This is a guest post by Fraser Coffeen of Head Kick Legend. Also see this Judo Chop to understand more about Silva's underrated wrestling. Also see our reviews of his manual and training DVDs to learn more about his amazing techiques.
Let's get this out of the way right now. Anderson Silva is the best striker we have yet seen in MMA. I'm sure that's going to anger some people, but as far as I'm concerned, it's absolutely true. Whatever your take on his attitude, his performances against Maia/Leites/Cote, his negotiating style, you cannot take away what he can accomplish in the ring. And what he can accomplish is, quite simply, amazing.
So to get better prepared for his big UFC 117 showdown this weekend with Chael Sonnen, let's break down the Spider's striking technique. It's easy to say he's the best, but by taking a close look perhaps we can see exactly what he does that makes him so good.
From a striking perspective, Anderson brings 3 major strengths to the table:
Technical precision. Nearly every single strike Anderson Silva throws could appear in a textbook on how to use that strike. His technique is consistently beautiful. An example: watch the way he aims to connect with his shin when throwing a kick - the best place to land that kick, but most people connect with the foot. Anderson maximizes his impact, landing with the harder shin. There's also the way he masterfully uses the Thai clinch, both to neutralize his opponent, and to line them up for his own knees. For his punches, check out the way he keeps them inside and tight, which we'll discuss more in a moment. He's also deadly accurate. The most high profile examples of this accuracy came against Leben and Griffin, both of whom were surgically cut apart by Anderson. But you can also see it in the KO of Tony Fryklund, an unorthodox elbow strike that Silva throws with confidence and lands perfectly on target for the clean KO. But perhaps his best example of accuracy came in the Okami fight. The kick he lands, illegal though it may be, is a marvel, as he hits a perfect headkick KO from his back. Ridiculous.
The jab. When used properly, a jab can be a tall striker's best weapon, and Anderson knows exactly how to land it. His frame gives him a natural reach advantage over most opponents, and he fully exploits that advantage, largely through his jab. Silva throws this punch with incredible speed from either hand. He keeps it very tight, coming straight out and allowing him to connect before his opponent gets his own shot off. This allows Silva to dictate the range. Get too close, and he'll use his jab to push you back in a manner reminiscent of Semmy Schilt (another fighter who knows how to use his reach). The jab is easily Anderson's most dominant punch, far outnumbering any other style of punches he throws. And while most fighters just use a jab as a set-up, Anderson throws it with enough power to cause real damage. Just ask Forrest Griffin.
Transitions and movement. Or, if you're feeling a bit negative, you could call it dancing. But while his dancing antics have earned him much hate, they also reveal a key aspect of his game. Silva is highly graceful on his feet, able to move through the ring with a beauty more associated with a dancer than a fighter. This fluidity serves him both offensively and defensively. From a defensive standpoint, he combines fast footwork with top level head movement to avoid all manner of strikes. The evasion of Rich Franklin's shots to end round 1 of their rematch was something rarely seen outside of high level boxers (and reminiscent of Anderson's one time idol, Roy Jones Jr.). Offensively, his foot movement and speed combine to keep his opponent completely off guard. Silva is perfectly comfortable in south paw, orthodox, or even squaring his feet and not favoring either side, and he moves between these stances constantly, never letting his opponent find his rhythm. He also can seamlessly flow from punches to the clinch to a flying knee, and down to the ground if needed.The end result is a highly varied attack that is difficult to predict, which is the most dangerous.
So, is he unbeatable? Of course not, no one is. But his flaws are small.
His one real striking weakness is the one famously exploited by Ryo Chonan - a vulnerability to leg kicks. Chonan used leg kicks effectively to score one of the precious few victories over the Spider. In that fight, Silva showed no ability to check those kicks or adjust his gameplan to avoid them. Has he closed this gap since then? We can't say. It's a mystery as no one has really tested Silva's legs since, which is a bit of a surprise given Chonan's success. Of course, the Irvin fight showed a potential hazard of kicking Silva if you are not fast enough. There, the combination of Silva's speed and jab gave a strong warning that could deter less proficient strikers from trying the leg kicks. But for striking, this is really the only weak area he's shown.
For any kickboxing fans, tomorrow night affords the chance to see a true master of stand-up fighting in action. No, it's not in a kickboxing ring, but don't let that detract from appreciating the amazing stand up skills Anderson Silva brings to the table. He's a uniquely gifted stand-up genius, and, as always, I await his latest work with great anticipation.
Check the full entry for video of fights with Fryklund and Okami.