No one at light heavyweight can beat Anderson Silva
This is the first part of a critical analysis of which fighters at any weight class can defeat UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. As a firm believer that styles make fights, I hypothesize that nobody at UFC's vaunted 205 weight class has the technique and style to defeat Anderson Silva. In a later post I will then move to the heavyweight division and suggest that there are a number of heavyweights who will handily defeat Anderson Silva in the Octagon. Finally I will propose a fighter at 185 whom I strongly believe will beat Anderson Silva. Unfortunately - whether he will ever get a shot at the title while Silva is still champ is highly questionable.
1. Forrest Griffin 467 UFC 1
2. Quinton Jackson 450 UFC 2
3. Lyoto Machida 424 UFC 4
4. Rashad Evans 410 UFC 8
5. Chuck Liddell 371 UFC 2
6. Wanderlei Silva 370 UFC 6
7. Mauricio Rua 368 UFC 5
8. Keith Jardine 309 UFC 7
9. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou 266 UFC 10
10. Thiago Silva 223 UFC 9
Above are the BE Meta-Critic rankings for Light Heavyweight division ("LHW"). It is interesting that LHW is often said to be the best division in the UFC, the so called 'marquee' division, whereas the middleweight division ("MW") is often said to be lacking in talent. Critics of the MW division often cite the lack of fighters who can make a competitive fight out of a meeting with Anderson Silva as the justification for this. In my humble opinion, it is simply because Silva is so dominant at his weight class that suggests the MW is the 'poor man's division' as compared to LHW. If you include Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson at MW the MW division has a larger variety of fighters and without Silva in the mix you could have a very competitive division without one man who is head and shoulders above the rest. The real problem with the MW has been its inability to create stars like the LHW has. My belief is that has got a lot to do with the words 'heavyweight' and 'middleweight' but that is for another post.
My hypothesis is based on the belief that the above 10 top LHW are all primarily strikers (with the exception of Rashad Evans (4)). No one in the above list has the skill set to beat Silva. I'll go from bottom up:
Ranked at number 10 but I think in reality he will beat the majority of people ranked higher than him in the list. An aggressive all-out striker he would pose a threat to Anderson with his non-stop aggression. Probably one of the toughest matches that Anderson could have at 205, however I believe that Anderson's striking is just too precise, his ability to evade incoming attacks to good and his mental game too strong to be intimidated by Thiago's aggression. Definitely an explosive fight I'd love to see.
Definitely out of the top ten after his loss to Luis Cane, Sokoudjou is like a big version of Patrick Cote with not as good a chin. His wild striking style is tailor-made for Silva's precise missile-like muay thai and I could see Silva stopping Sokoudjou early in the second after making the Cameroonian chase him around during round 1. I'd love to see a replay of Silva's awesome display of reaction speed and evasion skill that he showcased against Rich Franklin in their second fight. Sokoudjou has a black belt in Judo and he's supposedly great but he hasn't showcased it much in his fights thus far. He might have a strength advantage against Silva and perhaps he could win if he fought like Tim Sylvia and pinned Silva to the fence for three rounds. However Sokoudjou hasn't shown anything that shows he has a strong inside game so you have to imagine that he would succumb to Silva's deadly muay thai clinch.
Jardine has a shot at beating Silva because he trains out of Greg Jackson's camp. In my mind Jackson is the number one 'game planner' in MMA today. He understands the intricacies of fights so well that he is generally able to develop a game plan to ensure his fighter will fight a competitive fight against whatever opponent he faces. I believe Jackson would advise Jardine to continually try to take Silva down, both through takedowns and from the clinch. However after watching Jardine get decimated by Houston Alexander and Silva (Wanderlei) I have no choice but to come to the conclusion that his chin isn't solid enough to withstand 3 rounds against Anderson Silva. However good Jackson's gameplan is, Jardine will get hit during 3 rounds and one punch is generally enough to put him away.
Since his Grand Prix win in 2005 Rua has been one of my favorite fighters (currently ranked second to GSP) because of his exciting style and non-stop pace. I was bitterly disappointed by his loss to Forrest Griffin and I'm really hoping he returns strong from injury. Rua is similar to Thiago Silva in many ways and again I think that as much as I like him Silva (Anderson) muay thai is too precise and too technical. He will not get into a brawl with Rua but rather he will pick him apart with ease. Rua is a great fighter but he doesn’t have the tools to beat Anderson Silva.
Wanderlei is definitely a small LHW and if he fought Anderson you'd be confused as to which guy was moving up from 185. A fight between these two has been long overdue. Again the same problems arise for Wanderlei as they do for Sokoudjou and Wand's ex-teammate Rua. Their aggressive all-out striking style doesn't make sense against Anderson and I believe Silva would defeat Wanderlei handily. On a side-note: Wanderlei looks significantly smaller compared to when he fought in Pride.
A huge fight and an obvious choice for a mega pay-per-view for the UFC. Liddell's vaunted power seems less obvious in recent fights and I don't like his chances. Considering that Liddell hasn't changed his game plan for the past 5 years and basically fights the same fight every time he comes into the Octagon (evidence that he is one of the older generation of mixed-martial artists who aren't diverse enough to remain at the top anymore). Liddell doesn't have the striking skill to match Silva and his chin also isn't the best. I believe this would be one of Silva's easier 'superfights' at 205. Liddell's possibility of winning comes from his underused wrestling skill but I'm not sure that he would use it. Silva would pick Liddell apart with precise striking and would evade the majority of Liddell's looping right hands with ease.
As close to a winner as there could be on this list, Evans wrestling skill would stand him in good stead against Silva whose take down defense isn't the greatest. Evans could win by using a lay and pray strategy and keep trying to take Silva down for 3 rounds. Given that Evans is extremely quick perhaps he could use his speed to nullify some of Silva's striking. I believe that Evans could get Silva on his back at least a few times during a fight. However I also believe that Evan's striking isn't good enough to avoid getting hit at least a few times by Silva during the proceedings. Evan's chin hasn't been tested much so I'm not sure how he would take multiple punches from Silva. However I personally don't see Evan's chin being relevant as I would envisage Silva destroying Evans with muay-thai knees to the body ala Rich Franklin. The fact that Evans isn't one of the bigger 205ers also hurts his chances against Silva.
Possibly the one fighter who, by predicting his loss, I would be flamed the most for. If this happened it would show that BE's readership is educated as to the intricacies of Mixed Martial Arts and would be a great compliment to the site. Lyoto Machida brings a unique style to MMA and I am one of his most loyal supporters. I love watching him fight and I think his style is exciting and effective. However, by believing that Machida could defeat Silva is to forget a couple of things. 1. Silva trains with Machida often. He would be used to Machida's range and style of striking. 2. Despite fighting at a lower weight class, Silva would have both the size and reach advantage against Machida. Machida often weighs in at about 200lbs (which means he doesn't cut weight to get there) and Silva cuts from between 210 and 220 lbs. Silva is also taller and has a longer reach.
A fight between these two would be similar to a karate sparring match, one that Silva would come out in top via decision. His long reach and understanding of the karate range that Machida fights in would allow him to score more points on the striking overall and look more impressive than Machida in front of the judges who would reward Silva with a unanimous decision. Overall this is a moot point because they are unlikely to ever fight each other.
Jackson's size and strength are his biggest assets against Silva. He should come into the fight with a significant size advantage. Jackson is one of the few on the list that have the tools to beat Silva should he choose to fight the right fight. That would be to push for takedowns on Silva and attempt to ground and pound Silva into the mat. The absolutely wrong fight for Jackson to fight would be for him to stand with Silva and attempt to knock him out. That would almost certainly result in the same devastating defeats that saw him lose against both Wanderlei and Shogun in Pride. Anderson's muay-thai clinch is even more effective than that of his fellow Brazilians. If this fight materializes I would give Rampage a 40% chance of winning.
Griffin is possible the biggest 205lber there is. He also has a work-ethic that is second to none and is a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Forrest will definitely have the edge in wrestling and I think that his jiu-jitsu is good enough to prevent him from getting submitted by Silva. Forrest could conceivably win a decision against Silva by mixing up his fighting style and repeatedly going for takedowns. I don't see anyway that he could stop Silva as he doesn't possess solid knockout power nor is his jiu-jitsu good enough to submit Silva. On the other hand, given Griffin's knockout loss to Keith Jardine, I'd envisage Silva being able to knockout Griffin is he ever gets the chance. A close call, but if the fight came to fruition I'd have to go with Silva by KO, especially if it's a five-round fight.
Just for the record I don’t believe that Anderson Silva is pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world. That title should belong to George St Pierre who will eventually be regarded as the prototypical mixed martial artist. As I shall demonstrate in a later post, Anderson Silva’s game has weaknesses that can be exploited, whereas GSP has elite level skills in almost all facets of his game. There is no doubt in my mind that if GSP walked around at 215 and was 6’1” he would beat Anderson Silva. Because of his size disadvantage I don’t think he would win in real life.
In a later post I will move to analyze the heavyweight division and also propose the fighter that I believe could beat Silva at 185.
Thanks for reading.