Wanderlei César da Silva (born July 3, 1976), nicknamed “The Axe Murderer” and “Cachorro Louco”, is a Brazilian mixed martial artist, who has competed in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships and the American-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Silva is known for his aggressive fighting style, with the majority of his fights ending in knockout or referee stoppage due to strikes. His style includes engaging opponents with punches and knees from the Muay Thai clinch. Silva is famous for his aggressiveness, but after the fight is over, he is known for showing respect and a sense of sportsmanship. He holds the record for the most wins, knockouts, title defenses, and longest winning streak in PRIDE history. He is the former PRIDE Middleweight Champion, and the 2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Champion.
Silva’s aggressive style is rooted in street brawling, refined with elements of Muay Thai and kickboxing. As a late teen he joined the military and was quickly recognized for his fighting talents and rose up in the ranks. Silva enlisted after already winning fight tournaments in his age group in Brazil. Silva would develop scar tissue around his eyes from fighting in bare-knuckle vale tudo, a precursor to modern MMA before the traditional MMA gloves were used.
Silva debuted in PRIDE at the Pride 7 event on September 12, 1999, against Carl Ognibene (better known as Carl “Malenko”). Silva used his strength to control Malenko from the ground, demonstrating his grappling expertise, coming very close to securing a guillotine choke and a rear-naked choke during round one, in addition to landing many powerful knees from the clinch. Silva continued to dominate Malenko en route to a decision victory. This dominance would set the tone for Silva’s career in the organization. From 1999 to 2004, Silva won eighteen-straight fights in PRIDE, excluding a draw against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (under slightly modified rules in which if the match went the distance, the bout would be declared a draw) and a No-Contest against Gilbert Yvel (Silva having accidentally kicked Yvel in the groin), giving him a twenty-fight unbeaten streak. Silva’s reputation as a formidable MMA fighter grew as he developed a successful 5-year win record in the middle weight division (205 lb) of Pride.