My personal top three most shocking moments were, in order: 1. Silva's loss to Weidman on Saturday; 2. Fedor Emelianenko tapping out to Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce in 2010; and 3. Matt Serra's upset of Georges St-Pierre in 2007.
Tackling this in ascending order, Serra's victory was the biggest upset ever in a UFC title fight. But unlike Silva's loss at UFC 162, we had seen GSP lose in the UFC before. Sure, he was the champion and he was expected to have a long reign, but because of his loss to Matt Hughes, he didn't have Silva's unconquerable aura at the time. Also, St-Pierre wasn't taunting and clowning and dropping his hands. He and Serra engaged and GSP got tagged, which can happen to anyone in the heat of battle.
Emelianenko, like Silva, had an invincible aura as well. His loss was truly a jaw-dropping moment. But I'm giving Silva the edge over Fedor because in Emelianenko's fights leading up to the Werdum loss, you were already starting to get hints he wasn't the fighter he used to be. Emelianenko and Andei Arlovski were having a 50/50 fight right up until the moment Arlvoski made his reckless attempt at a flying knee. And Brett Rogers, who wouldn't crack the Top 100 heavyweights of all-time, gave Emelianenko all he could handle in their fight. And he was taking on one of the heavyweight division's premiere jiu-jitsu players in Werdum. Anything can happen when you go to the ground with someone like Werdum's game.
In Silva's case, though, no one saw a finish like this coming. That's not to say people weren't picking Weidman or giving him a legitimate chance at winning. But for Silva, who had looked so dominant for so long, to put on his taunting and baiting antics, and get knocked cold? And to do so in a surreal matter of split seconds that began with him pretending to be hurt? Nothing I've ever seen in seven-and-a-half years cageside has ever come close to matching this in terms of pure shock value. Let's put it this way: Everyone on press row was looking around at each other, speechless, trying to digest what just happened. When have you ever heard several dozen reporters silent all at once?
Thomas: I'd say Dave's a made a credible case for Saturday's knockout of Silva as being the most shocking moment in MMA history. I'm sure it was a shock to many of Silva's supporters. That's true for those who liked Weidman's chances, too. I believed Weidman would win, but never saw this coming.
But I'd be dishonest if I stated this was a bigger shock to me than Matt Serra upsetting Georges St-Pierre. I saw GSP's fight and ultimate victory as a matter of obvious routine. I never once believed Serra had a chance and certainly never believed he'd get St-Pierre to tap to strikes to avoid being full knocked out. I remember sitting there in complete and utter disbelief about what had just transpired. It was the impossible come to life.
To me, Weidman's knockout victory was certainly shocking, but I believed he had a chance to win. Relative to previous opposition, so did the oddsmakers. More specifically, I thought the longer the fight went, the more he'd begin to take over. I was never in a position where I thought he was out of it. The knockout loss was surprising, no doubt about it, but I at least gave Weidman a fighting chance. I knew his talent was real and that if he was prepared, anything was possible. It turns out, that wasn't so shocking after all.
2. Let's assume there's no issue in booking the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. How different do you suspect the second fight will be from the first?
Thomas: I think it could be wildly, insanely different. If there's anything the first fight showed me, it's that both throw caution to the wind. They're both willing to toss out a gameplan, both willing to improvise on the fly, both willing to try something out of nowhere with the hopes of surprising the other.
They're also both emotional, and in that regard, prone to error. This is the case more than I first realized. I thought Weidman would be cold and calculating than he was, but he still kept it together enough to get the job done well. And Silva, well, if there's one thing you can say about his performance, it's that it's not disciplined.
In my mind, this should be a wake up call that Weidman is far more talented than some folks are willing still willing to recognize. He took Silva's game and taunts and showed him he was the wrong guy to do that against. And Silva still the greatest fighter ever, has demonstrated previously he can focus more on a particular challenge. But I also think it's true neither fighter performed optimally on Saturday. Both are capable of more and if you accept that as true, then you have no choice but to accept that any rematch can take on any number of different complexions.
I think the idea that Silva couldn't land more is insane. Weidman made him miss, but Silva spent an inordinate amount of time doing the Bankhead Bounce instead of cutting angles. I also find the idea that because Silva stopped one real takedown and one partial attempt evidence Weidman couldn't take him down the rest of the fight equally moronic. Did no one see how many times Junior dos Santos stopped Cain Velasquez's shots in their rematch? Let me remind you: 22. You know how many times Velasquez took him down? 11. Sonnen only scored 3 of 7 takedowns in his entire first fight with Silva. The reality is a failed shot once does not mean failed shots forever. Wrestlers will be the first to tell you they don't expect every shot attempt to work. Besides, Weidman established immediately he could take Silva down. I have every reason to believe he could do it again.
So, what's going to happen? Here's one thing I'm sure of. I have no idea.
Doyle: I can see the rematch going either way. Weidman's UFC 162 victory wasn't a fluke. In the UFC 162 pre-fight show here on MMAFighting, I predicted SIlva would win, but took pains to note I was impressed with Weidman's poise all week in the big spotlight for the first time, and that I considered him a future champion. By no means was Weidman's victory a Houston Alexander-esque lucky shot. Chris Weidman's the real deal.
Still, though, I also believe that Silva's overconfidence was a significant factor in this fight. The whole notion of "If Silva had won, we all would have been praising his genius," is the most ridiculous thing I heard in the entire aftermath of the fight (Strike that. Second-most ridiculous. The idea the fight was fixed was most ridiculous). Really? Was Silva called a genius when he clowned his way through the Demian Maia fight? I seem to remember Dana White throwing the belt at Ed Soares and Silva dropping out of the No. 1 spot in the pound-for-pound rankings despite winning after the Maia fight. He wasn't called a genius after the Patrick Cote or Thales Leites fights either.
This is a roundabout way of saying I think we're going to see Anderson Silva the killer re-emerge when the rematch happens. Think of the laser-like focus he had the night he won the title from Rich Franklin. Silva-Weidman 2 isn't likely to be one-sided like the Franklin fight, since Silva can't turn back time. But if a focused Silva is fighting a game Weidman, I see a fight similar to Silva's title defense against Dan Henderson: One in which Silva's given a real run for his money before he rallies for a win.
3. Where do Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson stand in the featherweight mix after their respective UFC 162 victories?
Doyle: I'd put Swanson ahead of Edgar, but neither of them are at No. 1.
Swanson's put together a fantastic streak with five consecutive wins. He's at the point where we have to acknowledge he's not the fighter Jose Aldo Jr. ran over in the WEC four years ago. He's moved his way up on to the short list. But there's still the fact he's lost to Ricardo Lamas and Chad Mendes, two guys who are also in the hunt. I'd like to see him fight one of them before getting a shot at the belt.
As for Frankie, he's kind of in a position similar to Urijah Faber. He's gotten more than his fair share of title shots. Yes, he's been close in all of them. Yes, he got robbed in the rematch with Benson Henderson. But there are simply too many other people in line with more solids cases at title shots to grant Edgar the next one.
I'll add this, though: You wouldn't exactly have to twist my arm to make me watch Swanson fight Edgar. That just might be the most fun "fun fight" ever. And the most consequential.
Thomas: That's a moderately tough call, but I'd put Swanson ahead of Edgar. Here's why.
I am not necessarily saying Edgar can't or won't beat Swanson if and when they do meet. That's not what rankings are about. Rankings are about measuring achievement in a finite time and finite division (pound-for-pound notwithstanding). Stated plainly, Swanson's resume is better at featherweight. For now, anyway. Edgar is a credible challenge and could very well defeat Swanson, but his only achievements at 145 pounds at the time of this writing is a win over Charles Oliveira. That just doesn't touch what Swanson's done.
4. No beating around the bush: after his performance at UFC 162, should Chris Leben retire?
Thomas: Some suggest outside observers are in no position to tell fighters when they should retire, but I think that's nonsense. We can tell each other whatever we like. In fact, developing an ear for criticism and the sober perspectives of others can only enhance one's decision making process. The question is whether Leben has taken the time to develop such an ear. Sadly, I have my doubts.
As I've stated previously, a famous figure familiar with some of the details of Leben's life once told me that at nearly every stage of Leben's life, people have taken from him. While I have no direct evidence, my sense from what I've been told is that Leben has not been financially prudent. Others around him have been all too willing to take advantage of that imprudence. If he were to retire, he'd need some sort of plan for steady income. I'm sure there are some options, but none figure to be as profitable as prize fighting.
So, the likelihood of Leben retiring seems remote. However, that doesn't answer the central question of whether he should retire. I don't think his health is necessarily in any imminent peril, which is not something I would say for Chuck Liddell in the last clip of fights prior to retirement. But his movement has clearly slowed. His chin isn't fragile, but he does seem to respond to punishment more regularly. Worst, his game seems all too predictable and ineffectual at this level. He might be able to continue fighting for a little while longer, but his best work is indisputably behind him.
My worry is Leben will continue fighting not out of concern for maximizing what's left of his time in the sport, but out of making financial ends meet. While he hasn't gone overboard yet, I fear he may be walking the plank. Here's to hoping I couldn't be more wrong.
Doyle: Yeah, I pretty much have to agree with Luke here. It's not like Leben has hit Liddell territory -- and if Leben did fight in the UFC again, it's not like he's going to matched up with vicious strikers like "Shogun" Rua and Franklin the way Liddell was on his way out, either.
But it's no secret that Leben's style involves plodding forward and wading through some big shots if he has to, in order to get in close and land that gigantic meat hook of his. That type of style has a shelf life, and when it goes, it goes in a hurry. Leben's fast approaching that point.
Part of me thinks Leben should be given one more shot to go out with his hand raised. Part of me also remembers the passion and emotion with which Dana White spoke about Leben, both on Thursday before the fight and afterwards at the post-fight presser on Saturday. Given White's feelings, maybe it's best they find him a job somewhere in the company. Put him to work at a UFC gym, or as a goodwill ambassador, but give him something to stay productive. I understand there are only so many office jobs to go around for ex-fighters, but if anyone needs a gentle little push at this point, it's Leben.