Anderson Silva has taken on some of the most talented fighters of his time, even knocking out one of the longest-reigning champions on his way to the belt. Unfortunately, the debate over whether or not Silva is the greatest middleweight of all-time can’t be decided because, after all, he can’t fight the champions of decades past. Or can he?
In this segment, FIGHT! approached three of the most renowned trainers in the sport: Greg Jackson of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting, Robert Follis of Team Quest, and Pat Miletich of Miletich Fighting Systems. Each has worked with numerous champions throughout the years, they’ve seen more fighters come and go than we can count, and they certainly aren’t shy about their opinions.
We asked each trainer how the fight would go if the legend were in his prime and the modern superstar was in his current state. They were asked to pick a winner and shed some insight as to why the fight would progress as their expert opinions saw it.
PAT MILETICH VS.
Greg Jackson: I have to go with GSP. He’s incredibly strong, he’s technical, he’s an amazing athlete, and he’s one of my guys.
Robert Follis: GSP’s style is so strong and he can control where the fight would go. He can control the wrestling and he’s so athletic. If you take the fight back to Miletich’s day, I think it’s a different look.
Pat Miletich: Tough fight. That’s a toss up. Georges is a great athlete, well balanced like I was, so I can’t decide.
Verdict: Despite Miletich humbly calling a draw in his own bout (even after being pressed three times), the decision goes to
ROYCE GRACIE VS. BJ PENN
GJ: I would say BJ Penn wins it because he’s got much better stand up and his Jiu-Jitsu is better.
RF: BJ Penn for sure. He is too much. When he’s in shape, he’s a nightmare for anyone at any weight class. The way he trains, his stand up, how hard he is to take down, he would win easily.
PM: BJ Penn is too well rounded; he’s too good an athlete. He’d win.
Verdict: A clean sweep for BJ, who the experts see as being one of the most unstoppable and purely talented fighters in the game. Whether standing up or on the ground, the consensus is that BJ could handle it. BJ Penn 3-0.
GJ: Randy Couture would win because he’s a better wrestler.
RF: Randy’s game is more complete; he’s got a great ability to fight standing up. Randy can work stand up, stop shots, has submission skills.
PM: Randy Couture. He’s a good enough wrestler, better than
Verdict: Another sweep, this time for The Natural, who the experts see as the superior wrestler and the more complete all-around fighter. Considering his career, would you want to bet against Randy? Randy Couture 3-0.
RICKSON GRACIE VS. FRANK SHAMROCK
GJ: Rickson would win because he’s got superior ground skills.
RF: It’s difficult because Rickson didn’t fight the same competition that Frank did. Rickson has this aura of being unbeatable. I’d have to edge Frank Shamrock, because if he kept it standing, he’d kill Rickson. Rickson on the ground poses a great problem, but the fight game has progressed and Frank could keep it standing.
PM: Frank Shamrock because he couldn’t be taken down by Rickson, and when he’s standing up, he’s just better.
Verdict: Our experts seemed to agree that if Frank could keep this fight standing, he would dominate. If he were taken to the ground, however, it would be a different story. Despite this weakness, Follis and Miletich agree that he could avoid ending up in the Gracie’s guard. Frank Shamrock 2-1.
TITO ORTIZ VS. RAMPAGE
GJ: Rampage wins because his style matches up well with Tito and his wrestling is solid. He’s got heavy hands too, so the edge in power and wrestling goes to Rampage.
RF: I don’t know that Tito has reached his prime. If Tito was training was correctly, he could hit his prime. If we’re taking what their primes have been, I give it to Rampage.
PM: I’m going to go with Rampage because Rampage hits hard, and Tito doesn’t like getting hit.
Verdict: Even though Follis suggests that Tito hasn’t hit his prime (quite the interesting proposition), all of our experts agree that Rampage’s heavy hands would lead him to the big victory. Rampage
BAS RUTTEN VS. CHUCK LIDDELL
GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 on this one. They’re both great strikers, Bas is good on the ground, but Chuck can get up.
RF: That would be a battle. Bas is probably a little more well rounded, but his wrestling might not be good enough get Chuck down. That’s a coin toss.
PM: Bas Rutten because he’s too well rounded and too accurate of a striker.
Verdict: Only one of our experts was brave enough to weigh in on this bout, but he gave the edge to Rutten on account of his accurate striking. Although two of our experts chose not to pick a winner, all agree that it would be a brutal war. Bas Rutten 1-0.
MIRKO FILIPOVIC VS. BROCK LESNAR
GJ: Cro Cop would win that. He’s the superior striker and he’s got good sprawl.
RF: I would give it to Cro Cop. Give Brock three years and he’s a tough match up. Cro Cop is just too tough.
PM: Brock Lesnar because no one will stop Brock’s take downs. In fi ve years, Brock will have a belt.
Verdict: Cro Cop takes the edge, being the superior striker in his prime. Two of our experts agree that Brock will be a force within a matter of years, but tonight, it goes to the Croatian. Mirko Filipovic 2-1.
WANDERLEI SILVA VS. RAMEAU THIERRY SOKOUDJOU
GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 again. They’re both explosive strikers so whoever lands the big one first would win.
RF: I think Sokoudjou can beat anybody. If you put him in there right now, his athleticism and movement would carry him to the win. If you were to take Sokoudjou from three years from now,
it would be ridiculous. That’s a tough fi ght but Sokoudjou could tear him up.
PM: Sokoudjou. He’s too good of an athlete.
Verdict: In what has to be the most astounding upset of the night, Sokoudjou has won the support of the majority of the panel, thus defeating the most decorated light heavyweight champion in MMA history. They point to his sheer athleticism and explosive striking as reasons for such confidence in the young Sokoudjou. Rameau
Thierry Sokoudjou 2-0.
KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS.
RF: Sakuraba is just too crafty. I don’t think Silva would end up TKO-ing him, which is the only way he would win. I’m going with Sakuraba
PM: Sakuraba without a doubt. He was amazing in his prime.
Verdict: Even with Anderson Silva’s recent tear through the UFC, the consensus of our experts is that he’s still no match for Sakuraba in his prime. Sustaining the aura around
“The Gracie Hunter,” the trainers offer little else in their explanations other than “He’s just Sakuraba.” Kazushi Sakuraba 2-1.
For this second section, we pitted legends of mixed martial arts against masters of single disciplines. We then asked some of the same trainers to weigh in on the fantasy bout. But, there’s a catch. The master of the single discipline gets a year of complete MMA training at any school he chooses.
BRUCE LEE VS. FEDOR EMELIANENKO
GJ: Fedor would win because Bruce Lee is too light.
RF: Bruce Lee is too small. Bruce was a great athlete but part of what made him special is that he was creating MMA. I think with five years training, he could do something, but he’d never be athletic enough to beat Fedor.
PM: Fedor by destruction.
Verdict: The trainers all agree again, giving appropriate respect to the father of MMA, but recognizing that Fedor is too big, too strong, and too good. Pat Miletich even took it upon himself to invent a new way to win a fi ght (apparently, submissions and knockouts are for mere mortals; Fedor wins by destruction). Fedor Emelianenko 3-0.
CHUCK NORRIS VS. CHUCK LIDDELL
GJ: Chuck Liddell would win because Norris is too light.
RF: Liddell. Chuck Norris wouldn’t even come close, even with a year of training.
PM: Chuck Liddell because Norris was a good point fi ghter and a decent kick boxer, but he couldn’t deal with Chuck’s style.
Verdict: Another shut out for the MMA superstar. Despite that the fact that Norris has excellent kick boxing skills, a good amount of BJJ training, a black belt from the Machados, and years of experience selling Bowfl ex machines to late-night TV viewers, our experts chose the heavier and unorthodox Liddell. Chuck Liddell 3-0.
MUHAMMAD ALI VS. ROYCE GRACIE
GJ: Royce would win because he could probably get him down.
RF: Muhammad Ali, with as good of range control as he had, he would win. If you could teach him to stop the takedown, he’d be great.
PM: Muhammad. You’d have to teach him how to stuff a takedown, but he’s a great athlete so he’d be fine.
Verdict: It is fitting that the first single discipline fighter to be awarded a decision is the incomparable Ali. The majority of our experts have him winning with his outstanding range and all expect that he’ll spend the year at their facility learning how to stuff the takedown. His athleticism and pinpoint striking are unlike anything Royce (or any other MMAer) has ever seen. Muhammad Ali 2-1.
MIKE TYSON VS. RAMPAGE
GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 because if Mike Tyson connects with 4-ounce gloves, it’s over. But if Rampage can get him on the ground, he would win.
RF: Mike Tyson with a year of learning sprawl and a ground game, he’d be a really tough match up. I’d still go with Quinton because I think he could get it to the ground. Give Tyson two or three years and I change that story.
Verdict: Even though the trainers offer proper deference to Mike Tyson with 4-ounce gloves, they’re confi dent enough to pick Rampage unanimously. So, who wants to tell Mike the bad news? Rampage