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What to do with Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua and Big Nog?

I’ll get to Anderson Silva closing the book on the middleweight division in a second. First, I want to talk about the other two big fights at UFC 134 on Saturday, namely Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Forrest Griffin and Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub.

Shogun is not back, so stop saying it. One win does not mean he’s “back.” He looked good-but-not-great in pounding a very distracted Forrest Griffin senseless (not to make excuses but Griffin found out the day of the fight that his wife back in the U.S. had gone into labour).

I’m sure it was very satisfying to avenge his previous loss to Griffin, itself an embarrassment. It was a solid win for the former champ, who appeared in better shape than he did in his loss to belt-holder Jon Jones. And nobody pounces at the smell of blood quite the way Shogun does. My head hurts just thinking of the way he hammerfisted Griffin’s melon off the mat like a paddle ball. But Forrest Griffin, distracted or not, is not Jon Jones. Or Rashad Evans. Or Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Or Lyoto Machida. Or any of three or four other top contenders at 205. Griffin’s been broken since Silva embarrassed him at UFC 101, making him gunshy and it shows. He admits he fights to put food on the table and diapers on his new kid, but now that he’s earned enough money to not even worry about that any more, what’s left to drive him? A threepeat with Tito Ortiz?

As for Shogun, he needs a win – a decisive win – over one of those aforementioned fighters before any talk of him being “back” should be bandied about. How about Shogun squaring off with Dan Henderson? I know Hendo is likely next for Anderson Silva, but this match-up is more interesting.

If anyone’s back, it might be Big Nog, who at 35 looks like 50 and staved off forced retirement in his 40th fight on Saturday. He overcame an 18-month layoff and multiple surgeries on each knee and one hip to level Brendan Schaub and end his four-fight winning streak and pretty much shock everybody. Nogueira withstood some solid shots and head-bobbed on a few others before backing Schaub against the cage and finishing him. It was Nogueira’s first win since decisioning Randy Couture almost two years ago to the day. The question now, though, is who does Nogueira face next?

Okay, Anderson Silva. Simply put, there is no one better. There has never been anyone better. And his display against Yushin Okami? How to describe it – he goes from hyper Mortal Kombat mode one second to ducking and weaving with his hands at his side Muhammad Ali-style the next. And the scary thing is, when Silva’s hands drop that’s when he’s truly dangerous, that’s when you know he has his opponent solved and that he feels no threat and the ending is as inevitable as a sunrise. Imagine being Okami, a heavy puncher who was supposed to shove Silva against the cage and rough him up, and watching Silva stand in front of you, hands down, chin exposed, daring you to hit him – and then not being able to do it.

Fedor Emelianenko used to be the unequivocal greatest of all time, but not any more. Not even close. Coincidentally, they both have 31-4 records (ignoring Fedor’s one no contest). But Silva hasn’t lost in more than five years (the infamous up-kick DQ against Okami), and hasn’t legitimately lost since Ryo Chonan pulled off a Hail Mary flying scissor heel hook in 2004. And he’s fought more top-calibre fighters as his career goes on, not fewer. And he’s two years older than Fedor.

But Silva’s success, his utter decimation of the 185-pound division, has created a huge problem for the UFC. He has rendered the division the most exciting in all of MMA – but only when Silva is in the cage. The rest of the time it’s just two middleweights battling for the opportunity to be embarrassed by the champ. So what to do? A permanent more up to 205 and an encounter with Jon Jones at some point seems likely (assuming Jones can keep his belt out of Rashard Evans’ hands, which I’m not convinced will happen). Although UFC boss Dana White is now admitting that a super-fight with welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, the only other fighter with a legitimate claim to being the world’s pound-for-pound best, could happen sooner rather than later. Fans want to see it and White enjoys giving them what they want all the way to the bank.

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