Fistic Dialectics: Anderson Silva, Probability and Grace
Anderson Silva's narrative is riddled with spectacular knockouts, matrix like operating, and come from behind classics against opponents previously viewed as potential threats at usurping the Greatest Of All Time. His fights have authored fight history in such an inverted midas touch way that some claim his record is padded by watching the theatrical ways in which he has relegated past opponents to second tier status. By outclassing great opponents, he simultaneously changes their rankings, all rankings, in the minds of fans and analysts; history flash-cut edits itself during his matches. By beating Dan Henderson decisively for example, he has cut a swath through time and space; altering the memory of every opponent Henderson has ever defeated (Bisping, Wandy, Fedor). Conversely, by doing this, he has altered his own place in time, his status free form and in flux within the mathematics, his legacy operating untethered and with a grace typically unseen in sports fan's memories. This similarly fuels revisionism, and grants hype and hope to novelty, to those untouched by Silva's thread through time. The newest, most recent edit/addition to this story is the 29 year old Chris Weidman. He is (outside of his lackluster fight against Demian Maia), several degrees removed from Silva's spectrum, which the system necessarily gives him the pellets of a greater chance, much the same way the newest IPhone is best because it is new. Chris Weidman indeed has a skill set to threaten wherein Silva has seemingly had the most trouble, wrestling; therefore we see the true probability of this match up taking place entirely within this small space, these X-Points between game plan and victory. Make no mistake; this is the story of Grace vs Chance.
Le Petit Chance has been expounded before, Silva's epic first battle with Chael Sonnen was seen by many as the Zapruder film of possibilities. We saw five rounds of Sonnen's wrestling essentially neutralize the incomparable striking of Silva, only to have his heretofore occult Jiu Jitsu spring forth with seconds to spare, eliciting a submission from Sonnen, the the frame by frame victor. Notable in this victory are the post fight discussions, the seemingly endless rants by proposed decoders of Anderson Silva, who now saw an A to B path to certain defeat for the Champion, they awaited the rematch like wage slaves watch for Powerball numbers.
However, as with all moments of grace, there were fascinating, almost preternatural circumstances in this victory; Silva's Babe Ruth-like precognition, having called the fight a win via submission, in samurai like fashion, for revenge against derisive comments made by Sonnen towards his teachers, the Noguiera brothers. Symbolically he walked out in a gi, an overt symbol of his Jiu Jitsu pedigree. These phantasmagoric qualities surrounding the match, coupled with his documented rib injury which arguably limited his movement and take down defense, prove to not only make UFC 117 a blue moon flash of light, but a conflux of intangibles that fans and Chael Sonnen may never see again.
Sonnen and his blinders, back patting himself, failed to see this and attempted to recreate the moment in his rematch, Grace vs Brute Persistence part two, only to fall drastically short and end up Tko'd in the second frame. In the first frame, he successfully took Silva down, and even managed to pass guard into full mount, but the complete lack of damage and significant strikes, or take downs after that, showed that his true Carpe Diem moment, for his Horatio Alger resolution, occurred on August 7th, 2010.
Undoubtedly these Sonnen/Silva fights have morphed into a supposed blueprint for future fighters on the method that gives the highest probability of defeat for Silva, a blueprint that Chris Weidman will surely follow. But therein lies the rub: Anderson Silva won both these matches, decisively, as well as all others against high level grapplers. Sonnen submitted and gave up in the first match and went fetal in the second. Dan Henderson, a decorated, Olympic wrestler, was a pioneer of this blueprint, and had some success, but ultimately fell victim to a rear naked choke. What does this convey other than the blueprint being problematic? Does this blueprint give the impression of a chance but in actuality is the equation for defeat? Is a wrestler's hope against Silva a 'red herring'? History says yes, but the future, and MMA analysts, continually rebuke, as most predictions are curved towards revisionism, curved towards validating young lions and "their" time, the illusory cycle. Styles do indeed make fights, but high level, G.O.A.T contenders such as Silva, Fedor, Jones, Aldo, operate outside of these UFC 1 dialectics and consistently resemble a breathing, living glitch in our ideologies and fandom.
That said, the beauty of MMA resides in it's unpredictability, its condensation of all training and game planning into one night, three to four times a year. In the World Series, NBA Championships, and most other sports, there are playoffs, repetitions, that allow for corrections from one game to the next. MMA, however, only allows for corrections and audibles to be called in that moment, those twenty five minutes. Therefore, this fight has life, and will come down to three factors: Stand-Up, Wrestling, and Experience.
The oft reported skill set of Chris Weidmans striking ability is not laughable, but most definitely chuckle-worthy and in my mind seriously makes the argument for Weidman as a three dimensional fighter moot. If Weidman is, as many say, Sonnen 2.0 with his wrestling, his is nothing more than Chris Leben 2.0 with his striking. Much like Leben, whose claim to fame was being the first victim of spotless violent accuracy from Anderson Silva in the UFC, Weidman throws looping punches and kicks at a speed that is chum to a counter-striking fisherman of Silva's pedigree. That his game plan will surely involve using these poor strikes to set up a take down, Silva's speed and timing will most likely counteract Weidman's lumbering, side-of-a-barn offense.
Weidman's value in the betting odds are surely linked to his wrestling pedigree. A two time Division I All American, he has the credentials to be formidable against Silva's Achilles heel (oddly more than the Olympian Dan Henderson to analysts). More impressive is his ability to have cast aside the useless techniques of college wrestling and adapt his game to best be used in MMA combat.
Weidman's wrestling, however, is not touted because of his take down ability which can be a bit of a slog, but is an all encompassing term for his overall ground game, which includes a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu and coaching by the ever brilliant John Danaher. Thus far, his Jiu Jitsu has been showcased by outclassing mediocre wrestlers with shoddy take down attempts (such as Mark Munoz and Jessie Bongfeldt, who dove his head into a standing guillotine) and a submission over UFC vet Tom Lawlor, who was his closest competitor in the Jiu Jitsu field, but had decided to stand and bang with Weidman.
The first round of Sonnen/Silva II is notable in that it had Chael Sonnen in side control with Andersons arm dangling and waiting to be attacked. Sonnen ignored this, Weidman will not; this is the greatest difference between the two wrestlers. What is left to be seen is what happens when Weidman attacks. Silva has been working his Jiu Jitsu game, with the likes of Andres Galvao, Fabricio Werdum, and this will be the defining variable in the fight and will be tested, double blind, should Weidman score a take down. Problematic for Weidman fans is his lack of a powerful and quick double leg take down of a GSP or Sonnen. The double leg i am speaking of is one that we could envision working against Silva; have we seen it? I haven't. In his fights with Bongfeldt and Lawlor, we saw his struggle in getting the fight to the ground. With those fighters, Weidman had no problem closing the distance. Silva, however, operates most effectively at a distance. This is where the 'sport' happens, where ones actions and intents have a direct effect on their opponents actions and intents. Who controls the space between owns the unwritten rules of how this game will be played.
In all previous battles with grapplers/wrestlers, Silva noticeably gave away the first round. Much like his striking, he grants himself time to gauge and measure the supposed strength of his opponent. In his battles with Henderson, Sonnen (I, II) and Travis Lutter, he was taken down in the first round. Some made moves, but most were nullified in any attack. One can almost imagine Silva belt-testing these challengers, watching reactions, much the same method he used in his striking battles with Griffin, Bonnar, and Vitor Belfort (feint a jab, take note, a cross, take note, kick, take note) . Then, after enough time and data has been collected, with strikers about two to three minute, grappler's get a round, he spits out his calculations with violent accuracy, an overwhelming ticker tape of off angle strikes, head movement and slight of hand Jiu Jitsu; an instant karma grading of fighters theses in front of the class.
Weidman's chance presupposes that a take down will occur or that Silva would welcome a chance to fight off his back and it turn to a Jiu Jitsu match. This however requires a serendipitous chain of events, all sourced to striking as a set up for that to happen. With this chain's first link (striking) being untempered and containing porosity, all following actions (take down and submission/ground and pound) are alarmingly reliant on Weidman's weakest strength, leaving the possibility of them being nullified altogether.
This area has the wildest differential. Though Anderson Silva is not known as a wrestler, his defensive wrestling is on par with most of his opponents and has only been threatened by high level wrestlers who can move swiftly behind a punch distraction. This difference in experience is parallel to the difference in striking and far more important. Experience equals calmness and focus, the antidote to the adrenal dump that fighter fall under the weight of. It is quite simply the difference between knowledge and naiveté. How this will factor into the fight will be in how it serves to swell the varying intangibles, the fighters heart, will, and championship spirit. In a match between two combatants who each have a side door to each others weakness, it will whittle down to which fighter is willing to go all in and which fighter is willing to call. Throughout his fight career, Chris Weidman has never had to fold, call a bluff or more importantly, hold out for the river card; Silva has done all three (Chonan, Lutter, Sonnen I). What makes this fight most interesting is it will surely grant Weidman the opportunity for all three, in one heart mirroring night.
One gathers from his pre-fight interviews that he is prepared to go all in; which many champions: Benson Henderson, GSP, Dominique Cruz have never done. I believe Weidman. How Anderson will read this, knowing the skills of his opponent, will determine the momentum. I expect Anderson to call Weidmans bluff, and I expect him to be holding the better hand. This is MMA, a sport in which anything can truly happen; however, I believe EVERYTHING has to happen for Chris Weidman.
Most odds-makers have Silva at a meager -250 favorite over Weidman's mas o menos +175. Interestingly, these odds are not wide and reveal both a non play in gambling, and an unspoken desire to simply sit back and see what happens. They could also be based on reluctance to make a call after the recent upsets (Silva/Overeem Gastelum/Hall, for example). Anderson Silva is 38 years old, has been fighting for 16 years. These numbers paralyze bookies, still haunted by Buster Douglas, maybe St. Pierre/Serra, but these numbers say nothing of Grace, which is the real play here. As far as throwing money behind the Weidman novelty I recommend no play, I recommend you spill a pint upon the ground in the name of James Irvin, Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort. I recommend a bet to oneself about what you think you know, what all past events have told you, what history has supposedly taught and how it manifests itself on July 6th. Surely at every bar there will be the Sonnen Chorus, eager to place win loss bets against Silva. I would recommend this to simply break even on your cover and bar tab.
My call is a first round TKO by Anderson Silva. Weidman will attempt to strike in hopes of making Silva “respect” his stand-up in the first few minutes of the opening frame, ostensibly to build the Cain Velasquez-style confusion that caught Junior Dos Santos off guard and let Sonnen land a punch. Weidman will never see his game plan play out. His stand-up will be countered, his slow take downs shucked off, and his hopes still born and fetal on the mat after a knee to the solar plexus or a stiff lunging jab or cross, pin point to the chin of the charging young bull from the graceful matador, rocks him and breaks his will. His chance, hope and hype becoming another formality.
Anderson Silva Round I via Grace (aka TKO)
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