I am an admitted Anderson Silva fanboy. I love watching him fight. His phenomenal destruction of Forrest Griffin was one of my favorite fights ever to watch. Like most everyone, I’ve been a little frustrated at the up-and-down nature of his seeming interest in his fights. He SAYS he’s happy, ready to fight, and trained for Vitor tonight. I have to believe him, although he said roughly the same thing prior to the Demian Maia fight… while I’m sure he was properly trained, he definitely wasn’t happy about it, and we all know how that went.
So I’ve been pondering the fight tonight. Assuming the REAL Anderson Silva shows up, does Vitor stand a chance? How can he win this fight?
Let’s look at this objectively… what are Vitor’s strengths?
Swarming: In terms of standup, he’s got some crazy swarming attacks. He’s calmed down a little in his old age, but especially early on, he looked like a prime Wanderlei (and even beat Wanderlei at his own game).
Anderson Silva hasn’t really had to deal with this style since maybe Chris Leben, but Leben was psyched out before he even stepped in the cage. Forrest Griffin tried some combos, but that stopped once he got punched in the face by a Matrix-esque Silva.
More importantly, Vitor knows WHEN to turn it on. He’s got that killer instinct to finish a fight when his opponent is wounded. He did it with Wanderlei, with Lindland, with Terry Martin. If he wobbles Anderson, he'll be able to finish him, something Chael Sonnen could have learned from.
Boxing technique: While in my opinion Vitor’s strength is more Chute Boxe than Duke Roufus (I know he didn’t train with CB, but it’s that style), he’s got solid boxing technique. However: Anderson Silva is no Josemario Neves.
Silva’s boxing is just as good as Vitor’s, if not better, and I just can’t see accuracy being Vitor’s golden egg in this one. That’s not how he rolls.
On the other hand, Dan Henderson hits way harder than Vitor. Forrest Griffin hits pretty hard. Patrick Cote hits hard. Granted, none of those guys is known for any degree of accuracy with that power, like Vitor is. But if hitting really hard is a variable, none of those guys even touched Anderson Silva. You have to pin Silva up against something before that hard-hitting can work.
Good (but not world class) wrestling: Vitor typically uses his wrestling defensively, but if he gets close, he’s got the ability to clinch and take people to the ground. But while he couldn’t keep a Greco-Roman superhero like Randy Couture from taking him down, he’s kept mid-level wrestlers like Tito from doing anything he didn’t want to do. But let’s be fair – we’re not in danger of seeing Anderson try to take Vitor down. Will Vitor try to take down Anderson? Possibly – but he won’t do it by shooting, it’ll be from a clinch; Vitor likes to move to one side and use an outside trip, which is how Dan Henderson got Silva to the mat as well.
Jits: Vitor’s got his black belt from Carlson Gracie. In BJJ terms that’s a step higher than the Nogueiras, which is where Silva got his. However, Vitor hasn’t tended to display what I’d call wizardry on the mat. Not to say he doesn't have the ability, but he's no Demian Maia, Shinya Aoki, or Roger Gracie. On the other hand, neither has Anderson shown that level of jits, although both of them have shown that they’ve got the chops to take advantage of a situation. Just ask Chael Sonnen and Joe Charles. I just don’t think we’ll end up seeing a flying scissor heel hook.
Ground-and-Pound: If you combine strong punches with pinning Anderson on the floor, you've got a real problem for Silva. Belfort may not have the best wrestling or even the best jiu jitsu, but all he needs is to be able to hold Silva down for a couple seconds. This is where I think he's got the best chance to win the fight. Can Silva recover? Yeah, Dan Henderson beat him up on the ground but Silva defended well enough to get it stood back up. If he can do that against Belfort, that neutralizes what I think is Belfort's only real advantage.
My prediction? If it stays standing, Silva’s got the edge by a lot. If Belfort can close and take down Silva, then I think he’s got a slight edge with G-n-P. I hope Anderson trained to stay away from a swarming Vitor, since that’s the only way I see him getting close. When I first thought about this fight, I really wanted to believe that Vitor didn’t stand a chance. But with a little analysis, I think it’s a lot closer than I initially believed. We’ll see, won’t we?