We're just a few days away from seeing Anderson Silva step in to the cage at UFC 134: Rio to defend his Middleweight title against Yushin Okami, and I couldn't be more excited. Despite some weird showings against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, and Demian Maia, Silva has consistently demonstrated that he is one of the most advanced strikers in our sport, dominating opponent after opponent with his massive arsenal of techniques.
We've covered a lot of Silva's brilliance in the past (and Kid Nate collected our Silva coverage in a comprehensive post at MMA Nation), but one thing we haven't covered is Silva's finest hour - the moment when he looked the least like a human being and more like some sort of computerized Matrix character. I'm talking, of course, of his one round humiliation of Forrest Griffin.
Over the course of three and a half minutes at UFC 101, Silva used head movement and superb defense to avoid Griffin before knocking out the former Light Heavyweight champion with seemingly impossible ease. It remains, for my money, the most amazing domination in the history of our sport. Today, we take a look at exactly how it all went down.
Full analysis, with lots of gifs, in the complete article.
Gifs by BE reader Grappo
Before we dive in, let me say this right away: I like Forrest Griffin as a fighter. I think he's far more skilled than he lets on, and has a very solid striking game. It's easy to look back at a fight like this and be critical of his choices - far harder to step in there with the best in the world and actually try to knock him out.
That said, Griffin comes into this fight making a massive tactical error that costs him the fight right from the opening. Forrest begins the fight by testing Silva out - throwing feeler punches and kicks to see how Silva responds. Normally, it's Silva who starts fights this way, which means that Forrest ends up playing directly into Silva's game. Essentially, he spends the opening minute showing Silva his full range of techniques, allowing Silva to judge the distance and set ups Forrest uses. You can almost see Silva storing and processing this info like a computer. On the right is an example, as Forrest throws a jab-jab-head kick combo. Notice how Silva moves back with both his body and his head, gauging the distance on the kick.
And Forrest continues to do this, cycling through all his strikes and giving Silva a look at everything he has. Here's a jab-jab-cross combo that once again Forrest is just throwing out as a feeler and not fully committing to. He has no intention of really landing these shots and hurting Silva, he just wants to get him to react. But again, Silva is working his defenses. Compare this to the first clip and you'll see that Silva doesn't move nearly as far away to evade, taking a small step back and deflecting the right hand with his own left. He's found Griffin's range, and knows he doesn't need to move back any further to avoid the shot. Staying close both conserves his movement, and keeps him in range for counters.
One more, as you can see the full extent of Silva's grasp of Forrest's range on this jab (right) . Silva barely moves at all here, because he doesn't need to. He knows he's out of range, so barely responds to the punch.
After about two minutes, Silva is ready to try out his own attacks. He starts by moving in and ducking at the waist to see Forrest's response (left). Once Silva drops his head, Forrest attempts a right cross to the body, which is a pretty low percentage option in that position. With Silva's head down, an uppercut or knee would be far more effective, but those aren't major weapons for Griffin. This shows Silva that he is relatively safe to bring his head down, which we'll see him exploit soon.
A few seconds later, Silva launches his first real attack, pushing forward with punches. The key to this attack is at the end of the gif, where you can see Silva use the information he has gained from the above clips. After connecting with a few shots, Silva pauses for just a moment. Forrest uses this opening to try a left jab, but Silva knows how to avoid Forrest's left, and just barely dips his head outside the shot. He then ducks his head low to avoid a possible Griffin hook. Again, Silva is comfortable ducking as he now knows that Forrest is unlikely to respond with a strong counter. Griffin doesn't offer any counter, instead keeping his hand out to prevent another punch, and Silva sees the opening, connecting with a quick right.
At this point, Silva is feeling totally comfortable and is ready to really open up. Here is one of the best sequences as Silva mixes together three different ways to evade, all using precise head movement. At first, he moves his head to the right or left of the incoming punches, which works because Forrest is throwing straight shots up the middle. When Forrest switches to throwing hooks, Silva can no longer just dodge right or left, so he switches immediately to bringing his head low. Because he can't attack from this lower position, he doesn't stay there long, bringing his head back up, and leaning his head back to avoid one final hook. With Forrest's defenses down as he throws the the hook, Silva gets in a quick punch to drop him. This is just an amazing sequence that show how well Silva is moving, how he is responding appropriately to a variety of punches, and how well he stays close in order to quickly connect with the counter.
Finally, we get Silva again using head movement to avoid Forrest's attack before landing the clean jab KO. As for that punch itself - I really don't know what to say about it. There's no reason it should work. Let's look at everything wrong with it. 1. Silva starts the punch with his hand down at his side, meaning the punch is not coming from the body. 2. He doesn't throw his body into the punch at all, making all his power come straight from the arm. 3. He's moving backwards. These are all big things to avoid when looking to connect with a punch. The one thing he does do is hit his target dead on the mark, and that's all he needs. It's a crazy finish that should never work, but such is the magic of Anderson Silva.
To sum it up:
- Griffin starts the fight by showing Silva all of his strikes, allowing Silva to gauge the distance and Forrest's techniques.
- Silva quickly figures out the range and stays as close as he can while avoiding strikes.
- Silva tries a few strikes of his own to gauge Forrest's responses.
- Silva strings it all together, staying close on exchanges while using head movement to avoid Forrest's shots and perfectly finding the holes in the defense.
It's fights like this that show exactly what Silva is capable of, and why there's so much excitement about seeing him once again in action this weekend.