There are fighters in MMA that have been an important part of the growth and evolution of the sport.

Then there’s Wanderlei Silva.

The Brazilian became a larger-than-life persona during the heyday of Pride Fighting Championships. Amassing 22 wins for the Japanese promotion, “The Axe Murderer” established himself as one of the most feared combatants ever to step into a ring or cage.

It’s been almost six years since the fall of Pride, and Silva has since returned to competition in the UFC. Bouncing between middleweight and light heavyweight, the former Pride champion has gone just 4-5 since returning to the Octagon, but if his “Fight of the Night” and “Knockout of the Night” performance at UFC on Fuel TV 8 against Brian Stann is proof of anything, it’s that the 36-year-old still has gas left in the tank.

Just two years ago, Silva was on the wrong end of a vicious 27-second knockout at the hands of Chris Leben at UFC 132. Many, including UFC President Dana White, hinted that the time for Silva to hang up his gloves had come. However, the fighter was adamant that he still had more to give the fans.

Silva proved he was right with a back-and-forth battle with Cung Le at UFC 139, which not only returned him to the win column but earned him the first of three straight “Fight of the Night” awards. Although he fell short against Rich Franklin in his native Brazil last June, Silva came very close to scoring a signature knockout of the former champion in the bout’s second frame.

But it was Silva’s return to Japan that would write another triumphant chapter to his already illustrious career. His fight with Stann was anything but a safe and strategic bout that might be expected of a fighter nearing the 50-fight plateau. Instead, Silva and Stann put on a performance for the ages, trading wild, looping hooks and dropping each other multiple times over the course of two rounds. In a bit of irony, a fight that exemplified the term ‘throwing caution to the wind” was ended by a perfectly timed right hand counter, followed by Silva’s trademark left hook.

Following the fight, Silva acknowledged that he would have to call it a career sooner or later. Yet with emotions riding high, Silva was not ready to ride off into the sunset. On the cusp of what will be his 50th battle—with so many of his past wars still fresh in the minds of everyone in the sport—the legend deserves to make the call on when he retires.

Unlike some of the sport’s other pioneers, Silva has shown he can still compete at a high level even if his best days are behind him. Although he hasn’t been able to put together a winning streak of late—alternating wins and losses over his past five outings—the wins over Stann, Le and consensus top-10 fighter Michael Bisping prove that he’s not embarrassing himself or the sport by stepping into the cage.

Silva won’t hold UFC gold before his career comes to a close, but he can put on more entertaining fights for the fans. Between everything he’s done as an ambassador for the sport in Brazil, Japan and the United States, and the fact that he’s still competitive inside the cage, Silva has earned the right to fight as long as he wants.

Photo: Wanderlei Silva (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.