Since approximately the middle of 2009, the UFC has had a problem. This problem is not the result of poor business decisions, scandal within the company or any of the usual situations that cause fight promoters consternation. In fact, this problem has been caused by the immense success of two of the UFC’s fighters.

When Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre debuted in the UFC, most MMA fans probably thought they’d be good for some entertaining scraps and perhaps fight their way into title contention. Few people could have predicted they would demonstrate a level of dominance the sport had never seen before.

At first, the near-certainty of a Silva or GSP win was fun on its own. It was like watching the Jordan-era Bulls in that, no matter the perceived advantages of their opponents, everyone pretty much knew what the outcome would be even before the game started. Being able to witness that sort of greatness is something all sports fans cherish, even if they’re rooting for the opposition.

After a while, though, the middleweight and welterweight divisions were unable to continue to provide the sort of championship-caliber opponents for these two fighters that would keep fans intrigued. The UFC’s faithful was, therefore, forced to sit through less-than-competitive contests between Silva and fighters like Patrick Cote and Thales Leites and, later, GSP grinding out decisions over Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck.

Now, there has been some recent improvement in the match-up quality—particularly with Silva, who had an interesting two-fight series with Chael Sonnen along with a bout against Vitor Belfort—but by and large, the two fighters have left their respective divisions bereft of contenders who make fans eager to pay $50 to see them challenge for a title.

This has left fans with few other perceived options for Silva and St-Pierre, other than to have them fight each other. Most MMA authorities have Silva as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world and GSP sits either second or third, depending on who you ask. They’re only separated by a single weight class and, again, have on multiple occasions been forced to defend their titles against opponents in their own divisions whose worthiness left some wondering.

For a little while, such a superfight seemed like a great idea. After all, who wouldn’t love to see two of the sport’s all-time greats square off to see who truly reigns supreme. Then, in 2011, another fighter injected himself into this superfight picture by virtue of a similar level of crushing success in the light heavyweight division.

Jon Jones, in the span of about two years, has established himself as one of MMA’s elite. Having bested Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the light heavyweight title and defeated three former title-holders in his subsequent championship defenses, Jones has edged his way into the pound-for-pound top three, even surpassing GSP in some experts’ minds. With a similar paucity of championship contenders at light heavyweight (let us remind ourselves who Jon Jones is fighting on Sept. 22), wouldn’t it make just as much sense to consider a Silva/Jones superfight?

For starters, Silva and Jones would probably match up better in terms of weight comparison. It has been said that Silva regularly comes into his middleweight fights weighing at least 210 pounds, so assuming the two would fight at light heavyweight, Silva could at least get close to Jones’ fight-night weight.

Against GSP, Silva certainly wouldn’t agree to fight at a weight lighter than 185 pounds. Given that GSP would therefore have to bulk up considerably, while Silva could more or less maintain his regular training practices, the latter would likely have the distinct size and strength advantage in that fight.

Secondly, we have to consider the ways GSP and Jones have gone about winning their recent fights. With Jones, we’ve seen him TKO one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport (Rua), we’ve seen him out-grapple an All-American wrestler (Ryan Bader), and we’ve seen him seize control for an entire five-round contest with one of the most game fighters in the business (Rashad Evans).

St-Pierre, on the other hand, has won five of six victories by grinding out decisions primarily using his superior takedowns and ground control to keep opponents on their backs. This strategy worked for Chael Sonnen for most of his first fight with Silva and for the first round of the rematch. After that, however, the middleweight champ quickly adjusted his own game plan en route to a TKO smashing of Sonnen back in July.

Finally, fans should think about which opponent—GSP or Jones—would provide Silva the greater challenge. After all, it’s his dominance which has prompted fight enthusiasts to concoct these alternative scenarios for how they can finally see Silva meet his match. In terms of technical skill and experience, GSP has the edge. He’s been fighting professionally for more than a decade and has improved leaps and bounds as an MMA athlete since he started in the sport. Jones, while certainly technically proficient in his own right, is only 25 years old and has likely not even entered the prime of his career. In all likelihood, the Jones we see in five years will make the current version seem like an amateur.

That being said, Jones’ superior size would be the difference-maker. GSP is only 5-foot-10, which would make it easier for the 6-foot-2 Silva to simply keep St-Pierre at a distance, thus eliminating the takedown threat. That Jones is 6-foot-4 would complicate things for Silva, who would not be doing himself any favors by standing anywhere near Jones’ range. Jones’ weight advantage and grappling prowess make it equally unattractive to attempt to take the fight to the mat. No matter where the fighters would be in the cage, Silva would find himself in for a real battle.

In truth, the chances we see Silva fight anyone outside the current crop of UFC middleweights are probably pretty low. St-Pierre still has to re-establish himself as the true welterweight champion after what will be a 19-month layoff, and Jones has Vitor Belfort waiting for him, for better or worse. What’s more, Jones’ recent (perceived) slight to the UFC will likely make company president Dana White more than hesitant to shine the spotlight so brightly on the light heavyweight champion for the time being.

Still, in the interest of seeing the world’s best fighter truly test himself, Jon Jones provides a greater challenge to Anderson Silva than Georges St-Pierre.

Photo: Anderson Silva (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.