Category Archives: Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva, How Could I Have Doubted Thee?

I take it all back. Anything I may have ever said to suggest that Anderson Silva is not the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter, I was wrong. I apologize. Anderson Silva, thou art an MMA god, and I shall put no other fighters before thee.

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but not by much. The way Silva not just defeated but dismantled Dan Henderson, who is himself unquestionably a top middleweight (and light heavyweight, while we’re at it), I was awed. Some of you may recall that I picked Henderson to win that fight. I thought that Henderson’s ability to take a punch, combined with his ability to close the distance and use the body lock to get opponents to the mat where he could control them, would allow him to grind out a victory. At the end of round one, it looked as though Hendo would do precisely that. But in the second, Silva decided enough was enough.

First Silva rocked Henderson on the feet, which is no small task, then dominated and submitted him on the mat. By the way, do you know how many fights Henderson lost by submission before this one? Two. One against each of the Nogueira brothers, including the one who is now UFC heavyweight champion. Does that help put it in perspective?

Watching Silva on Saturday night, I knew I was seeing something special. Since I had picked Henderson and since the egotistical part of my brain (which is most of it) always roots for the guys I’ve picked so I can brag about what an MMA genius I am, I should have been disappointed when Silva took over the fight. But I wasn’t. It was too beautiful, too impressive for me to even remember my picks right then. If you had asked me at the exact moment that Silva was choking Henderson I might have told you that only an idiot would pick against him.

Truly, I am that idiot, for I doubted Anderson Silva.

The question now is, what’s next? The middleweight division is essentially cleaned out, and though some are already clamoring for Silva to go down in weight to face Georges St. Pierre, I have to tell you I don’t see it. Silva is incredibly lean at middleweight, I don’t know if he can shed another fifteen pounds. Perhaps a catch weight bout at 177.5 pounds is the answer, assuming St. Pierre beats Serra.

All I can say for sure right now is that if any of you out there still have someone other than Anderson Silva at the top of your pound-for-pound list, you’re refusing to face reality. Forget Fedor, who would rather pick up a cheap paycheck than get tested in the ring, Silva is the man. We’re witnessing history just watching him. Stop arguing and enjoy it.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, MMA, Sports, UFC

Fighter of the Year: Is There Really Any Debate?

Now that 2007 has closed its books, a number of MMA websites have put out their ‘Best of the Year’ awards and top ten lists. One of the more interesting discussions happening right now is over who deserves to be called Fighter of the Year for 2007. Sherdog.com apparently thinks that honor belongs to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Sam Caplan over at Five Ounces of Pain concurs. Personally, I find this baffling. Not because I don’t think “Rampage” had a good year, but because I think it’s pretty obvious who had an even better one: Anderson Silva.

While Jackson’s accomplishments (most notably upsetting Chuck Liddell for the UFC light heavyweight title) may have been more visible, Silva’s were more impressive. Not that there aren’t similarities, but when compared head to head there’s no doubt in my mind that Silva had the tougher and more dominant year:

– Both men fought three times and won all three in 2007. Jackson started by beating professional heavy bag Marvin Eastman for his entrance into the UFC, while Silva dismantled TUF winner Travis Lutter. While neither of those guys are world beaters, Lutter is certainly the more dangerous and more legitimate opponent, no question.

Advantage: Silva

– Both men defended their world titles against former champs in impressive fashion. Silva came into the year with the middleweight strap and none of his three opponents even got close enough to smell the leather. Jackson surprised Liddell in his second fight of the year and then retained the title against former Pride champ Dan Henderson.

Silva beat ex-champ Rich Franklin in brutal fashion, again, as well as former King of Pancrase Nathan Marquardt. Both, essentially, beat two championship-caliber opponents in ’07, but when Jackson fought Henderson he was really fighting a natural middleweight, as evidenced by Henderson’s move down since that fight. Even then, he won via decision. Silva absolutely destroyed everyone he faced, and looked leaps and bounds ahead of them in the process.

Advantage: Silva

– Both entered the UFC from other organizations and hit the ground running. Silva did so in 2006 and Rampage just this past year, but the difference is that Silva has been facing nothing but top competition the last few years and has yet to be taken past the second round in the UFC. “Rampage” was coming off two decision victories over Matt Lindland (a middleweight) and Dong Sik Yoon (a judo fighter with a losing record) and a TKO over Hirotaka Tokoi (who?). I realize it’s slightly unfair to compare their acheivements the previous year for the purposes of this discussion, but the point is that Silva has had to climb a tougher ladder to get to this point, while “Rampage” was at least partially propelled into a quick title shot by his obvious marketability.

Advantage: Silva

All this isn’t to say that Jackson didn’t also have a banner year. Winning a world title and defending it against someone like Dan Henderson gives him plenty to put on his Christmas cards. But I have the sneaking suspicion that Silva is getting overlooked here because he isn’t as vocal or as visible in the MMA world as “Rampage” (who is?), and because of language barriers his interaction with the American media is limited.

Silva’s fights this past year, particularly his last bout with Franklin, verge on artistry. He’s a joy to watch, to put it simply. His biggest problem at the moment is a lack of credible opponents. But that is, as Marlowe Stanfield would say, one of them good problems.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, MMA, Quinton Jackson, Sports, UFC

Silva-Henderson Fight Could Be Career-Defining For Both Men

In this age of interim titles and overhyped fights, it’s easy to forget about the very real title fight down the road. I speak now, of course, of Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson. It may also be known as the fight Henderson should have taken immediately upon coming to the UFC, but better late than never.

I don’t know what Dana White said to Henderson to convince him to finally move back down to middleweight and take this fight. I’m guessing that the conversation involved a check with a lot of zeros on it, for one thing, and maybe a reminder of how he couldn’t control the bigger “Rampage” Jackson on the mat when the two fought for the light heavyweight title.

Whatever it took, White got his wish. Henderson-Silva is the match that makes sense for both fighters. The only questions is, if Silva wins, what happens next?

I ask that for two reasons. One, Henderson is 37. He’s had a great career as an MMA fighter and before that as a prolific amateur wrestler. The guy has won so many titles and tournaments that when I asked him once to list for me some of his accomplishments in advance of an IFL announcement, he told me he was a “three or four-time National Greco-Roman champion.” Three or four? He just smiled and shrugged. I guess at some point you stop counting and they all blend together.

My point here is that if Henderson can’t beat the 205-pound champ and can’t beat the 185-pound champ, what’s left? He doesn’t want to hang around and be a gatekeeper, or at least I don’t want him to do that. And at his age he might be better off hanging up the gloves and concentrating on running his gym.

Then again, if he makes the move down in weight and wins the title, it could be a reverse Randy Couture scenario.

My second question, though, is what happens with Anderson Silva if he wins? He’ll have defeated just about everybody worth punching in the UFC’s anemic middleweight division, with no obvious challenger waiting in the wings. What will the UFC do with him then? Will Anderson Silva weep when he sees there are no more people to beat up?

Knowing the UFC, they’ll probably start pressuring other fighters to move to middleweight (paging, “Count” Bisping), but that does not necessarily mean they’ll have any credible contenders at the end of the day. Henderson has by the far the best shot, not only because of his skill and experience level, but because his style matches up well against Silva’s.

If Silva has trouble with anyone, it’s wrestlers. His takedown defense is the only weak part of his game, and Henderson doesn’t mind taking a punch on the way in to get it.

As of right now, the Silva-Henderson fight stands in the distance as a fork in the road for the UFC’s middleweight division. The future of the weight class — as well as the future of several fighters as of yet unnamed — will depend on what happens in that bout. Either way, when it’s all over we’ll finally have some (M)answers.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, MMA, Sports, UFC

Championship Questions Abound for the UFC

Anderson Silva’s title defense at UFC 77 on Saturday night got me thinking.  The fight was one-sided from the beginning, but it was a satisfying event nonetheless mainly because a championship belt was at stake.  That makes everything more interesting.  Even if it seems like a mismatch (the way Franklin-Quarry was, or the way St. Pierre-Serra looked on paper), a title fight will always be a big deal.

So why, I can’t help but wonder, is the UFC not in more of a hurry to put the other titles up for grabs?  Why are they content to let some belts stay out of circulation while others get defended every couple of months?

I’m referring now, of course, to the welterweight title.  Matt Serra shocked the MMA world when he upset Georges St. Pierre with a first-round TKO to take the 170-pound strap away from the Canadian, but that was back in April.  That’s the last time we saw the welterweight title up for grabs, and why?  Apparently, so the UFC could use the current season of The Ultimate Fighter to pump up a title match between Serra and Matt Hughes.

I can’t say I don’t understand why they’re doing this.  It’s about money.  They saw an existing rivalry between Hughes and Serra and pounced on it.  They figured that if they spent the entire reality show season reinforcing the idea that these two don’t like each other, their title match at UFC 79 (entitled “Nemesis”, by the way) would bring big pay-per-view money.

Understandable though it may be, this is somewhat disturbing.  It seems like the UFC sees Serra as a Buster Douglas in the making.  They don’t believe he’ll successfully defend the title against any top-tier welterweight, so they want to make sure they squeeze all the cash they can out of him before he gives up the belt.

The real loser here is St. Pierre.  He has to sit on the sidelines and wait for this “Nemesis” bout to happen, and then he’ll probably have to sit around some more and wait for a fight with the winner.  And what does he do in the meantime?  He already beat Josh Koscheck, who was climbing toward number one contender status after his win over Diego Sanchez.

Now he has to hang around waiting for his next shot at a paycheck, figuring whether he’ll get to rematch Serra or whether he’ll have to beat Hughes again (and does anyone have any doubt that he will?)

What bothers me about this situation is not just that the title is on the shelf for so long because of a TV show, it’s that the UFC is putting so much emphasis on the need for a rivalry match.  Other than Hughes’ legacy as the longtime-champ, the only reason he’s getting this title shot at Serra is because the two men hate each other and people will pay to see that.

I’m all for a rivalry match from time to time, don’t get me wrong.  But if you already have the title at stake, you don’t need to manufacture a rivalry on a TV show.

For instance, what’s going to become of the lightweight title after Sean Sherk’s appeal at the end of the month?  Unless he becomes the first person to get a steroid suspension overturned in the state of California, he’ll be stripped of the title.  Then what?  Will the UFC look at their lightweight stable to see who they can make a rivalry fight with, then put those two guys in together?

In other words, will they arbitrarily decide which two men get to fight for the vacant title, and if so, who will they be?  Kenny Florian and some guy who hates Kenny Florian, assuming such a person can be found?

It’s no way to decide the future of a championship belt.  It rewards people who manufacture controversy rather than people who put on good fights (paging, Dr. Ortiz).  It’s more pro wrestling than it is pro fighting, and while I understand that a company’s objective is to make money, it seems smarter to look at the big picture rather than just the short term pay-per-view cash on the table.

Maybe I’m the only one bothered by this, I don’t know.  But if the next season of TUF features coaches Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, we’re all going to be longing for the good old days when title fights happened without the benefit of a drawn out reality show.  That, and wondering why the UFC didn’t learn from Sylvia’s disastrous appearance on Blind Date.  I know I did.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sean Sherk, Sports, UFC

Silva Looks Flawless at UFC 77

Anderson Silva isn’t just the best middleweight in the UFC. He’s an artist. He has so many different weapons at his disposal, it must be hard for him to choose which to employ from one moment to the next.

Just ask Rich Franklin, who began last night with high hopes for winning his belt back, but left, much like everyone else, in complete awe of “The Spider”.

When it came down to it, Franklin couldn’t find any way to mount an effective offense against Silva, who slipped punches and checked kicks with relative ease. Though Franklin did briefly exploit Silva’s notoriously weak takedown defense, he was unable to capitalize. He was also unable to avoid Silva’s clinch, despite assurances that he had learned how to defend against it after being demolished in the clinch in their first meeting.

Simply put, there wasn’t anything Franklin could do better than Silva. After picking “Ace” apart on the feet and nearly finishing him with a right hand at the end of the first round, the TKO that finally came early into the second round had already begun to seem inevitable.

While the victory in his third straight title defense is a big one for Silva, what was most impressive was how calm and smooth he looked in the process. In at least one exchange he varied his attack — punches to the head, then leg kicks, then a shot to the body — so deftly and with such precision that Franklin appeared lost just trying to keep up.

It makes you think that Silva’s problem now, as much as there can be one, is the lack of competition in the 185-pound class. Aside from Paulo Filho, who is missing in action right now, the UFC might have to convince a few light heavyweights to move down in weight just to keep providing Silva with credible opponents.

If they do, I have to think that Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping could top the list. Both could conceivably make the weight (Henderson really should have debuted in the UFC as a middleweight), and both may soon run out of options in the stacked light heavyweight division.

In last night’s heavyweight clash, Tim Sylvia promised that his days of winning boring decisions were over, and that he intended to come after Brandon Vera and knock him out. Sylvia lied.

His game plan was not so much to come after Vera as it was to clinch with him and press him against the cage, smothering the smaller man with his weight. That’s how he began the fight and it was the strategy he returned to in every round as he plodded his way toward — you guessed it — another boring decision victory.

But Vera is as much to blame for the lackluster fight as Sylvia. He showed flashes of his speed and dynamic striking from the outside, but they were just frustrating glimpses. He refused to use his kicks to keep Sylvia at bay, like his corner implored him to do, and he was clearly hampered by breaking his left hand early in the fight.

It may have added up to another mark in the win column for Sylvia, but he didn’t do anything to change the perception of himself as a plodding big man who puts on a snoozer of a show.

He tried to generate a little heat after the match by calling out Cheick Kongo, even telling him to pick on someone his own size (despite the fact that Sylvia is much bigger than Kongo), but the crowd seemed unconvinced.

In other action, Kalib Starnes and Alan Belcher put on an exciting show before a huge cut on Starnes’ forehead became too nasty to ignore. The doctor called the fight and Starnes had a mini-blowup at his corner, who apparently thought their fighter wanted out of the fight.

That’s troubling because it makes you wonder what his corner has seen from Starnes in the past that would make them jump to that conclusion. It’s really too bad the fight was called before it could be decided, but it also makes you wonder if keeping elbow strikes legal is really worth the early stoppages.

Stephan Bonnar did as expected in his win over Eric Schafer, despite a couple of early scares. Bonnar still seems like a guy with plenty of potential, but he’s got a hard climb ahead of him in the light heavyweight division.

Jorge Gurgel got hammered by Alvin Robinson, which he deserved after deciding to lie on his back and absorb punishment with an expression that suggested he was just waiting for the fight to be over. Not a great night for hometown boys in Cincinnati.

Oh, and in case you missed it somehow, they call Cincinnati “The Queen City” and it was “Hostile Territory” on this particular night. But you knew that because Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg repeated it like a phone number they were trying to commit to memory. I can’t wait for UFC 84: Punch You in the Face.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Brandon Vera, Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC, UFC 77

Fun With Betting Odds for UFC 77

So you say you have some disposable income and you don’t know what to do with it? You’re looking for a good time this Saturday night and you’re tired of helping that one stripper at the Foxxx Club “work her way through college”, especially now that it’s been like six years and you’re starting to have your doubts about whether she really is pre-med? Lucky for you I have the solution, for both problems.

To start with, when that girl says “college”, what she means is “meth”. And if you really want to have some fun with your money, why not have the kind of fun that brings with it at least the possibility of paying you back?

Obviously, I’m not the guy you go to for financial advice. I keep my money in an empty box of fish sticks in the freezer. Always have. But the one thing I do know a little something about is mixed martial arts, and here’s how I’d bet on tomorrow night’s card (based on odds from betus.com):

Anderson Silva (-210) vs. Rich Franklin (+170)

It’s interesting that almost nobody is picking Franklin to win, and yet he’s not a tremendous underdog in the betting lines. That’s a testament to Franklin’s tenacity and work ethic, if not his natural ability. It’s hard to count him completely out of this, even if I can’t see how he might win.

In the first fight Franklin seemed surprised that Silva was as good as he turned out to be. It was as if Franklin had become too accustomed to winning easily. When Silva dismantled him in the clinch the look on Franklin’s face was like a man who had just fallen through the ice.

But this time he knows what to expect, one assumes, and knows his career is at stake. Will that be enough? Will we see a revitalized Rich Franklin?

My Pick: Silva.

If the line was better, Franklin might be worth the risk. I don’t doubt his ability to retool his game plan and his determination to overcome this obstacle, but at +170 it isn’t worth it. The fight is in Franklin’s hometown, so if it goes to a decision he should have the edge there. But Silva is just so very, very dangerous in so many ways.

Tim Sylvia (+120) vs. Brandon Vera (-150)

Say what you want about him, Sylvia is tough to figure out. To some he’s a plodding fighter who gets by with a lack of athletic ability because of his sheer size. To others he’s a constantly improving knockout artist, at least when he wants to be. Sylvia himself has said that he will no longer fight cautiously to win at all costs, and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Vera is the more athletic and explosive of the two, but he’s giving up at least six inches in height and more than thirty pounds in weight. If Sylvia really does come after him then Vera won’t need to worry about finding a way inside the big man’s defenses. At the same time, “The Maine-iac” is awkwardly powerful, and we’ve yet to see Vera work his way out of trouble.

My Pick: Vera.

If the line on Big Tim gets to +200 or above, then he’s definitely worth it. But right now it’s too close to even. It’s a hard bout to predict, and the line reflects that, as usual.

So where can you make some money if not on the main two bouts? How about the undercard, which always features enough unknown quantities to create problems for oddsmakers.

Take a hard look at these fights:

Jason Black (-350) vs. Matt Grice (+250)

Josh Burkman (-350) vs. Forrest Petz (+250)

Stephan Bonnar (-350) vs. Eric Schafer (+250)

What all three of these have in common, aside from identical lines, is somewhat well-known favorites against untested underdogs. Chances are that one of these three dogs will win, yielding a considerable payout, but who will it be?

Bonnar is the toughest of the three favorites and Schafer is mostly a submissions guy (going against someone who’s never been submitted), so that’s probably not the best choice in the bunch.

Petz is a fighter still trying to find his way, but he’s also an Ohio boy fighting in Cincinnati. That means two things: 1) he’ll get a boost from the crowd and a little help from the judges if it goes to a decision, and 2) the UFC may have put him on the card purely to have another local guy for the benefit of ticket sales. Burkman is a great athlete, but he doesn’t seem to want it enough at times, so Petz could shock him.

Lastly, Matt Grice is a wrestler turned MMA fighter, like his opponent, Jason Black. Black is the favorite because he’s fought the bigger names on the bigger stages, but that doesn’t mean Grice couldn’t be a diamond in the rough. He’s younger and less experienced, sure, but he could come up with something big, and Black has underperformed in fights before.

My Pick: Grice.

For the odds, I say he’s the least risk with the greatest reward. He’s still not anyone’s favorite in this fight, but a hundred dollars will get you $250 if he wins, and it’s not so far-fetched a possibility.

Least ways, it’s still better than buying some girl named Misty another handbag and coming home smelling like the cosmetics counter at Rite Aid. Seriously, it is.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Betting, Brandon Vera, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC, UFC 77, Uncategorized

The Gatekeeper Stigma

Fighting is a tough way to make a living. Most of us who aren’t pro fighters probably already suspected as much. Aside from the physical requirements, I’ve always thought that the hardest part must be the unsympathetic nature of the fight game. There’s only room for one champion in each weight class, one top guy. Everybody else is looking up at him, at his paycheck, at his higher standard of living.

This fact of the fight business is how we get to the gatekeeper phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the term, a gatekeeper is someone lacking the ability to be a champion or top contender, but is good enough to beat just about anyone who is not a champion or top contender. He’s a kind of walking truth serum for fighters. If you’re the real deal, then you should be able to beat him. If you’re not, then you won’t.

When you think about it, the gatekeeper has to be a very good fighter. He has to be able to beat about 90% of the guys in his class consistently, which is impressive. But nobody wants to be a gatekeeper. Not even the guys who can’t beat the gatekeeper want to be a gatekeeper. Everyone wants to be champ because that’s who gets paid, and that’s who gets remembered years down the road. Being a champion is like etching your name into the rock, or at least it seems that way.

The reason I bring up the gatekeeper phenomenon now is because I’m thinking about Rich Franklin, who will rematch Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title on Saturday night (yeah, that’s what you get when you type Franklin’s name into Google Image Search. I’m asking you, what’s that blond in the middle doing? She just had to find a way to stand out in a photo full of Hooters girls, didn’t she?).

It’s hard to call Franklin a gatekeeper, at least right now. He was the champ — albeit of a weaker division than that which currently exists in the UFC — before Silva took the belt from him with a brutal first-round TKO. But what becomes of him if Silva beats him for a second time?

At the moment, Franklin is a considerable underdog in this rematch. If he loses, no one will be too surprised. But at the same time, Franklin has beat most of the top talent in the division, including Yushin Okami, Jason MacDonald, and David Loiseau. What can the UFC do with him if he can beat these guys, but not the champion? Isn’t that the very definition of a gatekeeper?

That’s tough luck for Franklin, who is a very talented fighter with a great work ethic. While it’s somewhat insulting to call a fighter a gatekeeper, it’s starting to look like that’s what Franklin is facing if he can’t find a way to beat Silva.

And that’s why fighting is such a tough business. At least, that’s one of the reasons. It’s a world where being really good isn’t quite good enough. You have to be the best, and no one can be the best forever. Not even Silva, although he probably doesn’t know it yet.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, UFC