Opinion: Saitama and the Last Stand of the “Axe Murderer”
By Jesse Heitz
Tomorrow, Saturday, March 2, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, will return to nation that made him famous, to the place where he was re-born as one of the sport’s most feared competitors. He will headline the UFC on Fuel TV 8 card with Brian Stann. The fight should provide some serious fireworks, but predictions of the fight’s winner are heavily skewed in Stann’s favor.
Wanderlei in his incredible tenure in Pride FC, scored some of the most impressive wins ever recorded in MMA. He ruled Pride’s Middleweight division for the better part of a decade, notching his belt with the likes of: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Ricardo Arona, and Dan Henderson. Through his trademark aggression and fearlessness, he’s cultivated a legion of die-hard fans. What 200 pounder takes on the most feared heavyweight strikers in a fresh Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, followed up by being an entrant in the 2006 Heavyweight Grand Prix, where he became the first man to stop Kazuyuki Fujita.
However, even in the most ardent of fans, such as myself, reality eventually sets in. At age 36, and after nearly two decades of enduring grueling battles within the confines of various cages and rings, combined with the notoriously brutal training sessions at the old Chute Boxe Academy, one wonders how much longer this grizzled icon has left in both his fists and his chin. Hopefully enough for one last war, the likes of which made him a superstar so many years ago.
Many have speculated that this fight with Stann will be Wanderlei’s MMA swansong. That he’s looking to have one final battle in front of his “home” fans, to end his storied career where it all began. With all the talk of impending retirement swirling about the MMA universe, Wanderlei has been rather clear in explaining whether he plans to retire after this fight or not, when asked if he was making his exit from the sport, he simply stated “not yet”.
Brian Stann commented on the challenge of facing legend such as Wanderlei, who isn’t quite dead and buried yet, on Silva’s home court. “I’ve got to put it all aside for right now, and it’s difficult. Even now, I look across at Wanderlei and it’s hard not to get nostalgic. He has forgotten more about MMA than I’ll ever know. He’s done more for the sport in any two years of his career than I’ll ever do in my entire career. I’ve got to put all of that aside. I’ve got to put on my best performance to defeat him.”
Spartan mothers were said to have uttered the parting words of, “Come back with your shield—or on it”, to their sons heading off to battle. I feel that this is the situation for “The Axe Murderer”. However, I am sincerely hoping for the former, as opposed to the latter.