Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight title challenger, Antonio Silva, looks to get back in the win column against K-1 kickboxing veteran, Mark Hunt, this Friday night (Dec. 6, 2013) at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
The last few years of Silva's mixed martial arts (MMA) career have been bumpy to say the least. After the defeating Fedor Emelianenko in the biggest victory of his career, "Bigfoot" was soundly derailed by American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained product Daniel Cormier. The another AKA fighter ruined his Octagon debut when Cain Velasquez sliced him open and finished him in the first round.
Matched up with rising contender Travis Browne, Silva's UFC future was looked like it was over before it even got started. However, he overcame the odds to knockout "Hapa," although it appeared to be a mixed blessing because he was next matched with Alistair Overeem.
Once again, Silva endured his opponent's early attack to capitalize with power punches late, finishing Overeem in the third round.
These two key victories earned Silva a title shot against Velasquez, the same man who was responsible for his sole UFC defeat. AKA fighters are quite clearly SIlva's Kryptonite, as he was finished in the first again and sent to the back of the Heavyweight line.
Can "Bigfoot" work his way back to the top of the division by taking out Hunt?
Let's find out:
While mauling his opponent from top position is Silva's strong suit, he's developed a decent striking game, accentuated by his massive size and power. This size and power is not solely a positive aspect, as he's one of the slowest heavyweights, affecting both his offense and especially defense.
"Bigfoot" has a karate background from his childhood, which is likely the source of his kicks that he throws with sound technique. It's very rare that Silva opens up with anything other than a leg kick, which he uses establish his range. In addition to his leg kicks, Silva will aim at his opponent's mid-section, too, and even throw a front kick or two.
Silva's love of opening with kicks has gotten him in trouble against Velasquez and Cormier. Both wrestlers recognized this pattern, catching his foot for an easy takedown.
Boxing is Silva's primary method of attack. He heavily relies on his jab and straight right hand, throwing single shots until he finds his range. He'll also extend his lead hand to measure distance then step forward with a heavy power punch. From there, he'll begin using combinations, starting with the one-two and expanding further with hooks. Silva generally does well when he throws combinations, as trading shots with such a powerful fighter is quite dangerous.
Silva has a rather effective uppercut, which he used to knockout Overeem. In his last bout, however, he threw it without any set up. A rear hand uppercut is a difficult, not impossible, punch to land for a quick fighter. "Bigfoot" is not a quick fighter, making it easy to counter, which is exactly what Velasquez did to finish him.
Both of Silva's recent victories have come after he pinned his opponent against the fence. From there, Silva is more confident, as its more difficult for his opponent to counter. This lets him release longer combinations or really sit on his haymakers, two very dangerous options for the massive heavyweight.
Notice in the Browne .gif below that Silva tries to lead with his uppercut, which causes him to eat a counter shot. If Browne had been more accurate, it could have seriously hurt Silva.
Since takedowns are often his goal, Silva has become rather adept at working from the clinch. "Bigfoot" doesn't need a lot of distance to land hard punches, making his clinch punches more effective than usual. In addition, his opponent must always be wary of Silva stepping away and heaving a hook in their direction.
Silva's not a very technical counter striker, but his reach enables him to repulse his opponent's aggression. If his opponent is chasing him, Silva will retreat at first before planting his feet and firing a straight right hand. Silva effectively used this method to drop Werdum when "Vai Cavalo" was pushing forward.
There's a few reasons four of Silva's five losses are via knockout. The first is something that cannot be helped; the Brazilian has a gigantic head. Obviously, this makes it easier for his opponent to land punches. In addition to his colossal cranium, Silva's speed, or lack thereof, often allows his opponent to close the distance with looping power punches.
Looping power punches plus a large target equals easy knockout victories for strikers capable of defending his takedowns.
Silva has earned a black belt in Judo and makes use of it, frequently working for takedowns from the clinch. While he'll occasionally work for a trip, he prefers to distract his foe with punches before changing levels for a single or double leg takedown.
While Silva's single leg seems smoother than his double, he goes for the latter more often. "Bigfoot's" double leg isn't complex, he simply yanks his opponent away from the cage and attempts to drag him to the mat. It would benefit him to get lower on his opponent's hips, but his strength often allows him to get away with it.
Sometimes, Silva is forced to shoot in the center of the Octagon. Silva's takedowns suffer when this is the case, as he often fails to set them up with his punches. What's more, Silva occasionally makes the rather rookie mistake of wrestling from his knees, which severely limits his ability to drive through his takedown. Luckily for the Brazilian, being about 280 pounds lets him get away with these flaws.
Silva might just be the most devastating ground striker in UFC. His monstrous size makes his top pressure especially suffocating, which compliments his vicious punches perfectly. Even worse for his opponent, SIlva is content to work from guard, constantly seeking the mount position.
Once Silva gets the mount position, the fight is basically over. Even if he doesn't finish, he does such an incredible amount of damage that it's unlikely his opponent will recover, or the doctor's will be forced to stop the bout, which is how he defeated Emelianenko. He's far too big to control or reverse, so he's free to posture up and drop bombs. Silva often controls his opponent's neck and head with one hand while landing punches with the other, an extraordinarily difficult technique to defend known as the "rape choke."
Silva's takedown defense isn't perfect, but it's pretty solid. He has powerful hips, an effective sprawl, and the clinch grappling to resist most of his opponent's attempts. However, he has trouble with single legs, which may imply that his balance isn't very good.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Silva is a well-rounded jiu-jitsu black belt. Throughout his career, he's trained with some of the best jiu-jitsu for MMA teams in the world such as American Top Team, Team Nogueira and Imperial Athletics, all of which excel at training jiu-jitsu for MMA.
Silva is not extremely aggressive with his submissions, as he prefers to work for stoppage victories. However, he will capitalize on his opponent's desperation to escape with chokes if they aren't careful.
One of Silva's preferred jiu-jitsu techniques is the anaconda choke, which the Brazilian will use from the turtle position. After getting a front head lock and switching the grip, Silva will roll for the submission. He has yet to finish the submission in a fight, but he uses it to prevent his opponent from standing up and achieve a dominant position. This is a great move for "Bigfoot," as his long arms allow him to lock up the grip even if the choke isn't fully in, meaning it can almost always be used as a sweep, regardless of how deep it is.
As is necessary for a ground striking specialist, Silva is a very good guard passer. He either just throws his opponent's legs to the side from guard and runs around, or cuts his knee through their guard, using his immense size to create a lot of pressure.
Silva's defensive jiu-jitsu is solid. Werdum, the most decorated grappler in the division, took his back and had top positions multiple times, but Silva managed to safely return to his feet each time. That's a big accomplishment, something experienced grapplers like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira failed to do.
Best Chance For Success
Silva knows what he needs to do to take this fight, which is drag it to the mat. Hunt's ground game has been improving, but it's nowhere near Silva's. Stefan Struve managed to mount Hunt on more than one occasion, losing position to go after submissions.
When "Bigfoot" gets the mount, he doesn't just fall off ... he mangles his opponent.
To take down Hunt, he needs to close the distance safely. Moving forward with big punches is a perfect way for Silva to get slept. Instead, he needs to move his head, jab and seek the clinch. From the clinch, he must be patient and work small punches. Then, when he sees an opportunity, drop for a single-leg takedown. Even if he can't take down Hunt, the repeated attempts will tire out "Super Samoan."
Can Silva defeat his American Top Team training partner or will Hunt add another knockout to his resume?