It was a sweltering Las Vegas summer night in June 2006 at the Hard Rock Hotels small venue known as The Joint.
The crowd swelled from the floor to the rafters during UFC Fight Night 5 and for good reason: the Spider had arrived from Sao Paulo, Brazil and was making both his UFC and Stateside debut. He fought in Honolulu on BJ Penns Rumble on the Rock 8 card but never under the bright lights of the Las Vegas desert and the glare of SPIKE TVs machismo base.
The 49 seconds of carnage that resulted in a devastating knockout via knee to Chris Leben, who was on a 6-fight win streak, set up a Middleweight title bout with then UFC Champion Rich Franklin.
The resulting dominance displayed in that fight cemented the legend of the man we now know as The Spider when a 1st round knockout by knee catapulted Silva into the MMA stratosphere.
Silva went on a 17-fight win streak that included snatching the UFC Middleweight Title and dominant wins over notable fighters such as Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort.
Silva was one of the first mixed martial artists to land major international endorsements from Fortune 500 companies such as Nike and Burger King who are normally hesitant to sponsor combat sports due to the violent, blood sport perception of MMA. However, Silva along with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, have contributed to the softening of the old corporate guard towards MMA.
While some train strictly in MMA, which combines the techniques of striking and grappling, The Spider is a true disciple of the martial arts. He holds black belts in Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Judo and Muay Thai, a yellow rope in Capoeira and is also a professional boxer. Standing 62, weighing 185 pounds, Silva has both the stature and resume to back up his reputation, one that had many, including Dana White, calling him the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. So when Silva came to the U.S. and the UFC, big things were expected of him, and he did not disappoint, going undefeated from 2006 2012.
But suddenly the seemingly endless parade of laurels came to a dramatic and abrupt halt when Silva faced rising Middleweight, and Matt Serra student, Chris Weidman.
It was yet again another sweltering Las Vegas night in June 2013; yet instead of Silva providing his signature upset, the desert empowered Weidman to steal his glory with a second round knockout and loss of his title. When the two had their re-match later that December the world was shocked to watch Silvas leg snap from a vicious leg kick that left his career in what seemed to be dire jeopardy.
So it was a welcomed surprise when fans heard that Silva would be making his return at the beginning of 2015. Apparently his rehab had gone well and suddenly videos of Silva kicking pads in training started to surface all over the Internet. Obviously Silva wants to make a run at the title again and it was a dual victory for MMA fans when the UFC announced that his next opponent would be MMA bad boy, Nick Diaz.
Diaz, whose in your face strike heavy style is the perfect match-up for the flashy Silva, who never shies from meeting in the center of the cage. Diaz is currently also on a two-fight losing streak with unanimous decision losses to Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre.
This match-up is not an easy one for either fighter, but this holds true for Silva in particular, who is fresh from his first major injury. Diaz knows he is vulnerable in the legs and certainly he will attempt to exploit that. The focal point of the fight will be how Silva counteracts that attack while executing his teams game plan.
The Spider is back, and against Diaz this Saturday the world will see if he is still capable of delivering the same ferocity and fluidity of his previous wins. Waiting with baited breath is Chris Weidman who would love the opportunity to prove his second win over Silva wasnt a fluke due to the injury.
Anderson Silva has returned to MMA and with him returns the excitement to the UFC Middleweight division.