Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middlewight Champion Anderson Silva fights The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) finalist Stephan Bonnar this Saturday night (Oct. 13, 2012) in the main event of UFC 153 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"The Spider" had originally planned to relax for the rest of 2012 after finishing off Chael Sonnen for the second time back in July. Then, the injury bug reared its ugly head, taking out the main and co-main event of UFC 153 in one day. Proving he was a company man, Silva offered to save the event by taking a short-notice bout against "The American Psycho."
This weekend, he will attempt to maintain his perfect Octagon record against his largest opponent yet. Does Silva have the skills to make another elite fighter look like an amateur?
Let's take a closer look.
Silva is the most devastating striker in mixed martial arts (MMA). After he finds his range, he patiently waits for his opponent to attack and then unleashes deadly combinations. "The Spider" is incredibly creative and dangerous from every angle and striking with him simply isn't an option.
The Brazilian uses his excellent footwork to keep outside of his opponent's striking range. He forces them to make the first move and is able to react, analyze the situation and counter before his opponent can attempt another punch. Silva's incredible reaction time is what allowed him to clown former champion Forrest Griffin in their fight at UFC 101.
Forrest simply couldn't keep up with him.
Anderson has some of the best boxing in MMA. He throws straight, accurate punches and consistently lands them, building up to an eventual knockout. In addition to his nasty straight punches, he has a brutal right hook. Silva uses his right hook to end combinations, or after he has ducked down under a punch. One of the most unique strikes he throws is the "anchor punch." Named by boxing legend Muhammad Ali, the anchor punch is often used after an evaded punch and comes over the top of the next punch in the combination.
Anderson used anchor punches to rock Yushin Okami and finish a staggering Griffin.
Additionally, Anderson has a diverse arsenal of elbow strikes. Elbow strikes outside the clinch are rare, but his are quite effective. He used an over-the-top elbow to rock Sonnen, and an absurd upward elbow to separate Tony Fryklund from his senses.
Outside of the boxing range, Anderson has dangerous kicks and deadly flying knees. While he throws standard Muay Thai style roundhouse kicks extremely well, his unorthodox kicks separate him from the pack. His front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort inspired legions of MMA fighters, amateur and professional, to imitate him.
The aspect of Silva's striking that first gained him infamy in the UFC is his devastating knees from the Muay Thai clinch. "The Spider" latches onto his opponent and doesn't let go, patiently destroying their body while waiting for an opportunity to knee the face. This was essentially his gameplan for both Rich Franklin fights, and led to Yushin Okami's demise. After a fairly successful opening four minutes of grinding Silva against the cage, the Brazilian landed a brutal knee to the ribs that buckled "Thunder" and forced him to shoot for a failed takedown. After that knee, Yushin was picked apart and finished a few minutes later.
Anderson's defense is as spectacular as his offense. He is one of the least hit fighters in MMA due to his phenomenal head movement and excellent grasp of range. It also helps that his striking is so feared, that most fighters become hesitant to attack him.
Anderson generally doesn't bother taking his opponents down, he's far too busy destroying them on the feet. On the rare occasion when he does decide to take it to the ground, he is generally successful and has earned a black belt in Judo. Silva doesn't do regular power takedowns, instead he dives at his opponent's legs when they charge after him and then trip them once he gets a solid grip. He even managed to briefly take down Chael Sonnen, an Olympic level wrestler, in their first fight.
One of Anderson's most impressive wrestling accomplishments is hitting a switch on Nate Marquardt. Near the end of the first round, Nate shot in for a single leg takedown. Nate was holding Silva's leg while they were still standing, trying to knock him off balance. Anderson defended this by reaching under Nate's arm and grabbing a leg, then sitting back and throwing Marquardt forward. Nate fell to his back, and Silva finished him with ground and pound moments later.
Anderson's defensive wrestling has long been questioned. Since trying to stand with Silva is destined for failure, all his opponents try to take him down. Even legendary knockout artist Vitor Belfort attempted to take him down, but Silva quickly got back to his feet.
"The Spider" has shown very good takedown defense and above-average scrambling abilities. While his skills in those areas are still advanced, they are are not world class like the rest of his talents. His opponents may have some success using their wrestling against him, but no one has been able to do it for five rounds without Silva landing a vicious strike or latching onto a submission.
Anderson received his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt from the Nogueira brothers in 2006. From his guard, he ties up his opponent and waits for an opening to either attempt a submission or get back to his feet. Silva's favorite submission is the triangle choke as his long legs help him exert even more pressure -- and he loves to batter opponents while they are trapped inside it.
Anderson is the most precise fighter in the history of the sport. He never attacks without an opening, whether that be cutting an angle or waiting for his opponent to over-commit. He doesn't get impatient and try to blow through his opponent's defenses, he picks his shots without leaving himself open to counter attacks.
Silva couples his precision with an excellent killer instinct. When Anderson hurts his opponents, he swarms on them, blasting them with punches and kicks from all angles until they are unconscious or succumb to a choke. While he's lost rounds before, it's his ability to finish in dramatic fashion that have kept him atop the middleweight division for years.
Best chance for success
Anderson should do his best to keep this fight at a distance and pick Bonnar apart. While Anderson is certainly no stranger to the clinch, it wouldn't be wise for him to risk getting pushed up against the fence and out-muscled by the light heavyweight. He also should avoid going to the ground entirely. Stephan is a solid black belt, and Silva has been submitted before, even if it was a long time ago.
Bonnar is unlikely to do anything other then move forward and attack, which fits Anderson's game perfectly. Silva needs to damage Stephan's legs with kicks and hurt him with punches, then circle away and get back into the Octagon.
If Silva controls the center of the octagon, Stephan will not win this fight.
Will Anderson continue to solidify his legacy as the greatest of all time, or will Stephan play spoiler and get the biggest win of his career?