Reevaluating the Blueprint for Anderson Silva | EDITORIAL
At UFC 148, Anderson Silva met Chael Sonnen in one of the most anticipated grudge matches in UFC history. With great hype surrounding the fight along with the looming question of whether or not Sonnen would be capable of repeating his dominant performance against the champion, the match was highly anticipated by casual and hardcore fans alike.
The magnitude of the fight was echoed by Dana White in the post-fight press conference where he announced, “This is absolutely, one hundred percent, the biggest fight we’ve done by far.” Record breaking live gate sales, generated by the fight, would reinforce this statement.
In the first round of the anticipated rematch, Silva came out of the gates swinging which resulted in a quickly secured takedown by the challenger. From them on, Sonnen looked poised to repeat his successful performance and dethrone the champion as he demonstrated dominant top control and transitioning skills, as he controlled Silva on the mat and later advanced to full mount in the final minute of the first round.
Round two, however, would tell a different story.
In round two, Sonnen looked to exact his game plan in full force with more takedown attempts only to have them stuffed by Silva in controversial fashion. During the struggle for the takedowns, Silva could be seen illegally holding onto the trunks of Sonnen. Yves Lavigne issued a stern warning during this process but was not in a position to view the entirety of grabbing. This incident was later dismissed by Sonnen in the post-fight press conference as having no influence or significant impact on the outcome of the fight, as he stated, “Yeah, Anderson grabbed my trunks but I grabbed his right back. It goes both ways. We can’t sit and nitpick some of that stuff. It’s a two man sport. It’s kind of like moving the chains in football, it evens itself out. What goes around comes around. Anderson grabbed my shorts tonight; I’ll grab someone else’s shorts down the road.”
Following the failed takedown attempts from Sonnen, Silva’s confidence ignited and the bombastic swaggering Silva we’re used to seeing revealed himself. Upon connecting with a couple accurate pin point punches, Silva began dropping his hands in trademark fashion that any familiar fan could recognize as a precursor to destruction. Sonnen fell for the bait as he attempted an ill advised spinning back fist only to have it effortlessly evaded by the champion, and which resulted in an unfortunate slip. Silva would capitalize on this moment by delivering a violent knee to the chest of the downed Sonnen. Sonnen displayed great resolve in fighting his way back to his feet, despite being clearly visibly devastated by the knee, but what ensued was a sight Silva fans were familiar with. Silva’s finishing instincts kicked in and he relentlessly overwhelmed Sonnen with strikes which eventually forced Sonnen to collapse and succumb to a second round technical knockout.
While bringing resolution to a long and heated rivalry, the fight raises many questions. While Silva’s weakness was evidently discovered, the blueprint to defeating him still arguably remains much of a mystery. While it is apparent that the weakest part of Silva’s game is his wrestling, it is significantly overcompensated by his dangerous and quick finishing abilities. Silva has proven himself to be the ultimate opportunist in his Sonnen fights as well as in his previous bouts with opponents such as James Irvin and Nate Marquardt. In these fights, he took advantage of very minor mistakes made by his opponents and made them pay by finishing them.
Because of this one has to ask, does Silva’s proverbial Achilles’ heel make him as vulnerable as we once assumed? It is conceivable that a credentialed world class wrestler could take down Silva and control him and that has already been demonstrated with the likes of Henderson and Sonnen. The problem, however, lies in the inability to do so over the course of five rounds without blemish. This daunting task proves to be near impossible as any mistake committed over this long period leaves the challenger susceptible to being finished. Nobody has come closer than Sonnen to flawlessly executing this recipe, which was what provided much of the intrigue for the rematch, however, he too was unable to execute this plan perfectly.
After Sonnen’s loss, perhaps it is time to reevaluate what type of blueprint is required to dethrone the pound for pound king. Perhaps the biggest threat to Silva comes in the form of another strong finisher. It is not unreasonable to assert the notion that Silva’s biggest threat comes from the threat of being finished rather than out grappled for five rounds. Although Silva’s history has shown that he encounters more adversity when paired with a strong grappler, in five rounds Silva needs only one opportune moment to decisively end the fight which highlights the dilemma found in trying to take Silva the distance. This proposition proves risky for both sides; however, amplifying the variable of risk may subsequently increase the odds of any fighter looking to defeat The Spider. Nonetheless, it cannot be overlooked that history would once again invalidate this theory with opponents such as Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin serving as examples of what happens to fighters that try to engage with Silva and force a finish. As such, the question remains of whether or not the biggest chance at defeating Silva comes in the form of a strong finisher or a strong wrestler, and if any fighter that possesses the necessary abilities exist.