For the first time since Anderson Silva joined the UFC in 2006, he woke up on a Monday morning without the championship belt.
Chris Weidman defeated the ex-middleweight champion by knockout in the second round of the UFC 162 main event, ending a 10-fight streak of defending the belt in his division.
While the loser is typically left to jockey for position in the division ladder in the wake of a loss like this, Silva is no ordinary loser. He holds a 33-5 career mixed martial arts record and a 16-1 mark inside the octagon, and is widely considered to be the best MMA fighter of all-time.
All that said, UFC president Dana White must see that Silva returns to the ring for an immediate rematch with the new belt holder. If not for the good of the sport (not to mention pay-per-view ratings), then for the legacy of a fighter who has never been questioned before in his UFC career.
Weidman was a popular pick to upset the former champ long before the pair entered the octagon on Saturday night in Las Vegas, earning support for his candidacy as a former Division I wrestling champion from MMA pundits everywhere.
The challenger's fight strategy was supposed to be simple—take Silva to the ground and use his world-class wrestling ability to his advantage. By the end of the match, though, it was a single strike of Weidman's left hand that ended up getting the job done.
Always one for theatrics, Silva was content with putting on a show for the Las Vegas fans in attendance rather than keep his hands up or focus on contending with Weidman's stand-up game.
Weidman managed to get the fight to the ground in the first round, but Silva was undeterred. He bounced around and let the challenger connect with several jabs toward the end of Round 1 in a blatant attempt to convince Weidman he didn't have the punching chops to contend with Silva's smooth defense.
The 38-year-old Brazilian paid dearly for that strategy.
The new champion had his moment of glory early in Round 2. Silva dodged several Weidman punches before mocking the challenger once more by allowing his legs to buckle and eyes to roll—all in one motion.
But Weidman closed the gap, countered with a combination and managed to catch Silva with a left cross that just nicked his jaw and forced referee Herb Dean to crown a new champion after Weidman finished the job from the ground.
In a matter of seconds, Silva went from the unquestioned greatest of all time to a fighter whose arrogance and flash overshadowed what should have been an impressive clash of Brazilian jiu-jitsu mastery and All-American wrestling.
Lucky for us, that style of fight can still happen.
Silva seemed disinterested in a rematch and fighting in general during his interview with Joe Rogan after the Weidman victory was final, more or less saying that the new champion is the new face of the middleweight division.
His vague comments about a return to the octagon are even harder to interpret if you listen to this pre-fight interview:
White was quick to give Silva the title shot in a post-fight press conference, as noted here by Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times. White made sure to assuage those who questioned Silva's commitment to the UFC, guaranteeing that Silva wants nothing more than to return to the ring against Weidman.
One man not happy with that proposed rematch? Vitor Belfort:
Resistance from other middleweight contenders aside, this match is what's best for the UFC. It's also what's best for Silva, who has never had to face the consequences of his showboating strategy before Saturday night's loss to Weidman.
As Ben Fowlkes of USA Today put it, the UFC needs Silva to return to the ring. Although the former champ is clearly burned out with the weight and the pressure that comes with being the best fighter in the world for the past five years, he also needs the UFC if he wants to regain his unquestioned top-dog status.
Then again, maybe he doesn't want it.
The curious interviews serve as a basis for that claim, but it's hard for any of us to swallow the idea that the lasting image of Silva in the octagon will be that of Weidman's left hook.
If Silva agrees to return for a rematch with Weidman, it will both serve the individual matchup that we didn't get to see and force Silva to respond to a loss for the first time in his UFC career.
Just for a point of reference, Silva has recorded a knockout or a technical knockout in each of the four bouts he's appeared in after a loss. Three of those four decisions came in the first round.
We've never seen that before in the UFC, simply because we've never seen a Silva loss in the octagon. Although the Weidman loss was disappointing, a strong Silva victory without the cocky behavior that cost him on Saturday night would serve to absolve his fifth career MMA loss and restore any luster loss by flirting with the devil just a little too much.
Silva doesn't need another win to retire as one of the all-time greats. For that matter, he doesn't need another appearance. As you can see in this tweet from the former middleweight king, he's clearly discovered that there are more important things in this life than the next fight:
But it would be the shame of the century to see Silva exit the octagon in the manner that he did at UFC 162. Legacy aside, it would be tough to see any champion's last fight end in the way Silva's did against Weidman.
The new champion earned the belt—he made Silva pay for treating the fight like a joke.
That image is the wrong one to associate with Anderson Silva's reign at the top of the UFC pecking order. At the very least, he needs to prove he has something to fight for by showing us all again how imposing he can be when focused.
If not, the leg-buckle and drop might be the go-to memory of the UFC's greatest champion.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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