The last few years haven’t been kind to former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight ace and a man who many consider one of the greatest fighters of all time in Anderson Silva.
After getting through the controversy that was a failed drug test for banned substances Drostanolone and Androstane in 2015 and going winless the following year upon his return with losses to Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier in 2016, Silva was hoping to rebound in 2017 despite the constant calls for retirement.
Derek Brunson was coming into his matchup with Silva fresh off of a loss to Robert Whittaker in a one round back-and-forth brawl. Despite the loss, Brunson was in good position in the middleweight division. Being 5-1 in his last 6, the loss proved not to set him back much and he got his wish in a marquee matchup with a former champion looking to re-establish himself and get another shot at earning his belt back.
In what was originally thought of as an intriguing matchup between a veteran on the rebound and an up-and-comer looking for a win over a prestigious name; fans, analysts, and fighters alike were left scratching their heads when the decision was read in the Octagon at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Although it was common opinion that Brunson had outpointed Silva for three rounds, Silva was declared the victor in a bout that left us all with more questions than answers in what is now known as 2017’s “Robbery of the Year.”
The bout played out similarly to many Silva fights have in the past, minus the spectacular knockout. Silva was content to sit on the outside and wait for Brunson to move in to unload on a lethal counter shot. Much to Silva and the fans’ dismay, Brunson was more than willing to follow a familiar game-plan, looking to force “The Spider” to come forward and be the aggressor. Silva never got his opportunity at a vintage counter and the fight played out over 15 minutes with Silva doing very little in terms of offense and Brunson capitalizing on his strength advantage, which was evident in the clinch and with his wrestling.
Brunson managed to secure top position in all three rounds -- the second and third being the most significant of the trio -- in which he was able to posture up and land punches and elbows. The clinch has been an area of strength for Silva throughout his illustrious career, in which he’s been known to deliver some of the most devastating knees we’ve seen in mixed martial arts, but this night Brunson proved to be the superior of the two in close quarters where he was able to muscle Silva against the cage and work his dirty boxing in route to what most considered a clear cut decision win for the North Carolinian.
Silva and Brunson embraced post-fight and Silva went as far as to lift Brunson’s arm, as if signifying than he admitted defeat to Brunson, ready to accept the decision as it came. Though as Bruce Buffer read out the scorecards, it soon became apparent that what Brooklyn had on its hands was a full blown head scratcher of an outcome with Silva as the victor via unanimous decision.
Brunson was egregious when the decision was called, visibly upset and reluctant to embrace the celebrating Silva as he attempted to lock arms with the now defeated fighter. Much to Silva’s dismay, The Barclays Center sung out with a chorus of boos, letting the UFC and pay-per-view broadcast know how they felt about the decision and maybe about the lackluster matchup in general. Yet just like that, Silva got the bounce back win he was looking for. Although in typical Silva fashion, the outcome was not without controversy. And while Brunson declined on appealing the bout, he let the world know via his social media accounts that he was certain the fight was a robbery.
Over the years, Silva has been a treat to MMA fans, delivering violent finishes and a record number of title defenses that had fans wondering if we’d ever see the Brazilian lose. Fast forward just a few years after his legendary bouts with fighters like Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort and the narrative has done a complete 180 in terms of how “The Spider” is perceived, sans a failed drug test and a string of lopsided loses.
As it stands, Silva holds a unanimous decision victory over Brunson, albeit with an asterisk next to it and what could be the final win of his career, as well as the widely proclaimed “Robbery of the Year” for 2017.
Sherdog’s year-end awards were voted upon by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Chris Nelson, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Eric Stinton, Todd Martin, Jordan Colbert, Josh Stillman, Jesse Denis, Edward Carbajal and Anthony Walker.