Portrait of an Artist at UFC 162
Pre-fight interview with Joe Ferraro:
Ferraro: “If you had a perfect fight against Chris Weidman on Saturday night, what is your perfect fight?”
Silva: “Chris Weidman! Chris Weidman! Chris Weidman is the best in the world! Chris Weidman is the new champion de UFC!”
Ferraro: “Because there would be a rematch after that?”
Silva: “No man. I’m tired bro. No rematch. I’m tired. I win, I win, I win. Go back for all the fights. Please.”
The sight of Anderson “The Spider” Silva on the ground, untouched by anything outside gravity is a vision previously unseen; a vision that many fight fans would have placed at some end of a hypothetical equation involving a miracle. Oddly, those picking “The All American” Chris Weidman were actually counting on a miracle, their predictions rooted in a strange faith, a strange belief in something for which there was no empirical evidence. It was nothing short of miraculous, as his stand up skills (outside of a win over Mark Munoz) were essentially non-existent until the great metamorphic change in MMA linearity in the second round of the main event at UFC 162. As for his touted wrestling, Jiu Jitsu combination, it was on full display in the first round only to be rendered moot with a grappling defense from Silva that was continually one step ahead of Weidman. It was after Silva’s Zen denial of a quick, stealthy and deep leg lock attempt by Weidman that all prognosticating prior to the fight turned in upon itself and we were left with Silva’s attempt to paint his masterpiece.
Silva is undoubtedly one of a kind, and his praising martial arts above the sporting aspect of the game reveals more about his character, his motivation and his intent than those who simply espouse their love of combat. He also understands the need to entertain, theatrically, and in stark contrast to the reality of such a violent sport. It seems now, after repeated viewings, that it was hubris, arrogance that led to his loss but the claim can also be made that it was a mapping of the envelope he had begun to push, test and redefine back at UFC 101 against Forrest Griffin.
In that fight we saw the skeleton of UFC 162, the child, fearless and rebellious in the face of threats. At play, he moved like many fighters can move only in their mind and its manifestation worked a sleight of hand that hid the one true strike they should have been minding all the while. This spellbinding blossomed, dilating the pupils of Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, Vitor Belfort, Stephan Bonnar, and Chael Sonnen along with fans, versed in reality television, searching for the cues, the script. There were clear moments against Weidman where we saw the mesmerizing take hold, Weidman following direct orders: when to punch, where to stand, when to attempt a takedown.
There is a difference though, and credit must be given to Weidman. Where the previous fallen had been beckoned to approach, dared to try, to have their limitations revealed to them, Weidman seemed to have been given another option: Do it. That same child that began its game at UFC 101 had grown into an adult that seemed to be questioning not the rules, but his self. By placing his hands to his waist, mocking, teasing and allowing strikes to land, Silva was testing his own limitations, placing them in front of everyone and granting Weidman complete control of the hypothetical.
Weidman did not land a lucky shot, as the intent behind his left hook was to harm and/or knockout and he succeeded, magnificently. What then was Silva’s intent? His clowning, dancing and demanding seemed to be calling forth Weidman’s highest self. The Weidman that chased himself in the first round found a loophole by driving forth, and approaching with abandon and clarity into Silva’s painting, turning Silva’s self portrait into caricature and abruptly bringing up the house lights on the show. The effect was shocking, the bullet-catching magician dying by gunshot.
While Weidman won, no new rungs have been added to the game, and all amendments by Silva have been abrogated. Weidman’s Jiu Jitsu was not otherworldly, his wrestling merely high level and his striking workman-like. There was nothing in his performance that indicates a symbolic passing of a torch, only a belt plated in gold. The new middleweight champion now has contenders; the middleweight division is again the Wild West. The difference however is subtle but enormous in magnitude. Weidman’s opponents will be discussed on a skill set basis. Who has the better wrestling, the better striking, larger size, longer reach, higher finishing rates, take downs per round. There will be no more discussions of brilliance. Brilliance died.
Salvador Dali’s last painting, The Swallows Tail, was inspired by the artist having read Rene Thoms catastrophe theory on abrupt, behavioral changes. It depicts seven possible discontinuities. It was the last painting by the great surrealist, who through his art, distorted time space and matter, hyperbolically similar to Anderson Silva’s masterpiece, his legacy. Where Dali exists, like Silva, is in an era detached from the slow slog of new contenders. Everything continues on and devours itself. Most follow the A to B of inevitability, some rarified all too human, rebel and show inevitability’s inherent loophole: the big risk.