Try as I might, I cannot find a valid explanation for Anderson "The Spider" Silver's descent into the theatre of the bizarre at Ultimate Fighting Championship 112: Invincible in Abu Dhabi.

There is simply no way to reason away his much-discussed antics such that the middleweight champion escapes unscathed.

Believe me—if there were a way, I'd be selling it in this space because the Brazilian was once one of my two favorite professional gladiators currently in his prime.

Only a short time ago, Silva and Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko outshone every other star in my mixed martial arts universe. I still would endure the torture of a hundred Donald Trump/Rob Blagojevich (shouldn't he be in jail?) ads if it meant hours of highlights from the pair of all-timers, but the joy would come tainted with an edge of nostalgia these days.

Both have been taking their lumps outside the cage rather than inside it of late. Given relevant and recent developments, the criticisms are looking more and more legitimate.

As the UFC heavyweight division matures, it's getting difficult to continue mounting a credible defense for the Russian. He's still the baddest man in my world, but the siege has begun at his weight in the organization Emelianenko refuses to join.

With champion Brock Lesnar already a considerable insurgent and the likes of Shane "The Engineer" Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Junior "Cigano" dos Santos, and possibly Roy "Big Country" Nelson emerging, the Last Emperor must enter the fray sooner or later lest he justifiably lose his realm by implication.

I am one of the Russian Experiment's most ardent supporters, but it's time to start that clock ticking.

Sadly, a different sort of clock has run out on Anderson Silva.

Even his loyalists must give up the game after his "performance" against Demian Maia over the weekend. I consider myself in that group so I take no pleasure in the observation.

It's now impossible to do anything except acknowledge the Spider might've lost his mind, momentarily or otherwise considering the hints of similar behavior that've popped up in his last few bouts.

That, or the unrivaled Brazilian is gently touched like so many supremely gifted people tend to be.

These are the only objectively reasonable possibilities.

The most rational argument I've heard to spin the travesty in more positive utilitarian light is that Silva feels disrespected/slighted/choose the appropriate synonym.

One version of the theory casts the offending party as the UFC executives—President Dana White, matchmaker Joe Silva, and others—who refuse to pair him with a worthy challenger to his middleweight throne. The champ wants someone who can actually beat him rather than a second-rater who would have to get lucky.

That makes awesome sense...on the surface.

Look a little deeper and you'll remember the Spider was supposed to face Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort in the main event instead of Maia. Say what you want about Belfort's all-around prowess, he certainly has the hands to meet Silva in the middle of the Octagon.

In other words, it wasn't the powers-that-be that chose Maia, it was the injury bug that eliminated Belfort. So, the champ was posturing for...Lady Luck?

The Fates?

The parent company can't just put its middleweight king on the shelf, gathering dust until a sincerely viable heir arrives. Like it or not, White and company are absolutely entitled to getting some run out of Anderson at 185 pounds, through lull in the division or ill-fortune striking the ideal candidate.

We don't even need to discuss another substantial blow to the argument—the fact that the Spider's been allowed to spin his web at light heavyweight, which is another indication the brass is trying to find him a suitable challenge.

Or the nasty little detail that the opponent suffers far worse humiliation than the decision-makers.

This version of the disrespected theory is garbage to any oxygenated brain.

The second version puts the crosshairs of Silva's disdain on Maia, apparently for some remark about taking one of the Spider's eight legs home with him.

Again, you can toss this one out upon cursory examination.

Heretofore, Demian Maia has been the picture of class. I've interviewed him personally and it was almost like speaking to a butler with the caveat that the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace could take on of my limbs home with him, easily. The 32-year-old couldn't have been more genuinely gracious and respectful.

If his fellow Brazilian said anything about "taking a limb" from the Spider, I'm betting Maia either said or meant he was going to TRY to do so. I'm also betting good money it was upon prompting to be used in one of those hype reels.

But those skeptical about the fill-in's appreciation for the middleweight champ need not take my word for it.

Anything's possible from these gents, so it's possible Maia spouted off unwisely. It's possible the challenger's comments about having a jiu-jitsu advantage did rankle the well-earned pride of the champion.

Fine, but then why didn't Silva take Maia to task on the ground? Why didn't he prove his superiority in the domain threatened or, at the very least, blast Demian in the chops a couple more times for his insolence?

How about finishing him inside the first 60 seconds rather than giving him 25 minutes to earn the admiration of the fans?

After all, the only winner in the entire debacle was Demian Maia's reputation—as a warrior and an individual.

Furthermore, nobody likes to take a beating, but I'm sure true fighters find an immediate stoppage far more humiliating, especially when it's bred of superiority rather than fortuitous timing.

Perhaps there's a good explanation that shows Anderson Silva in a better, more mentally stable light. I certainly hope so.

Because he doesn't look good in this one.


**www.pva.org**