Wanderlei Silva, the spine-chilling “Axe Murderer”, that nightmarish gladiator of Pride fame, was subjected to a humiliating 27-second knockout loss to Chris Leben at UFC 132 on Saturday, July 2, 2011. Up to that moment, Wanderlei Silva immersed himself in continuous preparation, including a massive Twitter campaign, to promote and sell the fight like has never been done before.
Many eager fans, from the USA to Japan, hungered for Wanderlei Silva to unleash his fury on Leben the way he did to so many other opponents as the 205 lb. Middleweight champion in Pride. The Muay Thai Clinch with the punishing knees, the swarming lefts and rights, the absolute primal aggression, the paralyzing staredowns… Silva’s legendary actions lived afresh in our minds and we were excited at the prospect of seeing him reenact his former strategy and, once again, rise to glory. Nevertheless: Ichabod. The glory is gone.
Wanderlei is not the same warrior that he was so many years ago when he ruled the MMA world and typified the modern day gladiator. He stood toe-to-toe with anyone—mano-a-mano—slamming fists, elbows, knees, and feet into opponents’ bodies, crushing ribs, breaking noses, and causing hemorrhages. He was an animal, a veritable beast, and the public was in love with his crude, savage prowess.
As time passed, however, Wanderlei’s command in the Octagon began to lessen. Notable losses to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Dan “Hendo” Henderson, Chuck Liddell, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson began to signal a downward spiral for the ferocious warrior. Despite those well-documented fights, Wanderelei—as well as his many personal and Internet friends—believed that he still had it, that he just needed to train hard, let his knees heal, and feel good for his next fight and everything would sort itself out.
That wasn’t the case. Chris Leben rocked Wanderlei hard, knocking him off balance. Sensing the need to regain control, Wanderlei reached in for the dreaded Muay Thai Clinch, expecting to reverse the tide by delivering a few of his lethal knees to Leben’s face. It worked before, after all, in the past. And it worked beautifully against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (although a few have questioned why it took as many as seventeen knees to knock “Rampage” out…). It didn’t work with Leben, who threw repeated left uppercuts to break free—and break Wanderlei.
The venerable lion doesn’t appear capable of finishing the prey anymore, as evidenced in the Michael Bisping fight. He’s older, battle-weary, a different person, and the sport of MMA has evolved tremendously right before his eyes. It also doesn’t help that Dana White is vocally suggesting that Wandy retire…
Wanderlei Silva’s best days are behind him and I believe it’s the end of an era, an era that he helped to mold, shape, and make exciting. The era came crashing down the moment Leben connected to Wanderlei’s chin, it ended when Leben’s hands were raised in victory. Modern contact sports owe much to this grand master, and he will be remembered for his outstanding contributions. By no means is Wandy finished as a fighter, but the era of his dominion is definitely over. Read More