Last night at UFC 126 we were all given the chance to see a great, legendary knockout by UFC Middleweight ChampionAnderson "The Spider" Silva. Anderson was able to get some distance on Vitor Belfort after a flurry and scramble and absolutely finish Vitor off with a front kick that will go down in history as one of the most out of nowhere knockouts in MMA history. Joe Rogan went on to say that he has never seen a front kick KO in any sport, and I humbly tossed my hat into the ring immediately on Twitter pointing out that K-1 MAX 2005 Japan Champion, Taishin Kohiruimaki (also known as Takayuki Kohiruimaki) is the exception to that rule.
While I'm sure that Joe Rogan knows that, as Rogan is a diehard fan of K-1, and part of his job as a UFC commentator is to sell the brand and the action happening in the ring, watch one of the other incredible front kick KOs in the history of combat sports as Taishin Kohiruimaki faces Akeomi Nitta in the MAX Japan 2005 finals. Much like with last night's kick by Anderson, this kick comes out of nowhere, and usually the front high kick is not known as a murderous blow, but I remember watching this in 2005 and jumping out of my chair, so excited to see such an amazing KO.
Here at LiverKick.com we may like to keep our focus on the world of kickboxing and Muay Thai, but there’s no denying that this weekend’s big fight takes place in MMA where Anderson Silva meets Vitor Belfort at UFC 126. And while some MMA fights may not hold much interest for kickboxing fans, this is a stand up battle that intrigues me. Silva and Belfort are two superb stand-up talents, and their championship showdown on Saturday should pique the interest of kickboxing fans everywhere.
In the past weeks, there have been mountains of analysis on this fight, but we wanted to take a look at it from a slightly different angle. Today and tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how each man has fared in exclusively stand-up competition – Silva in Muay Thai and boxing matches, and Belfort in boxing.
Now, before we dive in, let me just say that the style of striking used in boxing or Muay Thai competition is going to need to be adjusted when making the transition to Mixed Martial Arts. There are so many things you have to concern yourself with in MMA that employing what would be perfect technique in a boxing match can lead to your quick defeat under MMA rules. When you use purely Muay Thai criteria to criticize a MMA fighter’s striking ability, you often fail to recognize that these are similar, but different sports. So this is not intended as a way to comprehensively assess each man’s MMA striking – many MMA pundits have handled that. Instead, this is an alternative way to look at one of the most kickboxing focused MMA championship fights we are likely to see this year.
Today, we kick things off with a look at the Muay Thai and professional boxing career of the dominant, brilliant UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Even if you are an MMA fan who knows little about full Muay Thai, it should come as no surprise that Silva has competed under these rules. He still uses a variety of Muay Thai techniques in his UFC career – the most notable being the Muay Thai clinch (or Plum Clinch as it is somewhat controversially known in MMA circles), which he used most effectively in his two destructions of Rich Franklin. He also has some nasty Muay Thai styled elbows in his arsenal, one of which he used to great success against Tony Fryklund:
Unfortunately, the world of Muay Thai competition is hard to fully document, so while Silva has definitely trained Muay Thai extensively, it’s hard to know exactly how many professional fights he has competed in under these rules. Only one exists on the web, this fight against Tadeu Sammartino. No clue when this is from, but judging Silva’s build I would guess somewhere around 2004-ish.
What strikes me in this fight is that although Silva is often cited as having a strong Muay Thai background, he fights here like a K-1 rules style kickboxer instead of a traditional Muay Thai fighter. He’s very active on his feet, bouncing around and using a lot of side to side movement. This is a sharp contrast to the more Muay Thai style of planting your feet and checking strikes instead of evading (for a great analysis on this difference check out this discussion on Silva at My Muay Thai).
He also relies heavily on his hands, which are the lowest scoring strike in traditional Muay Thai. Silva does use kicks, but he doesn’t always swivel his hips to throw them with full power, instead using them largely to get his opponent off balance in order to set up the punches. And like many of his MMA fights, it’s the punches that do the real damage, including a quick punch he uses to land the first knockdown here that is very reminiscent of the Forrest Griffin KO.
Finally, while Silva is praised for his knees in the clinch, you see here that he primarily uses those knees when he has the clinch around the back of his opponent’s head. On a few occasions, the two men have a body clinch, however we do not see the exchange of knees to the body so often used in Muay Thai. He has taken the aspects of Muay Thai that work for him, but is far from a traditional MT fighter.
With Silva’s use of punches, and his very vocal appreciation for Roy Jones Jr., it’s no shock he has tried his hand at professional boxing. The Spider is 1-1 as a pro boxer. His first fight was a loss way back in 1998, two years before his MMA debut. He faced Osmar Luiz Teixeira, 11-2 at the time. Silva was stopped in the 2nd; I don’t believe footage of this fight exists. His more well known 2nd bout took place in 2005, less than a year before his UFC debut. Here, he faced Julio Cesar De Jesus, a Brazilian fighter who has never fought before or since.
Once again, we see Silva’s very active footwork on display here. As in the previous bout, Silva is constantly on the move, coming in and out of range throughout the fight. For boxing, this is a common style, and Silva uses it well. What impresses me with his movement is his knowledge of when to move and when to plant his feet in order to land power shots.
One aspect of his game that this fight really points out is Silva’s defense. In this fight, as in many others, Silva relies on a combination of speed and a tough chin as his primary defense. He doesn’t use his hands much to block punches, and gets tagged with a few good shots here as a result – the most notable being in the first round after Silva decides to try a little showboating. He has a tough chin, so he wades right through those shots, but they do land. This could be a concern on Saturday, as Vitor Belfort is a fighter who only needs the smallest of openings to finish a fight – just ask Wanderlei Silva or Rich Franklin what happens when you let Vitor land one good punch.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for a look at the boxing career of Vitor Belfort.
Yesterday we took a look at Anderson Silva as part 1 of our LiverKick.com take on Saturday’s big UFC 126 showdown between Silva and Vitor Belfort. If you missed it, be sure to read that article here for a look at Silva’s Muay Thai and Pro Boxing careers. Today, part 2 as we examine the boxing career of Saturday’s challenger: “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort.
Belfort’s career as a boxer has many similarities to Silva’s. Belfort has just one pro boxing bout to his name, and like Silva, Belfort’s opponent was another one and done fighter. But while Silva tried his hand at boxing just before hitting his MMA peak, Vitor’s boxing debut came at a very different point on his career trajectory.
Belfort made his boxing debut in April 2006, and while it was a small show in Brazil, there were many eyes on the fight. Because Vitor Belfort was only a year removed from his 2nd UFC run and the classic series of fights with Chuck Liddell, Marvin Eastman, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz. In the time since leaving the UFC, he had taken two fights (including his first encounter with Alistair Overeem); he had also spoken openly about his plans to compete as a boxer.
The idea of Vitor Belfort as a boxer makes a lot of sense. Despite talk of his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu pedigree, Vitor is and always has been a largely one dimensional MMA fighter, using his hand speed and power throughout his career (Belfort did try out a new wrestling based style in Pride, which was successful, though incredibly boring). And so fans were interested in what kind of skills Belfort the boxer would bring to the table when he met Josemario Neves.
As it turns out, Vitor Belfort the boxer is not much different from Vitor Belfort the MMA fighter, which in all honesty is not a bad thing. Belfort’s strength has always been his boxing, so for him to focus on those skills and really keep his game tuned to this strength is a smart move. And here we do see some nice examples of Belfort tightening up his technique. One quick exchange I like comes when Neves tries to trap Belfort against the ropes. Once he has Vitor pushed back, Neves goes for a punch, but Belfort ducks the punch and steps out to the side, escaping the punch and the bad positioning in one fluid motion.
This fight really displays Vitor’s greatest strength – the killer instinct and knowledge of when to finish a fight. Belfort is one of the best at this in the history of MMA – once he tags you, he simply unloads until you are done. If you watch Vitor’s left hand here you can see when he decides to switch gears and end the fight. For the majority of the fight, he keeps that left hand high and close to his chin in a very strong defensive position, ready to block any incoming punches. Once he hurts Neves just before the first knockdown, he gives up that defense in favor of landing as many heavy shots as he can as quickly as he can. In some ways it’s a gamble – leaving yourself open to go for the kill can get you hit – but Belfort knows when to time it so that he stays safe. It’s telling that Belfort has used that flurry to KO numerous opponents, but never once has an opponent landed a counter strike to drop Belfort during these rapid fire attacks.
One other interesting aspect from this fight is that, because this is boxing and not MMA, Vitor needs to do more than just overwhelm his opponent once suddenly – he needs to hurt him enough to keep him down or continue the assault after his opponent has time to recover. Here, Vitor’s power is not enough to keep Neves down for a 10 count, but it is enough that after the first knockdown, the fight is essentially over. The moment they begin to exchange again after that initial knockdown, it’s clear that Neves has nothing left to offer. Vitor swarms him again, then once more for the 3 knockdown victory.
When he faces Anderson Silva tomorrow night, all it will take is one opening for Vitor to launch that rapid fire attack, overwhelm Silva once, and again become UFC champion (though hopefully this time it will be a bit more legitimate). What’s tricky for Belfort is that, while no man has yet countered that quick attack, if there’s any man to do it, it’s Silva. Will Silva give Belfort the opening he needs? And if he does, will the sublime striking we know Silva is capable of be able to save him? We’ll know soon enough.
There aren't many men considered "experts" in training with both fighters for this weekend's UFC 126 Middleweight Title Fight, but Daniel Woirin knows Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort very well. Woirin has trained both Anderson and Vitor in Muay Thai in Brazil, as well as Lyoto Machida. Woirin now lives in the United States, working with Dan Henderson's Team Quest as their Muay Thai coach.
Our good friends at Riddum.com caught up with Woirin to ask him to weigh in on this fight, and it sounds like his opinion falls in line with what most think; Vitor has to force Anderson out of his comfort zone and use his superior speed to his advantage. [source]
Riddum.com: How do you see their fight unfolding and what will be the key to victory for each fighter?
Daniel Woirin: Anderson is taller and has more weapons standing up than Vitor. He will probably work from a long range and try to frustrate Belfort with counters and defensive lateral movement, but also with the clinch in the short range when Belfort reduces the distance.
Vitor has great boxing and he will need to close the distance. He will need to fight from mid-range and for that, he will have to set up his offenses by utilizing feints in order to avoid Anderson's counters.
If Vitor Belfort wants to win, he will have to provoke Anderson Silva and take risks.
So if most people were betting on someone failing a drug test going into UFC 175 between Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, the smart money was on Vitor. So consider the shock today when it turns out that Chael Sonnen has failed a random drug test by the NSAC and will be pulled from UFC 175.
According to ESPN he was tested randomly last month at a UFC press event where he tested positive for two banned substances, Anastrozole and Clomiphene. He will most likely receive a suspension and will not appeal that suspension. He is supposed to address the media later on today and we'll keep you posted on that.