Saturday night (Sunday, noon in Japan), Wanderlei Silva takes on the heavy-handed former Marine, Brian Stann in the same arena that former Pride middleweight champion, Silva, made a name for himself, Saitama Super Arena. The two are expected to exchange heavy shots and from most media predictions, you will find that an all out war is likely, with Silva being the underdog in a fight that sounds like its tailored to his aggressive style.
But styles don’t make fights and Silva is indeed the underdog in a fight that this late in his career, becomes a must win as UFC president Dana White is often vocal about fighters retiring before they make the damage that they’ve sustained in the cage, present in their daily lives once fighting ceases to be the main source of income.
This threat is no more present in an active fighter than it is in the headliner of UFC on FUEL TV 8, Wanderlei Silva. In fact, starting with the KO loss to Mirko Cro Cop at Pride Final Countdown Absolute (Silva’s first T(KO) loss since fighting Vitor Belfort back in 1998) Silva has been knocked out in four of his seven losses. This stat leads fans and media alike to easily discredit Silva’s chin, making it a hot topic of discussion as his next fight looms near.
But what if I said that Wanderlei Silva’s chin wasn’t that weak? Better yet, what if I said that it would be wrong to categorize his chin as suspect, and was in fact a completely average one, capable of sustaining punishment even to this day?
If you’re still reading this, it means you’ve chosen to stick around and hear me out, instead of scrolling hastily to the comment section to tell me what I can do with this article. For that, I thank you and if you disagree, I would love to hear your side even though you share the side of the majority and your argument has become nails on a chalkboard to my ears.
Not to say I would recommend he take part in the battles that made him famous in Pride, but lets take a look at Silva’s last few losses by knockout, in chronological order, starting with the loss to Cro Cop. Silva was facing a devastating striker in a a heavier division as he stepped in to replace Fedor Emelianenko in an open-weight grand prix. In that fight, Silva caught a hellacious left high-kick, putting him flat on his back and completely unconscious. This is the famed move from Cro Cop with the leg that he states sends a recipient to the cemetery.
Next, we have Silva’s title losing effort against Dan Henderson. The fight was the brawl that was expected with a fatigued Silva being caught with a hard left hook midway through the third round flattening Silva.
These knockouts were both brutal in their own right and broke Silva’s aura, making him a defeatable opponent after such a dominant run in Pride over a majority of fighters who had no business stepping in with the best light-heavyweight in the world at the time.
Now in the UFC, Silva lost by knockout to longtime rival Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Chris Leben. For the Jackson fight, Silva came in over-zealous and was caught with a Jackson hook that would have put most away, landing perfectly on the jaw. For the Leben fight, Silva made another grave mistake in rushing in against a fighter that you beat with technique, not savagery. Silva got caught on the temple, and the ever-dangerous Leben closed the show.
As we saw with the co-main event at UFC 157 between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, if you know what your opponent is planning on doing, the way to defeat them, while avoiding their area of expertise, becomes clear as day. Whether its striking from a distance, sticking around for the late rounds, or ducking your head while staying offensive and countering during an initial rush, beating Silva isn’t the puzzle it once was.
See where I’m going with all this? Big shots from dangerous men, all with bad intentions as opposed to him dropping at the first sign of danger shouldn’t qualify a chin as being ‘weak’. If it were, would it also be safe to say that the shots that put him away were weak and incapable of knocking someone with a solid chin out?
In the fights since the Cro Cop KO that Silva wasn’t knocked out, he had been tagged with big shots from Rich Franklin (in two fights), Cung Le, and Chuck Liddell who was a mere two fights removed from a seven fight title reign that was secured with seven consecutive knockout wins.
The latter fight was an indescribable war between legends that ranks among the top-5 fights on most everyone’s list of all time best ever in the UFC.
So about this suspect chin, I’ll agree to an extent, that these knockout losses have changed the anatomy of a Wanderlei Silva fight. He can’t afford to be the hard charging ‘Axe Murderer’ that made him famous overseas. Instead he must be a tactician and utilize his superb muay thai that is rarely talked about past his deadly knees and rely on a chin that I believe is average at worst even with a less than favorable 3-7 in his last ten pro MMA bouts.
Now, if Stann can defeat him by knockout the talk continues. But as for eating my words, I will go hungry. Stann is another big puncher and if Silva decides to exchange, I won’t be surprised if he puts Silva away but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Silva stuck around and took Stann to deep water leaving the fight in the hands of whoever wants it more, not to the structural integrity of a chin that I believe, is wrongfully accused of being suspect.
The UFC on FUEL TV main card starts at 10 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. ET for what is a stacked card that is sure to deliver.