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Anderson Silva The Kickboxer

Anderson SilvaAfter Anderson Silva's devastating front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, many are wondering what kind of success The Spider would have in a pure kickboxing format. Hardcore fans have contemplated this idea for years but after millions witnessed Anderson's technical display that dropped the MMA world's collective jaw, the subject has garnered even more attention. Let's look at Silva's history in fighting as well as some important factors involved in his theoretical transition to kickboxing.

In reading Fraser's recent article on Silva's history in Muay Thai, you can see that Anderson trained extensively in the art before he entered the UFC. While training with legendary strikers such as Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Shogun Rua at Chute Boxe in Curitiba Brazil, Anderson developed a terrifying arsenal of physical weapons including knees from the Thai clinch, elbows, soccer kicks, and stomps; all of which are hallmarks of the Chute Boxe style of Muay Thai. I hesitate to call it traditional Muay Thai because there really aren't a lot of similarities. Use of the clinch is prominent in both styles but the parallels end there. Watch Anderson and you'll see he is very active on his feet, uses kicks mostly to set up combinations, and he doesn't employ knees to the body to a large degree. The Chute Boxe style of Muay Thai is all about brawling and going right at your opponent with a barrage of punches and in doing so, hoping that enough of them land to knock your opponent senseless, or to the mat to employ your ground game. It's not always the safest way to win a fight but it's exciting and can be quite effective. Both Wanderlei and Shogun have built legendary careers on that style. Contrast that method with a pure Thai style fighter such as Buakaw Por. Pramuk and you'll see the differences quite readily.

Anderson Silva debuted for the Ultimate Fighting Championship at Ultimate Fight Night 5 on June 28, 2006. His opponent that evening was Ultimate Fighter Season 1 standout Chris Leben. The Crippler was enjoying a 5 fight win streak and had all the confidence in the world which led him to declare that he would knockout the Brazilian. Less than a minute into the fight, it was Leben who had been knocked out and the MMA world suddenly saw what this Anderson Silva guy was capable of. Brutal striking, pinpoint accuracy in not missing a single strike, and the Chute Boxe Muay Thai style which overwhelms fighters that wilt under its onslaught. Joe Rogan declared that Silva was a different kind of striker. He was indeed.

We now know that Anderson is undefeated in the UFC and resets records with every fight. He's one of the very best in the sport and there's no denying that. But enough about MMA, we're here to talk kickboxing.

K-1 and IT'S SHOWTIME, the two premier organizations in the sport of kickboxing, have rules in place that incorporate all of the major striking-centric martial arts. This works well for Anderson because as we saw earlier, he is a hybrid in his approach which allows him to be flexible and fight opponents with different backgrounds and strengths. Silva doesn't have to fight Muay Thai fighters to be comfortable. One thing to remember, K-1 doesn't allow multiple knee strikes from the clinch. Something Anderson uses quite often if given the chance.

Knowing that SIlva possesses the skills to hang with the sports elite, there is the other big issue -- size. With elite heavyweight kickboxer's getting bigger all the time, does Anderson have the size to hang with such large heavyweights? While Silva fights at 185, he has often fought at 205 with great success and is a good deal larger than that in-between fight camps. If Anderson adds bulk to his long frame and adds it in the correct way, I believe he could have the size to compete with many of the sports elite.

With the size and skills issues addressed, it's time to look at three potential opponents for Anderson Silva.

Tyrone Spong: King of the Ring normally competes at around 230 pounds which physically makes him a great match for Anderson. Stylistically speaking, this fight is somewhat of a toss-up as both fighters prefer to counterstrike. Both are technically sound and have a variety of strikes to choose from because of their significant experience. With only 3 KO losses in 73 fights, Tyrone has the chin to stand up to Anderson. This fight would be about timing your shots and not getting overly aggressive as both have the power to end a fight quickly. I would predict that if this fight were to happen, it would be more technical than brawling and probably go to a very entertaining decision.

Gokhan Saki: How fun would this fight be? Gokhan Saki is just a wild dog and has the fastest punch/kick combinations that I've ever seen in combat sports. Anderson would have to employ a lot of movement and try to knock Saki out of his rhythm while throwing precision strikes. Something Anderson is very good at, by the way. Saki and Silva would be a close matchup in size as well. This fight comes down to the sheer ferocity and quantity of Saki's strikes versus Anderson's ability to counterstrike and move in the pocket. I would predict a KO ending in this fight as I don't believe that the style of Saki combined with the killer instinct of Silva would allow it to go to a decision.

Ruslan Karaev: Ruslan could be called the Wanderlei Silva of K-1. His knockout or be knocked out approach is not always the most precise but his strikes come in bunches and often find their mark. Only problem is, a style like that is tailor made for a fighter like Silva. We've seen it many times before. If you wade in with punches hoping to overwhelm him, he uses his uncanny head movement to evade those strikes and somehow knocks you out in the process. This fight comes down to Ruslan trying to overwhelm Anderson's ability to move and counterstrike. I would predict a KO ending for this fight as Ruslan's style would batter Silva or allow Anderson an opening to land precise punches on the Russian.

While all the perks of fighting in the UFC may be too good for Anderson to leave behind, if he ever chooses to, I would love to see him go for a career in kickboxing. He may not be big enough to hang with the largest heavyweights but I do think he could be very entertaining in the right fight.

What about you? Who would you like to see Anderson fight in the kickboxing world? How do you see the fight going?

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New Fight Announcements

Explosion Fight Night 3There has been an onslaught of fight announcements in the past few days.  To keep you up to speed, we're putting them together here in one story, so let's get to it.

Feb. 19 - Shootboxing act.1: We previously announced that UFC veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka would be on this card against an opponent TBA.  His opponent is now set, and it's Satoru Suzuki.  The Japanese ex-boxer had a good year in Shootboxing in 2010, but ended the year breaking his arm and being forced out of the S-Cup.  This is his first fight back from the injury.

Feb. 26 - Golden Glory Eindhoven: Top 10 fighter Nieky Holzken is in action, facing Thilo Schneider in a Golden Glory sponsored event.  Holzken is moving back and forth between the 70 and 77kg limits these days - hopefully he can settle down and find where he fights best this year.

Feb. 27 - RISE 74: A few good fights set for the latest edition of Japan's RISE promotion.  The show will feature two title fights: 60kg champion Kan Itabashi faces Kousuke Komiyama, while 63kg champion Koji Yoshimoto meets Yusuke Sugawara.  The show will also include the retirement of former K-1 MAX fighter Tatsuji.  Full card at HeadKickLegend.

March 6 - It's Showtime Amsterdam: IS added a pair of interesting fights to their first show of 2011.  First, Wendell Roche fights Danyo Ilunga for the vacant IS 95kg title.  We'll have more on this fight in the coming weeks.  Plus, Chahid Oulad El Hadj vs. Robin van Roosmalen in what should be an exciting match up.

March 12 - Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow: Top 5 MW Albert Kraus headlines this show against Batu Khasikov.  Kraus is a busy fighter who takes a fair number of these smaller fights, typically knocking his opponents out.  But as Souwer showed us this weekend - anything can happen.

April 2 - Explosion Fight Night 3: This French Muay Thai event is notable for a 4 man K-1 rules tournament that will feature Sudsakorn.  The Thai fighter is popping up everywhere these days, already having turned in two high profile fights in 2011 against Khem Sitsongpeenong and Giorgio Petrosyan.  He's also entering a lot of tournaments, which is a smart move for the experience.  The other participants are Michael Piskitello, Michale Lallemand, and Mohammed Rahoui.

April 24 - REBELS 7: Former K-1 MAX Korea GP champion Chi Bin Lim meets Daiki Watabe.  Good to see Chi Bin Lim here, as he looked very good at the K-1 MAX Final 16 last year, but has seemingly been passed in the MAX pecking order by his countryman Su Hwan Lee.

May - Local Kombat: This one is not 100% confirmed yet, but Local Kombat revealed that their May event will likely be headlined by Daniel Ghita vs. Alexey Ignashov.  Ignashov is notoriously hard to stop or even knockdown, but he's not looked good lately, and I have to think Ghita may be the man to finally stop him here.

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Jon Jones Earns Shot at Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128

Jon JonesTonight at UFC 126, Jon "Bones" Jones took the fight to Ryan Bader. Both men were seen as huge prospects for UFC's 205lbs division, and after a slick guillotine choke from the top, Ryan Bader moves down the ladder a bit and Jon Jones moves up. Jones demonstrated some superb ground work against Bader and was able to use his reach advantage to keep Bader at bay.

Jones' stand up still leaves a lot to be desired, with his stance, movement and lack of set-ups. All of the big strikes he threw had a lot of power behind them and looked right on target, but not as many connected as could have if he actually set the strikes up. This includes a left high kick, a few big hooks and a Remy Bonjasky-style flying kick.

So what is the point of all of this? In what was a WWE or even Oprah moment for UFC, Joe Rogan came into the cage to tell Jon Jones that Rashad Evans was injured and at UFC 128 the UFC would like Jon Jones to step in for him and challenge Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. It is a huge step up in competition for Jon Jones, and honestly the fight of his life. Shogun's striking, while a bit on the brawling side due to the Chute Boxing style of Muay Thai, is still technically sound and does lots of damage.

Jones has a reach advantage over Rua, but that wouldn't be the first time he has given up reach, and it also isn't the first time he has gone into the fight without a giant hype train behind him. When he challenged Lyoto Machida, Machida had endless momentum and it turns out wasn't prepared for Muay Thai, and now Jon Jones is in the same position. Jones is most definitely a great prospect, but there are serious holes in his stand up that Ryan Bader was able to exploit tonight and not enough time to fix them before the fight.

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Vitor Belfort: Pro Boxer

Vitor Belfort and Anderson SilvaYesterday 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.

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