I had a chance to watch Like Water this evening. To date, I've seen the film showered with praise, and I'd like to offer a different view. To be sure, the documentary is a riveting piece of work, but it fails the ultimate test: it doesn't convey the narrative as it really was.
Like Water suffers from a fatal flaw: it does not accurately convey the mood of the time. Fans were *angry* with Anderson Silva after the Demian Maia fight. It was his third embarrassing performance out of his last four fights. The performances weren't just boring, they demonstrated an appalling arrogance and a level of contempt that was sickening. The film portrays anyone who was upset about those performances as a meathead, falling right into the trap of believing there are only two choices: an outright brawl, or the kind of performance Anderson put on in Abu Dhabi. Any sophisticated fight fan knows this is not the case.
The portrayal of Chael Sonnen is also disappointing. Chael's journey from the summer of 2009 through his suspension was one of the most interesting sports stories of the last few years. A career journeyman somehow pulled together a string of dominant wins over the number 2 and 3 fighters in the world, and then gave an invincible champion a true run for his money. Instead of capturing this, "Like Water" treats him as little more than a big mouth.
Chael Sonnen was the first (and only) fighter in the UFC to fight Anderson with reckless abandon. He showed no fear when the fight started--he did what he said he'd do: he walked across the cage and got in a fist fight in Oakland, California. Given Anderson's highlight reel, and the number of top fighters who have cowered when standing across the cage from him, this is a critical piece of the story that goes untold in "Like Water."
Finally, an unforced error: "Like Water" completely fails to capture the drama of the fight. The main event at UFC 117 was the best fight in UFC history. The drama was unparalleled. In the crowd and across the country, people were in shocked disbelief for over 22 minutes. When Chael took Anderson down in round 5, it appeared all hope for Silva was lost. Silva's comeback win was one of the greatest moments in sports history, not just MMA history. Like Water does not do it justice. After building the drama for the fight for over an hour, the fight gets short shrift.
The casual fans I watched Like Water with enjoyed it a great deal. They're very excited about the rematch. I suspect that only those of us who actually followed the sport in the buildup to the first Chael-Silva fight will have any objection. Still, a documentary should be more than just a marketing tool. It should strive to capture the true story. Like Water unfortunately falls short.