We thought we knew what made Anderson Silva great. We had no idea.
We watched him destroy opponent after opponent ever since his UFC debut six years ago. Not one of his first 11 bouts in the organization that's home to the world's elite mixed martial artists even made him break a sweat. The rangy Brazilian with a dancer's fluidity and a matador's killer instinct outclassed everyone, even when he appeared to be barely trying. We thought we were seeing greatness.
We weren't. We were seeing dominance.
Greatness would not come until two summers ago, when Silva stepped into the octagon with Chael Sonnen. The UFC middleweight champion won that fight, too, but it wasn't the day at the beach his fights had been to that point. Silva took a beating from the loquacious Sonnen, a smothering wrestler who surprised the sport's greatest striker with his fisticuffs acumen. For the better part of 23 minutes, Anderson was on his back beneath a Chael blanket, eating punches and elbows. But then he pulled a rabbit out of a hat, clamping on a triangle armbar that elicited the tapout and ensured that the championship belt would remain his.