#5: Anderson Silva vs. Carlos Newton
PRIDE 25, 3/16/03
Flying knees are great and everything. But it’s the post-fight Michael Jackson impersonation leading directly into the handshake/hug that makes this one legendary. Watch the full fight here.
#4: Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben
UFC Fight Night 5, 6/28/06
See also: The 10 Worst Mismatches in MMA History
#3: Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin 1
UFC 64, 10/14/06
Silva’s arrival as a UFC champion, and one of the sport’s most dramatic changing-of-the-guard moments. Franklin had been a wrecking machine for over two years, and Silva went through him like he was Chris Leben.
#2: Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
UFC 126, 2/5/11
What did we learn, kids? Anderson Silva is a ninja/Jedi hybrid, trained by Immortals.
#1: Anderson Silva vs. Tony Fryklund
Cage Rage 16, 4/22/06
As Anderson explains in Mixed Martial Arts Instruction Manual: Striking, you can thank Silva’s wife and Tony Jaa for this one:
“Not long before my Cage Rage fight with Tony Frykland, I saw the movie Ong Bak. Tony Jaa, the martial arts hero in the movie is a master at Muay Boran, an art I have always been interested in. There was one move in particular he did that blew me away. Instead of attacking with a side elbow or an over-the-top elbow, both of which are common in Muay Thai, Jaa stepped toward one of the villains and threw a lead reverse back elbow. I was so enamored with the move I went to my trainers and told them that I was going to use the strike in my next fight to knock out my opponent. Immediately they shut the idea down. “That won’t work,” they said. “Just forget about that elbow.” I wasn’t convinced but every time I tried to practice the move during training, the could come run over and tell me to focus on techniques that would actually work.
I still wasn’t convinced, so one night I went home and asked my wife to stand on the couch and hold out her hand. I executed a lead reverse back elbow into her palm, and she told me what I already knew — it was a very painful strike. To get in the practice I needed, I had her stand on the couch every evening after my official training — this time holding a pillow — and I would do one hundred reverse back elbows. By the time the Frykland fight came around, I felt very confident. Unfortunately, backstage I couldn’t sneak off with my wife to warm up on a pillow, so I had one of my training partners hold out a mitt so I could squeeze in a few more lead reverse back elbows. Again my trainers told me to forget that move. I figured I had no other choice but to prove them wrong, so two minutes into my fight with Frykland, I stepped toward him, threw a lead reverse back elbow at his chin, and knocked him out.”