What makes a great MMA moment? There are many factors, most of them subjective. Entertainment value, aura, hype,…it all factors into crafting a magic moment. Today’s article is the first in a new series entitled “Great Moments in MMA History”, where I examine what made some of my favorite MMA moments so memorable. These entries aren’t meant to be an indisputable list of the unquestionably greatest moments in the history of our sport, but rather as a fond looking-back on some of the best times I’ve ever had watching MMA. It’s fun to put on those nostalgia goggles every once in a while, and that’s all I hope to accomplish with this new series. So let’s dive right in with one of my favorite moments of my favorite fighters: Anderson Silva’s UFC debut and consequent coming-out party.
Let’s be honest here: Anderson Silva wasn’t that big of a star in PRIDE. When all was said and done, Silva pulled a 3-2 in the historic promotion, including one of the craziest submission losses of all time (a flying heel hook submission loss by Ryo Chonan, which will most likely be featured in a future edition of GMMMA). Going into his UFC debut against Chris Leben, I actually had both men more or less dead even in terms of skills and abilities. Even though Silva possessed some great Muay Thai, Leben had displayed a jaw made out of solid concrete in all his previous fights. To date, Silva remains the only man that has ever knocked out Chris Leben. To his credit, Leben hyped up this fight really well. I still remember how Leben talked about sending Silva back to Japan where “competition is a little easier”.
But what made this fight truly memorable is how thoroughly outclassed Leben looked against Anderson Silva. This fight set the precedent that Silva would follow for the rest of his UFC career: no matter how good you’ve looked in the past, you look like utter trash when you go against Anderson Silva. Leben came out with the absolute worst strategy, which ironically was the same strategy that’s led to most of his career wins: brawl, look for an opening, and don’t be afraid to eat some shots. Leben’s penchant for giving as good as he got ran out against Silva, who had a laser-precise counter for every missed shot.
Leben took those shots like a champ, and even managed to get up to his feet for a few brief moments, but Silva’s all-out onslaught was far too much for any man to handle. Anderson Silva’s striking in this fight was downright scary, and sent shockwaves throughout the entire UFC Middleweight division. If Leben was a stepping stone for Anderson Silva, Silva crushed that stone into dust. Silva would go on to dominate the Middleweight division up until the present day.
A long-reigning champion always has to start somewhere, and most champions come from humble beginnings. Silva’s debut in the UFC was something incredibly rare, which made it so memorable: in just one fight he put an entire division on notice. There were no humble beginnings, no wars of attrition, not even a single learning experience due to a humbling loss…Silva came out, dominated, and would go on to leave a path of destruction yet to be topped in the UFC. Even when you consider all that he’s done as UFC Middleweight champion, Anderson Silva’s fight with Chris Leben remains one of the defining moments of one of the greatest fighters of all time. And that is what makes it a “Great Moment in MMA History”.
So what do you think, fans and friends? How does Silva’s dismantling of Leben hold up to all of Silva’s other accomplishments? And what kinds of fights/moments would you like to see in future editions of GMMMA?