Reporters decide high moments from Anderson Silva’s legacy of UFC greatness

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Reporters pick top moments from Anderson Silva's legacy of UFC greatness

Anderson Silva's main Fight Night event against Uriah Hall on Saturday is likely his last fight with the UFC, but that doesn't mean the all-time star plans to stop the fight altogether.

"This will probably be my last fight in the UFC," Silva told ESPN's Ariel Helwani. "But let's see the result."

Silva wants to see what happens against Hall in Las Vegas before deciding on his immediate future. Silva is 1-6-1 in his last eight years. Would another loss convince him to call it over? Would an impressive victory convince him to keep fighting for another promotion?

If Silva decides to leave, his legacy would include a 16-fight winning streak, the longest in UFC history, and a scrapbook of memorable accomplishments.

ESPN's MMA reporters share their favorite memories from a career in the Hall of Fame.

A tough challenge

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Before his final UFC fight, check out Anderson Silva's greatest moments at the Octagon.

Phil Murphy: My favorite memory of Anderson Silva is admittedly a bit out of left field. Silva was in his middleweight division for two years and finished every UFC opponent within two rounds. On July 19, 2008, four months after defeating Dan Henderson at UFC 82, Silva was booked a weight class on a cable card against former heavyweight James "Sandman" Irvin, who was 14-4 and was not contesting at the time.

Saturday's UFC Fight Night shows the last fight in Anderson Silva's career. Silva is considered one of the greats of MMA and will play against Uriah Hall in the main event. In the co-main event, Andre Fili competes against Bryce Mitchell.

UFC Fight Night: Hall against Silva
• Saturday, Las Vegas
• Primary Ticket: ESPN +, 7pm ET
• Preparations: ESPN +, 4:00 pm ET

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Imagine Israel Adesanya facing Anthony "Rumble" Johnson for £ 205 in a major no-pay-per-view event weeks after a big fight. It would never happen.

12 summers ago. Silva was a strong favorite, but questions remained as to how the power of "The Spider" would translate a weight class against a much thicker opponent. These were answered in 61 seconds. Silva caught a body kick and cracked a right flank in rhythm, which Irvin dropped, and began the end sequence, a flood of right hands that made the Sandman cold.

This was the culmination of my MMA evangelism efforts – I invited friends who were new to the sport to watch the fights. Often there was a lack of an adequate assessment of a technical finish or a surprising surprise. That was not the case when Silva switched off Irvin. Involuntary profanity from the uninitiated filled my living room. Silva was someone mainstream sports fans could understand. And for him it was really special to make 20 pounds of his natural weight on that display. He was one of a kind and this night proved it.

Look, Forrest, no hands

Anderson Silva (right) defeated Forrest Griffin (left) with a KO in the first round at UFC 101 on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Brett Okamoto: What's the most demoralizing thing a fighter can do to an opponent during a competition? It has to drop its hands, right? Walk up to an opponent with your hands down and encourage them to even try to hit them. I mean, sometimes we see a fighter drop his hands to mock an opponent, but usually this behavior ends immediately when he's in range. And there are fighters who drop their hands, of course, but it's conducive to their style and they do it all the time – and again they are very careful about the range within which they do that.

When Anderson Silva fought Forrest Griffin on August 8, 2009, he walked forward with his hands down just because he knew he could. He knew Griffin couldn't hurt him. He was so much better than the former light heavyweight champion that he could walk forward with his hands down and eventually knock him out with one push. That was the defining moment for me when it came to Silva's ability to not only beat his opponents but to play with them. In all honesty, that night in Philadelphia is one of my favorite martial arts memories.

Getting the last word against an all-time speaker

After Anderson Silva lost the first four rounds, he was able to submit Chael Sonnen with a triangular throttle. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

Marc Raimondi: The Anderson Silva era was on the edge. After a disastrously boring performance against Demian Maia four months ago, Silva was beaten for almost five rounds by Chael Sonnen – his loudest and most aggressive rival. It was August 7, 2010, UFC 117. Silva had been UFC middleweight champion for four years by then – a colorful one. But his reign seemed to be coming to an end. Sonnen used his suppressive wrestling and sneaky boxing skills to dominate Silva in a way that Silva had never been dominated before. To make matters worse, this was all Sonnen said he would do.

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Sonnen, perhaps the greatest trash talker in MMA history, sold the fight by saying Silva wasn't nearly as good as people thought, in sometimes clever, sometimes blatant ways. Ironically, Sonnen's barbs helped raise Silva's stock after that terrible battle with Maia, making Silva – and Sonnen – a legitimate pay-per-view tie. Silva vs. Sunning was one of the hottest rivalries in MMA history and one of the most anticipated. And Sonnen should take away Silva's momentum and title. With less than two minutes to go to the finals in Oakland, California, Sonnen was in full control. He had won every round and landed on Silva and landed on the ground. The result was a foregone conclusion. Sonnen, the UFC court jester, was about to become middleweight king. In sheer desperation, Silva threw up his legs to catch suns in a triangular thrush. It worked. Somehow. At 3:10 a.m. on the fifth round, Sonnen knocked out. Silva kept the title.

It's an iconic moment when Silva lost sight of victory in the final minutes. It was also career-defining and enabled Silva to break through from dominant champion to mainstream star. The sun rematch, two years later at UFC 148, was even bigger and Silva also won it via TKO in the second round.

A turning point for a Brazilian star

Anderson Silva, right, scored a memorable knockout win against Vitor Belfort in 2011. James Law / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

Ariel Helwani: So many moments to choose from. Ultimately, I will continue with Anderson Silva's incredible knockout from Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 on February 5th, 2011. The structure of this fight just seemed different. It was Brazil's past (Belfort) to meet its present (Silva) and it felt like the country was finally treating Silva like the big deal that it was.

I remember the media attention for this fight, which feels very different. The excitement in Las Vegas was great and culminated in the memorable encounter during the deliberations during which Silva posed with a Jabbawockeez mask. It's one of my all-time favorite faceoffs.

And then, of course, Silva managed one of the biggest KOs of all time in the fight when he landed that front kick in the face. What a knockout. What a moment.

I remember talking to some friends who cover the sport in Brazil and they said the fight was a massive turning point for Silva in the country. After that, he became a true Brazilian sports hero and not just a great MMA that he hit for and how he did it.

A tribute to "The Greatest"

Jeff Wagenheim: It was August 2013, just weeks after Anderson Silva was shockingly dethroned as UFC Middleweight Champion by Chris Weidman, his first loss in 18 fights in 7½ years. Silva was in New York City, so we arranged to meet for an interview at Sports Illustrated headquarters. He spoke briefly of his desire for a Weidman rematch, but Silva quickly turned the conversation to his dream match, a boxing match with Roy Jones Jr. "I like the style and the movement," he said. "Roy Jones and Muhammad Ali are the inspiration for my fighting style."

Anderson Silva will fight on Saturday, maybe for the last time. He gave so much thrill to fans, but I will always remember a moment when * he * was the one who was in awe – in 2013 at the Sports Illustrated NYC office, before an exhibition of Muhammad Ali memorabilia. Silva's hero. pic.twitter.com/URiV9j3i3g

– Jeff Wagenheim (@jeffwagenheim) October 28, 2020

Silva's eyes danced when he talked about Ali. You couldn't miss the awe, the awe. After the interview was over, one of the editors of the magazine who was with us in the studio waved Silva and me to follow him. He led us down the hall to a floor-to-ceiling glass case with memorabilia from "The Greatest". A long white box skirt made of satin. A pair of red Everlast gloves. A selection of event programs and SI covers shows Ali's face. A large, framed color print of one of the most iconic photographs in sporting history, taken in 1965 by Neil Leifer of Ali of SI of a fallen Sonny Liston.

Silva stood there for a few minutes, fascinated, and stared at the retrospective. He didn't say a word. Maybe he couldn't. He was soaked in every detail, like he was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then he pulled out a smartphone and crouched low to find a good angle for a photo.

When Silva finally spoke, he should ask if he could have his picture taken. He posed with his thumb up in front of the Ali display, a smile spreading across his face.

Here was a man who was MMA's consensus GOAT at the time and instantly turned into a cheerful fan who raised his childhood hero in a shrine.