Now that 2007 has closed its books, a number of MMA websites have put out their ‘Best of the Year’ awards and top ten lists. One of the more interesting discussions happening right now is over who deserves to be called Fighter of the Year for 2007. Sherdog.com apparently thinks that honor belongs to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Sam Caplan over at Five Ounces of Pain concurs. Personally, I find this baffling. Not because I don’t think “Rampage” had a good year, but because I think it’s pretty obvious who had an even better one: Anderson Silva.
While Jackson’s accomplishments (most notably upsetting Chuck Liddell for the UFC light heavyweight title) may have been more visible, Silva’s were more impressive. Not that there aren’t similarities, but when compared head to head there’s no doubt in my mind that Silva had the tougher and more dominant year:
– Both men fought three times and won all three in 2007. Jackson started by beating professional heavy bag Marvin Eastman for his entrance into the UFC, while Silva dismantled TUF winner Travis Lutter. While neither of those guys are world beaters, Lutter is certainly the more dangerous and more legitimate opponent, no question.
– Both men defended their world titles against former champs in impressive fashion. Silva came into the year with the middleweight strap and none of his three opponents even got close enough to smell the leather. Jackson surprised Liddell in his second fight of the year and then retained the title against former Pride champ Dan Henderson.
Silva beat ex-champ Rich Franklin in brutal fashion, again, as well as former King of Pancrase Nathan Marquardt. Both, essentially, beat two championship-caliber opponents in ’07, but when Jackson fought Henderson he was really fighting a natural middleweight, as evidenced by Henderson’s move down since that fight. Even then, he won via decision. Silva absolutely destroyed everyone he faced, and looked leaps and bounds ahead of them in the process.
– Both entered the UFC from other organizations and hit the ground running. Silva did so in 2006 and Rampage just this past year, but the difference is that Silva has been facing nothing but top competition the last few years and has yet to be taken past the second round in the UFC. “Rampage” was coming off two decision victories over Matt Lindland (a middleweight) and Dong Sik Yoon (a judo fighter with a losing record) and a TKO over Hirotaka Tokoi (who?). I realize it’s slightly unfair to compare their acheivements the previous year for the purposes of this discussion, but the point is that Silva has had to climb a tougher ladder to get to this point, while “Rampage” was at least partially propelled into a quick title shot by his obvious marketability.
All this isn’t to say that Jackson didn’t also have a banner year. Winning a world title and defending it against someone like Dan Henderson gives him plenty to put on his Christmas cards. But I have the sneaking suspicion that Silva is getting overlooked here because he isn’t as vocal or as visible in the MMA world as “Rampage” (who is?), and because of language barriers his interaction with the American media is limited.
Silva’s fights this past year, particularly his last bout with Franklin, verge on artistry. He’s a joy to watch, to put it simply. His biggest problem at the moment is a lack of credible opponents. But that is, as Marlowe Stanfield would say, one of them good problems.