Jake Paul moved to 6-0 in his boxing career on Saturday with a unanimous decision win over former UFC champion Anderson Silva in Glendale, Ariz.
How should the combat sports world digest the result? We dive in with some key takeaways from the contest.
3. Not a robbery, and certainly not rigged
There’s no choice but to address this element off the top. In the aftermath of Paul’s win over Silva, there’s a vocal minority of social media commenters who seem to believe either A) Silva should’ve won the fight on the scorecards, or B) The UFC legend took a dive or collaborated in some sort of scheme to fix the result.
It’s actually hard to put into words how idiotic that notion is. If you want to claim that Silva agreeing to participate in this boxing match with Paul, then going on to lose, tarnishes his legacy in combat sports – I’m not going to make a big argument otherwise. It’s fine if you want to feel that way, but going to the next step of claiming shadiness around the outcome is something different. You’re accusing Silva of committing a felony-level crime, and one that would destroy everything he’s done.
These are not accusations to be thrown around lightly, and no matter how disappointed you are in Silva losing, or how blinded by hate for Paul you might be, there better be some serious evidence at hand before casting that type of shadow over this fight.
There was nothing sketchy about the way the fight played out, and although there can be some criticism of the round-by-round scoring, the correct and deserving man won. Case closed. Let’s move on.
2. Did Silva 'fail' or overachieve?
To double down on the point above, no one can cry foul about the judging when Silva himself refused to do it. He came to the post-fight press conference and outright admitted he knew he lost, and didn’t hint at any controversy attached. “The Spider” was as humble as it gets in defeat, even though he couldn’t deliver for the portion of viewers who wanted him to derail Paul.
It’s still a bit tough to know how to digest this whole thing from Silva’s side. You just have to frequently remind yourself that this is a 47-year-old man who hadn’t competed in a professional bout in more than a year, and was taking on an opponent nearly half his age.
There were some moments of frustration watching Silva. It felt like there were plenty of times where he could’ve opened up more, and if he did, Paul would’ve been in a lot of trouble. This isn’t the Silva of his prime, though, and it was fairly obvious to me that he knew he had to balance everything if he wanted to make it to the final bell in one piece.
Moments of recklessness almost prevented that from happening, too. Silva got his nose bloodied, got dropped in Round 8 and showed some tactical flaws that led to him losing some rounds that could’ve potentially gone his way.
By no stretch should Silva be ashamed of himself, though. We want to romanticize him for what he provided during his epic UFC run, but also need to understand that we’re more than 10 years removed from his last legitimate win in the octagon, and he’s not that guy anymore.
Silva is still capable of providing moments of magic at this advanced age – which is what makes him such a legend – but he was facing an uphill climb here from the outset, and he couldn’t overcome it. But just like the ugly stretch of losses to close his UFC career, this doesn’t tarnish what Silva has accomplished overall.
1. Paul's next step proves promising
No matter what Paul does, there are going to be people who are unwilling to entertain the argument he deserves a shred of positive feedback. If you’re one of those people, it’s best you stop reading now, because you’re not going to like what’s coming.
Despite everything I just wrote above about Silva being past his expiration date, it still means something for Paul to beat the former UFC champion in a pretty clear-cut manner. It’s the next step in Paul’s journey through combat sports, and this is going to be big for his development.
One thing I think was heavily overlooked in the pre-fight analysis for this bout was Paul’s chin and durability. He took a few crackers from Silva, and never appeared to be overly flustered or phased by it. Of course, Silva was capable of a knockout from beginning to end due to his precision, but his power wasn’t enough to cast fear within Paul, which allowed him to fight a bit more freely.
That’s something Paul could only be able to read once he got in the ring and started to trade shots, and he handled it well.
After going roughly 10 months between fights, Paul showed improvements from his previous fight with Tyron Woodley. He looked much more comfortable in the ring than he did prior, and didn’t cower during some pretty dangerous exchanges with Silva both at distance and in close range.
It would’ve been concerning if he didn’t show those improvements, because at 25 and with all the time and resources he needs to dedicate himself to this craft, Paul should be making strides fight by fight.
Does that mean Paul should be tossed in the ring with an elite boxer? As much as you may want that to see him get owned, it would be foolish to do that. Paul is still a novice in boxing, and an argument can be made he’s taking a tougher path than others in the boxing space.
In many situations, a boxer in their sixth bout would be fighting a “can,” potentially with a losing record. Just look at 18-year-old prospect Ashton Sylve in the co-main event. He fought an opponent in Braulio Rodriguez who hadn’t fought in 45 months and styled on him in 61 seconds to move to 8-0.
Paul doesn’t have the luxury of doing something like that. The massive following he accumulated before ever stepping foot in a boxing ring put him on a different trajectory, and he has the onus of having to build himself up while trying to sell out venues, move pay-per-view units and find matchups that will create widespread appeal.
If Paul wants his career to be anything more than fights against aging MMA stars who cross over to boxing, though, this can’t go on forever. He continues to bring up Canelo Alvarez as his dream fight, and if that’s ever going to be marginally realistic, he’ll have to beat a legitimate boxer.
For now, though, Paul continues to take baby steps, and bit by bit he’s answering questions.