publicly announced that he only has two or three fights left. Hughes has also said that it is becoming a real challenge for him to make the 170 lb weight limit. Hughes experience and pedigree is unmatched on this list and maybe in all of MMA. He is clearly a first ballot hall-of-famer. Hughes is also one of the cockiest fighters in the world. Should he get past Matt Serra on 12/29/07, why not take a shot at doing something no one has ever done - hold two UFC titles at the same time?

Anderson Silva looked awesome over the past year, but let’s not disband the middleweight division entirely. The UFC can make some very intriguing middleweight title fights. Some creativity and thoughtfulness may be necessary to make the fights happen, isn’t this the same organization that lured Couture out of retirement to take on Tim Sylvia less than a year ago?

 

 
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