Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 6/22/13
Anderson Silva is one of the best fighters ever. Can Chris Weidman take him down? (Photo credit) Anderson Silva is without a doubt the most accomplished fighter to ever enter the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He won the middleweight title in just his second fight with the organization, and has gone undefeated since, holding the UFC records for most consecutive wins (16), most consecutive title defenses (10), most post-fight bonuses (12, tied with Joe Lauzon), most knock-downs (17), most finishes (14). He is the heralded pound-for-pound greatest fighter of all time as stated on numerous occasions by the likes of UFC president Dana White and commentator Joe Rogan. Silva has demonstrated a level of skill and technique inside the cage that some call "ninja-like," and he has shocked the world by dominating all of his competition with a fashion of his very own.  When Silva front-kicked Vitor Belfort in the face and knocked him out at UFC 126, no one could have seen it coming, Belfort least of all. The technique had never been used successfully to finish anyone in UFC competition before and Silva earned "2011 Knockout of the Year" virtually everywhere that had an award of that kind to bestow, including ESPN.com and the World MMA Awards.   It sometimes looks like he's doing Zumba inside the cage, dancing in front of his opponent before unleashing a most embarrassing beat down upon them. When he hits people, he overwhelms them. They react as though they've never been hit that way before and completely wilt the second they realize this difference.  Everything Silva throws is sharp. He punches through his adversaries, embracing the Bruce Lee philosophy. Film star and Aikido Master, Steven Seagal, has even done some training with Silva. Seagal claims to have shown him different styles of elbows and knees and was also credited, by Silva himself, for showing "The Spider" the aforementioned front-kick that quashed Vitor Belfort's title hopes. When asked about their relationship and how it came to be, Seagal stated that Anderson had reached out to him, wanting to learn some "deadly stuff."   So, given this information, it's likely Anderson may know a "5 finger death blow" or something of that kind. He may know many fatal techniques and is dumbing himself down to compete in a sport that has rules. We're talking about more than an athlete; We're talking about a martial artist. (Photo credit) Usher in Chris Weidman, Silva's next challenger for the UFC middleweight title. The fight goes down July 6 at UFC 161 and the New Yorker, Weidman, comes into the fight undefeated at 9-0. However, despite the unblemished record, the threat of Weidman is something that has seemingly been overshadowed by the aura of Anderson Silva. Weidman is a 2-time NCAA Division 1 All-American Wrestler. To become an All-American, a competitor must place in the top-8 for the NCAA National Championships. Weidman did this two years in a row in 2006 and 2007.   Because of his wrestling pedigree, Weidman was invited to train with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist, Matt Serra, and perennial martial arts trainer, Ray Longo, and help coach wrestling at their gym. In turn, he started training BJJ, and after just a few months, he entered the 2007 Grapplers Quest North American Championship, "just to have fun." Despite still being a white belt, he won the whole thing, defeating everyone in his weight class and in the Absolute Division. He submitted all 13 of his opponents.     Moving forward, after a failed bid to compete in Olympic wrestling, he committed himself fully to training MMA under Serra and Longo and made progress at an astonishing rate. He made his pro debut in 2009 without any amateur fights because his coaches didn't think it would be fair to put someone as dangerous as Weidman up against amateurs.  Four pro wins later, including a TKO against recent Ultimate Fighter finalist Uriah Hall, and the UFC came knocking. Throughout this period, Weidman was also training his stand-up fighting extensively and expressed a desire to show perfect technique in that area. Nothing demonstrated this drive for perfection better than his most recent fight and title qualifier against Mark Munoz. Munoz had a similar background. He was a former Division 1 All American AND Division 1 National Champion, so his wrestling pedigree on paper was even greater than Weidman's. Munoz had momentum coming into the fight and was being talked about as the guy to get the next title shot against Anderson Silva, should he defeat Chris Weidman. Early in the fight, Weidman shot for a takedown, exploding on the single leg, taking Munoz down in an instant. To a lot of people's surprise, he dominated Munoz on the ground, beating him up, controlling the position, blending his wrestling with his Jiu Jitsu, completely stifling anything Munoz had to offer.  Round 2 was more of the same. The fight finally got to the feet and the two men separated. Weidman was moving well and looking comfortable. After a few quick exchanges, Munoz stepped in for an attack and Weidman quickly shot a counter-elbow directly through the guard of Munoz and dropped him. A few too many follow-up shots later and Weidman had his hand raised in victory. Munoz lay on the mat, feared dead.   The thing to notice was the crisp, technical nature of Weidman's stand-up technique. The quickness with which he threw the counter-elbow showed his reflexes. But after landing the shot, Weidman also moved his head to parry the oncoming fist of Munoz. This showed a high level of awareness and skill in his stand-up technique.  Weidman is a guy who can throw varied strikes like punches, elbows, kicks and knees. He throws his strikes with proper form, he knows how to deflect and roll oncoming shots, and he has a ground game for days. This is a very, very well-rounded fighter. And one thing about Anderson Silva that needs to be addressed is that his record is padded with a lot of fighters who aren't well-rounded. The argument can be made that Silva has not fought the greatest competition, but more specifically, he has not fought well-rounded fighters. He won the title from Rich Franklin, an aging martial artist/former math teacher who was a very hard worker but never excelled in any particular area of MMA. Out of those who have challenged for Silva's 185 pound division title comes a list of one-dimensional fighters. To look at his recent competition: Patrick Cote is a striker with a power-punch but his striking abilities were far inferior to Anderson. Thales Leites was a ground specialist with weak stand-up. Ditto Demian Meia. Chael Sonnen has perhaps some of the best wrestling in MMA and that's his specialty. But his stand up is a bit stiff, and on the ground, he plays the position game like a wrestler, not a Jiu Jitsu guy. Sonnen is the only guy to put a beating on Silva, but all he did was hold top position and throw strikes. And while some of those strikes were quite powerful, there was little attempt to pass guard, improve position, etc. His gameplan was to takedown, hold down, and do enough punching to look active and win a decision. Just when it looked like that was going to work, his Jiu Jitsu deficit caught up to him. Silva threw up a hail mary triangle choke and forced Sonnen to tap out in the 5th and final round of their fight. Next was Vitor Belfort, who is an excellent stand-up fighter but has very little grappling to speak of. And in the end, Silva still had the striking edge. There was no area Belfort had an advantage in and he fell like all the rest. Silva went on to beat Yushin Okami, who is arguably the most boring fighter in the sport of MMA, and who has niether striking skill nor Jiu Jitsu skill. He is a strong, sad-looking Japanese fighter who can usually hold people down, but Silva decimated him and made him look like nothing.  Sonnen would then get a rematch, bringing with him the same skill-set he had previously, and lost again (much quicker this time), taking a flying-knee to the solar plexus in the second round. On top of his title defenses, much is made of Anderson Silva's pound-for-pound status as he has made a foray into the 205 pound division 3 times. He won those 3 fights but the 3 fighters he fought in the division were low-tier. He destroyed James Irvin, who was one-dimensional and has faded away since. He embarrassed Forrest Griffin, sending him running and crying out of the arena. Griffin may have been a former title holder, but it was during a weak time in the division and he lost it promptly. Griffin's name and success came from a lot of luck and Ultimate Fighter reality show fame. And although you have to respect his successes as successes, he would probably be the first to admit that he was never an elite level talent.  Finally, in his most recent fight, Silva fought Stephan Bonnar, a washed up journeyman. Bonnar basically came out of retirement to fight Silva and got mangled in the first round. So, none of his 205 pound opponents has been a real contender and it's been more of the same one-dimensionality that he's used to competing against. Even though Anderson Silva has shocked and awed the world with his gracefully brutal dominance, his competition has been riddled with the same type of one-dimensional fighters. He ought to have looked that good against them. But Chris Weidman is a different animal. If Sonnen was able to win most of six rounds against Silva with wrestling alone, it brings up a very interesting aspect in this fight against Weidman: Weidman will be able to get Silva down. Mark Munoz trained Silva's wrestling in the past, but Weidman handled Munoz on the ground. Weidman's Jiu Jitsu is on point, so he won't be likely to get caught in anything. He may be able to work guard passes and set things up on Silva, whether it be ground and pound or submissions. On the feet, Weidman is alert and loose, but he will certainly have to focus all his technical skill against someone like Anderson Silva. Silva is a better striker, but the difference is that Weidman doesn't suck at striking and is a superior grappler...a far superior grappler. If Weidman gets Silva down, what will Silva do? Weidman has the Jiu Jitsu that Sonnen didn't have, and if Weidman can mix it up with all his skills, Silva may find himself stymied and helpless. Weidman oozes New York swag and displays confidence that brings to mind the word "machismo." This indicates something very important: Chris Weidman isn't afraid of Anderson Silva. Most people who have fought Silva previously had been beaten before they got into the cage. Weidman says he'll beat Silva in July and give him an immediate rematch at Madison Square Garden. And while the status of MMA in New York is still in limbo, a statement like that shows that Weidman really isn't fazed. He believes he can beat Silva.       So, this kid from New York, who will be counted out by many, and who is an underdog, stands on the brink of the biggest fight in his career. But the little known fact is that Anderson Silva, who gets all the play and has all the badges, may very well be stepping into the biggest fight in his career, too. Weidman is a new breed and probably the most dangerous person Silva has ever fought. Just, not too many people know about it...yet. By: David Dengis Twitter: @DavidJDengis
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