Wanderlei Silva is a name that rings out amongst MMA fan's, why wouldn't it!? In years to come my children will ask me about this man, I will tell them this, the man has had a MMA career not many others can match, he is the longest running UFC/Pride Champion, past and present! The man is a legend and yet I can't help thinking about him in past tense, but was is to come for Mr Silva what does lie ahead for him now? Maybe by looking at his past we could see what the future holds for him now.
Wanderlei hails from Brazil a hard as nails breeding ground for hard as nails fighters, and is it any wonder when fighters there cut their teeth on something called Vale Tudo, fast and furious bare knuckle fighting in a cage no bigger than a prison cell, a no holds barred sport created for maniacs just like Wanderlei! Or maybe it was the other way around? Either way it's extreme stuff! BVF (Brazilian Vale Tudo Fighting Organization) became Silva's learning curve for what would be a extremely successful career, having fought twice and walking away with two victories under the BVF banner he moved onto IVC, during his IVC stint he notched five wins out of six, one loss coming courtesy of a cut. In the later part of IVC days he became their Light Heavyweight Champion defeating Eugene Jackson, at the end of the EJ fight Wanderlei's nickname was born, "The Axe Murderer". Despite being under contract with IVC he fought at UFC: Ultimate Brazil, facing off against Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort in what was maybe a top ten MMA finish of all time, Google it to see for yourself! When WS finished up with IVC he fought Tony Petarra at UFC: Battle For The Gold defeating Tony via KO (Knees).
What IVC gave birth too Chute Box Academy nutured. "The Axe Murderer", the man with the killer instinct equivalent to a pride of starving Lions had been tearing it up on the Brazilian MMA scene for a few years before tearing his way through Japanese Organization, Pride. WS and his former team mates (Shogun Rua, Ninja Rua, Anderson Silva, Gabe Gonzaga, Thiago Silva) at Chute Box used to beat the sh!t out of each other on a daily basis (Check out Wand sparring with Shogun, link attached), best way to prepare for a battle in my opinion but very easy to get injured. Now what ever they did at Chute Box was perfectly suited to Pride rules, ie; head stomps, knees to the head of a downed opponent, kicking your opponents face while he lies on the floor. Silva excelled in MMA under the Pride banner because of his sheer violent persona, you should check some footage out if you have not seen any, pretty brutal viewing if I say so myself but Pride put together some of the best fights I've ever witnessed!
From 1999 to 2004 Silva went unbeaten in eighteen straight fights, drew with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (under special rules) and had a no contest against Gilbert Yvel (Wand booted Yvel in the baby makers). Twenty fights and five years unbeaten is pretty effing impressive when you take a look at who WS faced during those years, to name just a few, Dan Henderson twice, Rampage Jackson twice, Mark Hunt (Heavyweight), Cro Cop twice (Heavyweight) and Kazushi Sakuraba three times. During Silva's early Pride career he was given to chance to challenge for Tito Ortiz's Light Heavyweight crown at UFC 25: Ultimate Japan in Tokyo, losing via decision.
Despite losing to Tito to become UFC Champion, one year and seven months later Silva became Pride Middleweight Champion by defeating Kazushi Sakuraba at Pride 17: Championship Chaos. Four times Wanderlei would go on to successfully defend his title, three KO/TKO and one split decision, unfortunate for the likes of Kiyoshi Tamura, Hiromistu Kanehara, Rampage and Ricardo Arona. The Axe Murderer entered Pride's 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix and defeated Rampage Jackson via seventeen knees to the kisser, ouch! Eleven months later Rampage went and earned himself the right to challenge Wanderlei for the Middleweight crown at Pride 28: High Octane on 31st October, 2004, Silva disposed of the renowned KO artist in the second round, by way of, you guessed it - knees!
December 31st, 2004. That is the date when Wanderlei's glorious unbeaten run came to an end, Mark Hunt won via split decision, handing Silva his first loss since Tito Ortiz. WS took this fight with Hunt on two days notice despite being out weighed by more than five and half stone (80lbs). The loss was controversial, Randy Couture and Bas Rutten both commentating on the fight claimed WS should of won due to round one and round two's performance (including extreme weight difference). Despite that however 2004 still saw WS earn Fighter of the Year from Sherdog and Wrestler Observer Newsletter, rightly so! Four months later Wanderlei entered the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, two wins and four months later Ricardo Arona beat Silva in the semi final, Shogun Rua avenged his Chute Box team mates defeat by winning the final becoming tournament winner.
One year to the day since his loss to former K1 Champion Mark Hunt, Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva defended his Middleweight crown against Ricardo Arona for the last time, it was a close call but he sealed the deal and won by way of split decision. WS entered the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix in place of injured Fedor Emelianenko, after booting Kazuyuki Fujita everywhere in the quarter final Wanderlei was up against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in the semi final, losing via KO, and with all due respect it was one of the finest head kicks KO's of all time, kinda a trademark of Mirko's. Five months later Wanderlei enter the Pride ring for the last time as the Middleweight Champion, Dan Henderson stood across the ring from a pitbull like man in WS, the men clash and only one man falls, Wanderlei Silva! No man could withstand a left hook of that calibre, I assure you.
WS signed up with UFC (Zuffa) in August of 2007, Dana White probably pissed in his pants with excitement. He could now showcase the Chuck Liddel vs Wanderlei Silva match up, a fight 6 years in the making, man. In what was a highly anticipated fight, Chuck and Wanderlei promised the fans what they'd longed for for half a dozen years, an all out brawl between two of Zuffa's (Parent company who own UFC, Pride, WEC and Strikeforce) greatest Champions of all time. Have you ever had a dream become reality!? On that day I did! Those two men at UFC 79: Nemesis went to town on each other for fifteen long bruising minutes with Chuck winning via unanimous decision in what was named Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year! Check it out on the world wide web.
After Pride's demise, Mr Silva left Brazil and Chute Box to move northerly to the U.S.A. He trained at Xtreme Couture for the Chuck fight before opening up his own MMA gym aptly named Wand Fight Team. The reason behind leaving XC was purely down to the fact Wanderlei wanted a Chute Box Academy style team, basically he wanted full on brawls on a daily basis.
With Joe Rogans microphone in his face after the loss to Liddel, Wand said "Win or lose I like to give emotion for my fans" he also promised the fans he would be on the winning sides of things in his next outing, god almighty, he delivered that promise loud and clear. Poor Keith Jardine was on the end of some vicious wind milling, that was clearly not enough as Wand went on to grab a grounded 'Dean of Mean' around the throat meanwhile raining down some serious punches rendering him unconscious. Silva received KO of the Night and KO of the Year for the UFC: 84 match up.
UFC 92: Ultimate 2008 was host to Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva vs Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson 3! Rampage avenged his previous defeats in jaw shattering style by knocking Silva clean out with a super sweet left hook. Wanderlei has gone on record stating he would fight Jackson for the 4th or even 5th time. Interesting but unlikely! It would seem the Light Heavyweights were a tad too big for Silva prompting a drop to the 185lbs (Middleweight) Division, a fight at a catch weight bout of 195lbs against former Middleweight Champion Rich 'Ace' Franklin at UFC 99: The Comeback, WS lost the fight via unanimous decision but walked away with Fight of the Night honours.
Michael 'The Count' Bisping welcomed Wanderlei to the Middleweight Division at UFC 110 in Sydeny, Australia. Silva went into that fight without a win in nearly two years, partly down to injuries such as having his nose fixed as it was completely smashed to sh!t, that injury had affected him for many years from the Pride wars!! Face all fixed and such, Wand walked away with the victory, some would say it was Bispings fight, not on my scorecard.
With the win in his back pocket, Wand was scheduled to face former K1 Light Heavyweight Champion Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 but during one of his heavy metal sparring sessions he went and broke three ribs, Chris 'The Crippler' Leben stepped up on four days notice to face the Japanese sensation. Despite getting banged for two rounds Leben kept fighting on like a zombie soldier and slapped a triangle choke on the completely gassed Akiyama, stopping the fight with 20 seconds to go. Joe Rogan spoke with 'The Crippler' post fight and Wanderlei was verbally called out for a showdown with the Chris. Dana White (UFC President) tried to get Silva and former US Marine Brian Stann together, WS rejected this offer to wait for Leben.
And so to the present day and UFC 132: Cruz vs Faber laid court to the Middleweight co main event in what was a very entertaining night of fights. For me and presumably many other Wanderlei fans world wide, the fight between Leben and Silva that took place on that night was heart breaking to say least. Wanderlei came out swinging but in doing so he didn't defend the onslaught of uppercuts from Chris, twenty seven seconds for a nights work and surely a win that bumps 'The Crippler' reet up the 185lb ladder.
Wanderlei on the other hand has released no statement in regards to his future career, you've got Dana White pushing for Wanderlei to retire. I guess we will have to wait for 'The Axe Murderer' to return from his Brazilian vacation. The night after his defeat Silva tweeted "Sorry my guys" to his army of adoring fans.
It is evident that the Wanderlei of old may not be around any more and to be fair, if WS did decide to retire, could we begrudge him for doing so!? The guy has had a MMA career not many can match. If we do see him fight again I assure you I will cherish the moment as it could be the last time we will see him on the big stage!