This past weekend at the Saitama Super Arena we saw Wanderlei Silva step into the ring in Japan for the first time in six years, the first time since the fall of PRIDE FC. The fans were eager to accept him again and Wanderlei Silva put on one of the most incredible performances of his storied career, which is saying a lot. Of course, he stepped into the ring with a very game opponent by the way of Brian Stann, Stann a fighter who made a name for himself in the WEC before joining the ranks of the UFC and faced one of the most interesting challenges to date in fighting Wanderlei in his adopted home of Japan.
It was one of those fights that shows just how strong of an emotional bond that some fight fans have with certain fighters, as emotions were running high when Wanderlei Silva stepped into the ring. Not only were those in the arena tense and excited, but fans all around the world who have been following Silva’s career were the same way. It was one of those fights that if you missed watching it live surrounded by fight fans either at home or on Twitter/Facebook then I truly believe that you might not have experienced the entire fight.
From the first time that Silva’s legs wobbled and the moment when Stann went down like a sack of bricks only to stand back up there was a feeling that history was unraveling before our eyes. It was one of those fights that I’ve already seen pundits and fighters criticize Stann for choosing to fight in Silva’s style, but when it comes down to it, both men put on a fight that will be remembered for years as truly an awesome spectacle and it will help to define both of their legacies.
Today we saw (well, technically heard) Nick Diaz and GSP exchange words about their upcoming bout on March 16th at UFC 158. What really stood out was Diaz’s attitude towards the fight game right now, him specifically calling out modern fights and fighters for being “boring” as well as taking his strong stance against elbows on the ground. Diaz went on to label himself as the anti-hero of the UFC and MMA and there are many fans out there who are prone to agree with the bad boy from Northern California.
In many ways, Wanderlei Silva and Nick Diaz are similar, as both men understand that at its core, MMA is not only a sport, but it is also about two men fighting and entertaining the fans. If fights are no longer entertaining, what reason is there for fans to tune in? I’m not sure that I expect the same kind of fireworks from Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, but I do fully expect for Nick Diaz to put his all into the fight and do his best to rip GSP’s head off and take home the UFC Welterweight Championship.
To me, both fighters represent the sport that originally caught my attention in the mid-90’s, a sport that still seemed kind of wild, untamed and had an air around it that anything could happen. When I tune into a Nick Diaz fight I’m not sure what I’ll see; will there be trash talking, middle fingers, will he get disqualified or will he cause a riot in the ring? The unpredictable nature of Diaz makes him genuinely exciting to watch, as not only does Diaz have the ability to submit or knock out anyone in his weight class, but he also could do something well outside of the norm.
Sure, Wanderlei Silva doesn’t provide that same sort of unpredictability, but every time that Wanderlei Silva steps between those cage doors or ropes there is a feeling in the air that at any second one of his punches, kicks or knees could connect and that his opponent could be laying in a pool of his own blood. As much of a fan of Anderson Silva that I am, not even Anderson Silva has that sort of aura around him, even though he’s capable of absolutely obliterating just about any fighter at Middleweight or Light Heavyweight.
To me, both of those fighters represent everything that Mixed Martial Arts should be; warriors who are willing to step into the ring and leave it all in the cage with no regrets win or lose. I will never fault either man for losing a fight and will always be content to watch them do battle against any comer. The way that they fight and carry themselves helps to endear them to fans and to build that strong emotional bond that builds stars and makes the world take notice.
They are everything that Mixed Martial Arts was meant to be, they are real fighters.