A retired man now, Matt Hughes left behind one of the biggest legacies in all of mixed martial arts. Hughes is a certified legend in the sport and is without a doubt one of the most dominant champions in MMA history.

His reign of dominance in the UFC’s welterweight division began after winning the promotion’s title at UFC 34 and lasted until he lost the belt to B.J. Penn at UFC 46. Hughes once again climbed to the mountain top and held the title until perhaps the greatest welterweight champion surpassed him at UFC 65 when Georges St-Pierre overcame his idol.

There’s not much to discredit about Hughes’ reign as a champion in the UFC. He faced a number of top competitors and not only beat them, but made them look like amateurs in the process. When facing Hughes, fighters knew they’d be going for a ride across the Octagon at least once as the former champion possessed one of the strongest wrestling games we’ve ever seen.

Still, Hughes expressed some regrets from his career after officially retiring last week. One of Hughes’ regrets is that he didn’t move up to 185 pounds to face Anderson Silva.

Indeed the two men’s paths could’ve crossed, but with each fighter at different points in their careers. Silva debuted in the UFC back in 2006, about the time Hughes’ reign of dominance over the welterweight division was coming to an end.

Silva would go on to completely destroy anything and everything that weighed 185 pounds in the Octagon, while Hughes struggled to remain relevant as the sport evolved.

But what would’ve happened had Hughes and Silva met when both were in their prime?

As crazy as it seems, Hughes might not have been a bad choice as the guy to take down “The Spider.”

Let’s get one thing straight, Hughes would be absolutely destroyed if the fight took place on the feet for any extended length of time. Hughes may be as strong as an ox, but that doesn’t mean he should be fighting on the feet for any longer than it takes for him to secure a takedown. The wrestler doesn’t have one-punch knockout power and his technical skills leave a lot to be desired.

Still, we’ve seen what a dominant wrestler can do against Silva. Chael Sonnen, another one-dimensional fighter like Hughes, performed admirably against “The Spider,” coming within minutes of defeating the seemingly invincible foe. Hughes likely could have done the same, except he may have had more success than Sonnen.

We all know that Sonnen’s submission-defense skills are extremely lacking. Where Sonnen fails to see even the most elementary setup coming, Hughes would know how to defend and how to counter. One of Hughes’ most underrated qualities as a fighter was his submission game. Fans love to talk about how strong and powerful he is when controlling a fighter and delivering punches from atop his opponent, but don’t sleep on his submission skills either.

As Joe Rogan loves to say, “He has a very underrated ground game.”

Hughes’ chances versus Silva would be pretty good under one condition. That condition is that Hughes would have the proper time to adjust his body to fighting at a weight class above his normal 170 pounds. Changing weight classes in quick fashion not only hurts your chances in the cage, but affects your body outside of it. Hughes would need time to adjust to fighting at 185 pounds. If given the proper time to adjust, Hughes would have taken the fight to Silva.

Hughes will go down as one of the most dominant champions ever, but he could have gone down as one of the best fighters of all time as well, had he defeated Silva. We’ve all seen what a powerful force Silva is in the cage, but Hughes could have been the first to shatter that aura of invincibility. Of course, we’ll never know now that Hughes has hung his gloves up for good. And now that the image of Hughes face-planting into the canvas against Josh Koscheck is still fresh in everyone’s mind, fans might even forget just how dominant the farmer from Illinois truly was.

Photo: Matt Hughes (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.