Judo Chop: Anderson Silva Lands a Muay Boran Back Elbow

Looking back at our Judo Chops archives it's painfully apparent that we have not done Anderson Silva justice. The only full Judo Chop dedicated to his work is about the Wrestling Switch against Nate Marquardt at UFC 73. And while that was a deserving and totally sweet move, it's not exactly what Anderson Silva is best known for.

So to partially make up for it, I thought we'd take a look at one of the most spectacular and innovative strikes Silva has ever landed in the cage: a Muay Boran Lead Reverse Back Elbow. Silva busted it out at his last fight before joining the UFC. We've got an animated gif, the full fight video and an excerpt from Anderson's book, The Mixed Martial Arts Instruction Manual: Striking where Anderson talks about the move in the full entry.

Silva tried the same move against Chael Sonnen in the fourth round at UFC 117 but Sonnen ducked under and got a take down (animated gif).

As an appetizer here's an excerpt from a post that Fraser Coffeen did for us before UFC 117 looking at Anderson Silva's strikng technique:

From a striking perspective, Anderson brings 3 major strengths to the table:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Also be sure and check out this post from Fraser about Anderson's fights under boxing and Muay Thai rules and what that tells us about his striking style. Silva may not always satisfy fans and he may be showing signs of aging, but he's without doubt one of the most consummate martial artists we've seen in MMA history.

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Here's Anderson from his great book Mixed Martial Arts Instruction Manual: Striking talking about the lead reverse back elbow he used to finish Tony Frykland at Cage Rage 16 in 2006 just before joining the UFC.

Silvaelbow_medium Not long before my Cage Rage fight with Tony Frykland, I saw the movie Ong Bak. Tony Jaa, the martial arts hero in the movie is a master at Muay Boran, an art I have always been interested in. There was one move in particular he did that blew me away. Instead of attacking with a side elbow or an over-the-top elbow, both of which are common in Muay Thai, Jaa stepped toward one of the villains and threw a lead reverse back elbow. I was so enamored with the move I went to my trainers and told them that I was going to use the strike in my next fight to knock out my opponent. Immediately they shut the idea down. "That won't work," they said. "Just forget about that elbow." I wasn't convinced but every time I tried to practice the move during training, the could come run over and tell me to focus on techniques that would actually work.

I still wasn't convinced, so one night I went home and asked my wife to stand on the couch and hold out her hand. I executed a lead reverse back elbow into her palm, and she told me what I already knew -- it was a very painful strike. To get in the practice I needed, I had her stand on the couch every evening after my official training -- this time holding a pillow -- and I would do one hundred reverse back elbows. By the time the Frykland fight came around, I felt very confident. Unfortunately, backstage I couldn't sneak off with my wife to warm up on a pillow, so I had one of my training partners hold out a mitt so I could squeeze in a few more lead reverse back elbows. Again my trainers told me to forget that move. I figured I had no other choice but to prove them wrong, so two minutes into my fight with Frykland, I stepped toward him, threw a lead reverse back elbow at his chiin, and knocked him out.

I now use the lead reverse back elbow as a lead-in attack, a secondary attack, and as a counterattack. To set it up, you want to execute a lead quarter step with an inside pivot, which makes it look as though you're turning your back to your opponent. Once in position, drive your elbow upward into his face. When thrown correctly, it's a very deceptive strike because your movements make it look as though you are setting up a powerful rear strike instead of a lead hand strike. It's also a very difficult strike for your opponent to defend against because your elbow slips upward between his arms. It's a bit difficult to develop the timing and sense of distance needed to land the reverse back elbow, but when you put in the proper effort during training, it can yield spectacular results in a fight.


Anderson Silva vs Tony Fryklund CR 16 Critical Condition
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