This Saturday, in the main event of UFC Fight Night, Anderson Silva will fight for what he expects to be the final time in his legendary UFC career. Silva will face off with Uriah Hall at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.
Silva has a strong argument as maybe the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, having won the UFC middleweight title and defended it successfully 10 times in one of the most dominant runs in MMA history. But what made Silva's career truly special wasn't simply that he won fights at the highest level, but the way he got the job done in the Octagon. From his first UFC fight against Chris Leben to his front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort, Silva delivered plenty of iconic moments that established him as one of MMA's all-time must-see fighters.
In honor of his upcoming fight, let's take a look back at five of the greatest moments in the legendary career of Anderson Silva.
Debut vs. Chris Leben (June 28, 2006)
Silva entered the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 5 as a favorite at the betting window, but in a booming post-Ultimate Fighter UFC, Leben was the fan favorite. Silva was well-traveled, having fought in five different countries across four continents. Leben, meanwhile, had fought in five different states across two time zones. Still, Leben was highly regarded as a brawler and entered the Silva fight riding a six-fight winning streak, including five wins in the Octagon.
The moments before the fight were a strong contrast in personalities, with Leben looking as intense as you'd expect while Silva standing hands on hips looking bored. After the bell, the technical gulf between the fighters became immediately clear, with Silva shifting and working angles with long strikes, battering Leben and almost finishing him after a knockdown 34 seconds into the fight. Instead, the stoppage came on the second knockdown 13 seconds later. Dominating and finishing the ultra-tough Leben with ease was an immediate star-making performance for Silva.
KO of Rich Franklin for title (Oct. 14, 2006)
While Leben was the rugged brawler fans had gotten behind because of his stint as the emotionally broken kid on a reality show, Franklin was the UFC middleweight standard-bearer. Franklin had been so dominant in his UFC run -- which included a light heavyweight win over Ken Shamrock -- that he entered the Octagon a larger favorite against Silva (-225) than Silva had been against Leben (-200).
Franklin fought well in the opening moments, using leg kicks and straight punches. As the fight started to look like it may turn into a chess match on the feet, Silva reached forward and grabbed Franklin in a muay Thai clinch before unloading with knees to the body. Knee after knee landed and visibly took the fight out of Franklin before Silva moved the knees from the body to the head -- a decision that was somehow merciful after the brutality of the body work. Less than three minutes after the fight started, it was over and Silva was middleweight champion.
Demolition of Forrest Griffin at 205 pounds (Aug. 8, 2009)
During his lengthy reign as middleweight champion, Silva would take three light heavyweight fights, but the most impressive was his UFC 101 bout against Forrest Griffin. Griffin had lost the light heavyweight championship to Rashad Evans the fight before stepping into the Octagon against Silva. Silva was coming off performances against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites that had put him on the bad side of many in the MMA community, including UFC president Dana White, who called Silva's performance against Leites "embarrassing" and openly questioned Silva's tactics against Cote.
Silva fought Griffin like someone with something to prove to those who had questioned his greatness after those dominant, though unspectacular, performances. He quickly engaged in a striking battle with Griffin, waving the bigger man on to encourage exchanges. As Griffin tried to flurry, Silva slipped his punches and dropped him twice in the early part of the round. After Griffin stood a second time, he tried to charge forward with punches and Silva slipped backward, slid his head out of the way and threw a perfect right hand that crumbled Griffin for the stoppage at the 3:23 mark of Round 1. The finishing sequence stands as arguably the most impressive moment of Silva's career and the win shut down any question of Silva's greatness.
Rally for win vs. Chael Sonnen (Aug. 7, 2010)
What Silva had largely lacked during the majority of his UFC career was a true rival who could push him in the Octagon. The two fights with Franklin had been dominated by Silva, trips to light heavyweight had been laughably easy and Silva's only issues were caused by irritating fans and executives through odd (and still dominant) performances. In Sonnen, Silva found a rival who could sell the fight through pro wrestling tactics, and trash talk that often bordered on racist. Because of the heat built up through that talk, the fight felt like the biggest of Silva's career before the fighters set foot in the Octagon.
Sonnen would deliver the goods inside the cage at UFC 117. Silva was rocked by a Sonnen punch in the opening round and more Sonnen punches followed before he scored with his first takedown on the fight. Sonnen continued to score takedowns and land punches -- for a total of 289 landed on the champion in the fight -- as he piled up round after round on the scorecards. Just minutes from losing the fight and his championship on the judges' scorecards, Silva was again trapped under Sonnen, with the fatigued challenger still throwing punches as the seconds ticked away. Sonnen made one mistake in his positioning, however, and Silva locked in a triangle choke before adding an armbar to the hold and forcing Sonnen to tap out. As Sonnen tried to protest the end of the fight, claiming he had not tapped, the replay was shown in the arena and the crowd erupted in cheers as Sonnen's tap was clearly visible.
An iconic kick against Vitor Belfort (Feb. 5, 2011)
During Silva's reign, some of his worst performances came against his fellow Brazilians. In addition to the Leites fight mentioned earlier, Silva fought an ugly, disrespectful bout with Demian Maia. The Maia fight was so bad that White stormed off from cageside, giving the belt to Silva's manager mid-fight rather than placing the belt on the champion's waist after the fight as was customary.
Belfort had already established himself as a legend in the sport and earned a title fight with a five-fight winning streak, including three straight knockouts. Rather than another tentative performance against one of his countrymen, Silva delivered a thunderous finish in the first round, throwing a front kick to the jaw for one of the most iconic finishes in the history of the UFC.