Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Regicide: The Spider's Demise

"But I don't fight anymore for the belt. I'm tired. I've fought for a long time. My plan for the belt is finished tonight."
- Anderson Silva, UFC 162

One of my favorite endgame bosses of all time is Quake III Arena's Xaero. Watching over Arena Eternal for countless millenia, he awaited the one hopeful who would be worthy enough to defeat and succeed him. Upon beating him in his level, aptly named The Very End of You, the player is treated to the game's final cutscene - one that shows Xaero to be seemingly relieved that his long vigil has been ended and accepting his inevitable Ascension. Or death.

This week marked the fall of one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the Octagon - Anderson Silva. His seven-year reign as the UFC middleweight champion ended in a devastating, and embarrassing, knockout after grossly underestimating and toying with his opponent.

His tenure, arguably second only to the great heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko (who never fought in the UFC), was absurdly terrifying considering the way he secured every victory. In more ways than one, Anderson seemed to have been ripped straight out of a video game - to the point that he seemed to dictate where, when and how he utterly destroyed his competition. I imagine that it would have been disheartening to his opponents (and those who bet against the champion) when they realized who stood across them across the cage and what grisly fate awaited them.

This mystique was probably partially to blame for Anderson's downfall. Over the years, people have commented on how Silva's performance inside the cage have led his opponents to embrace defeat long before fight night. It could be argued that mind games have become an integral part of Silva's metagame - and to add that to one heck of a lethal arsenal of precise striking complemented by slick defensive Brazilian jiujitsu would be devastating and seemingly overwhelming.

When the Last Emperor's decade-long win streak was snapped by Fabricio Werdum three years ago, he remarked that everybody falls sooner or later. There is much truth to this statement when one is a champion - a dominant one at that - and everyone is gunning for you. The difference here is Fedor lost due to a tactical mistake. Silva lost because he forgot the most important thing that a fighter should remember - that he's in a fight.

If there's anything that would be any consolation (and no, his legacy is still solidly intact and would be remembered for years to come), I think he saved face during his post-fight interview. We'll never know what it feels like to fight for a living - even if one is extremely talented at it. We'll never know how heavy of a burden it is to keep beating people up for the entertainment of others simply because it is something one is perfectly good at. We'll never know the toll it takes to defend the status of being number one for years, knowing that the sole goal of a lot of people out there is to take it from him.

It's amazing how much easier it is to compare it to something from fiction rather than real life - like the aforementioned Xaero or maybe even Afro.

Despite all the glory, perhaps that's how champions feel. And it's one that the Spider is finally rid of.

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