Who can defeat the great Anderson Silva? That's the question I've been asked most since Saturday, when the UFC middleweight champion once again asserted his dominance on his division.
For now, let's skip the light heavyweight track, which would propose several challenging and enticing options. Silva, the sport's top pound-for-pound threat, is a 185-pound fighter until he says otherwise, and that's where we'll focus our attention.
If he's going to lose, you have to imagine it'll come against a strong grappler with top-side submission awareness. Here are five names that stand out:
Chael Sonnen: Sonnen nearly pulled it off last year. You can speculate as to the effect of Silva's rib injury in that fight, as well as Sonnen's use of testosterone. But the fact is, no one pushed Silva the way Sonnen did. It's a fight that fans will demand if Sonnen defeats Brian Stann in October. And it's one the UFC will gladly put together considering the promotional heft of Silva-Sonnen. Do I think Sonnen will finish the job if he lands a second chance? No. Actually, I believe Silva has a much easier time.
Georges St. Pierre: Yep, St. Pierre. I'm not dumb enough to dismiss his chances of beating Silva. His tremendous wrestling, meticulous planning, and risk-aversion style suggests a competitive fight against the only man ranked ahead of him on pound-for-pound lists. For this to be real, though, you'd have to imagine some sort of catch-weight; near 180 pounds would work best. St. Pierre would own an edge in speed, but being undersized and suffering from a major deficit in reach and the ability to hurt his opponent might be too much to overcome. Could the UFC welterweight champion wrestle his way to a win? I can see him doing that.
Dan Henderson: Henderson is a better light heavyweight than middleweight, but the 40-year-old American warhorse is on the best run of his career and I wouldn't put anything past him right now. Prior to Sonnen, Henderson was the only man to take a round off the Brazilian great inside the UFC. No reason to think he couldn't do it again, or even improve on his effort from 2008. These are two giants of the game, and a second match between the two would be highly anticipated.
Ronaldo Souza: Some readers have politely suggested I back off the "Jacare" train. But I can't. This fight might not happen for several reasons -- they train together, for one -- but if the Brazilian pair ever competed, I might actually go out on a limb and pick the current Strikeforce middleweight champion to win. Souza is terrific on the ground and can absolutely beat Silva there. His standup continues to get better with each fight -- the most important aspect being he's willing to press and mix it up, something opponents have to accomplish against Silva to have a chance. I don't know, but something tells me Jacare would have as good a shot as anyone to beat Silva.
Anderson Silva: If only we could do the whole clone thing. Seriously, Anderson beats Anderson if boredom sets in, or of he's just over the whole fighting thing. I don't think that happens, not when he's poised to establish a legacy as the best fighter in MMA history. That's not easy to walk away from, especially with Brazil finally realizing what it has in this man.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.