Anderson Silva's top five UFC fights

Ben Blackmore August 26, 2011
The UFC has thrown up stacks of important fights over the years, so many that there seems to be a new DVD on the shelf every week. Anderson Silva is one man who has contributed more than most to those UFC annals, so here ESPN charts the Brazilian's five top UFC performances...

Forrest Griffin was left chasing shadows © UFC

1. Forrest Griffin - UFC 101

UFC co-commentator Joe Rogan describes Anderson Silva as the most precise fighter ever to step inside an Octagon. The photo to the right does little to disagree. The middleweight champion is, quite simply, one of the only men in mixed martial arts who could dream of standing directly in front of Forrest Griffin, dropping his hands, slipping a straight left whilst keeping his eyes entirely on the target, and then finishing the former light-heavyweight king with a jab. This was Silva's second step into the UFC 205lb division, yet he had schooled a guy who had beaten Rampage Jackson only 12 months previous. "You know, where I made my biggest mistake was saying I would fight that guy," said Griffin. "That's definitely the first mistake I made and the biggest."

Vitor Belfort had never suffered a clean knockout before he met Anderson Silva © Getty Images

2. Vitor Belfort - UFC 126

Every so often sport throws up a moment that is simply jaw-dropping. UFC 126 in Las Vegas provided one of those occasions. Vitor Belfort was arguably the most gifted striker Anderson Silva had ever faced. The Brazilian's hands are electric, too good for the likes of Wanderlei Silva no less, and there is no doubt that he looked the quicker man for almost three minutes against Wanderlei's namesake Anderson. However, just when it looked like Silva might be seconds away from leaving his chin on the end of a Belfort bomb, the UFC middleweight champion pulled off a knockout of such unique beauty that any previous detractors simply had to stand and applaud. Seemingly stopping time as he picked his target, Silva aimed a front kick right to the chin of Belfort, crumpling the challenger for the first clean knockout defeat of his career.

Rich Franklin will still have nightmares of Silva's clinch © UFC

3. Rich Franklin - UFC 64

When Rich Franklin stepped inside the Octagon with Anderson Silva, he did so with the confidence of a man who had left the very same cage in victorious manner on seven previous occasions. Undefeated in the UFC, Franklin was the undisputed middleweight champion having beaten the likes of Ken Shamrock, Jorge Rivera and Evan Tanner, and he had been paired against a Brazilian newcomer with only one UFC victory against Chris Leben to his name. However, all it needed was one close exchange for Franklin to know he was in trouble, departing Silva's first clinch out of breath after a couple of damaging knees. Chael Sonnen has since questioned, 'what is Muay Thai?', but Franklin will be able to give a very accurate description as he became locked in Silva's clinch for a second time - this time proving fatal. Razor sharp knees collapsed the champion enough to open up his unguarded face, where one more accurate blow by Silva broke Franklin's nose... and his resistance.

Anderson Silva was less than two minutes from losing his title © UFC

4. Chael Sonnen - UFC 117

Where do you place Anderson Silva's clash with Chael Sonnen in the list of his all-time greatest performances? In one respect, it was the worst display of the Brazilian's career, suffering an absolute beating for 23 minutes. But on the flip side, he showed the true spirit of a champion to pull out the victory when all seemed lost. Silva claims he busted his ribs two weeks before UFC 117, and if that is true he should be commended for his bravery in fighting on despite having a hound dog of an opponent like Sonnen all over him. Having been rocked in round one, Silva looked like he had no answer to the American's top control, never once reversing the position in four rounds. Question marks began to arise over The Spider's ground game, but with 110 seconds remaining in the fight he locked on a triangle choke that forced the seemingly relentless Sonnen to tap. It was the ultimate get-out-of-jail card, played in arguably the most memorable fight of his career.

Chris Leben had never been knocked out before he met The Spider © UFC

5. Chris Leben - Fight Night 5

The average fighter connects with around 35 percent of his strikes. That is the average fighter. So imagine Chris Leben's horror when he came across a UFC debutant who landed 100 percent of what he threw. "The Crippler" was hit with blink-of-the-eye punches, head kicks and knees as he walked into a whirlwind of laser-like attack. This was one of only two fights to date that has seen Chris Leben hit the mat and fail to get back up, he has only ever been knocked out twice, and Anderson Silva was the man to do it in a display of striking so good that it acted as the prophesy for what has happened ever since. Leben promoted the fight well, claiming he would knock Silva out and send him back to Japan where fighting was a little easier. But within 49 seconds Silva had produced a performance of such outstanding quality that he had booked a title shot - after just one fight.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk