The point of this post is to dispel the myth that Silva wasn't taking the fight with Weidman seriously, or did nothing but clown. I'm going to first use the highlight video below to point out some of Silva's most common attacks and tactics, then explain when and how he tried to use them during the Weidman fight.
A lot of people are completely convinced that Silva wasn't himself in that fight. That he was just clowning for no reason and that he could have finished Weidman at any time, but just got caught. That kind of thinking is delusional at best.
Anyway, this thread is to end talk that Silva was just being stupid. Here's the highlight
Anderson 'The Spider' Silva - New Highlights HD (via MmaFights03)
These are some trademarks of his game, not in order.
1. Keeping his hands low and standing more square against wrestlers, also using the cage to stop takedowns. See the Sonnen fights especially, also the Bonnar fight, but this one is pretty common knowledge.
2. Reaching for the double collar tie (commonly known as the Muay Thai clinch) when people stand in range with him, or try to grapple with him. He drops Leben with it 38 seconds in, does this the whole first fight (and lots of the second) with Franklin, at 4:50 against Franklin, at 5:56 against Henderson, 7 minutes in against Cote, tries to grab it against Sonnen several times during shots, and tries to get in on Belfort at 13 minutes in.
3. Using the left high kick when the opponent is hurt or backing up: He does this one all the time. He hits Leben with it 20 seconds in, Franklin with it at 1:56 then throws another again right after, at 4:56 against Franklin, against Henderson at 5:57, 7:20 against Cote, 8:06 against Leites, against Maia at 9:36, against Maia at 9:56 and against Chael a few times.
4. Hard straight punches to counter forward aggression. He drops Leben with them 22 seconds in and hits him with more in the beginning of the fight, drops Marquardt with them at 3:45, against Chael at 10:47, drops Forrest with them repeatedly, drops Okami with them several times but that fight isn't in this highlight. He also countered Hendo with a hard straight left that led to the finish, but it also isn't in the highlight.
5. Leading with straight punches when opponents just stand there out of range. Silva tries to chase Cote with them at 7:11 but misses, 7:35 against Cote, 8:41 against Forrest, against Maia 10 minutes in.
6. Using a short right uppercut while controlling the opponent with his left hand. He does this against Leben as he tries to stand up at 0:31, again at 0:35, against Franklin at 4:48, 5 minutes in against Franklin, 5:58 against Henderson and a couple times as he's on the ground, this was also the last standing strike he hit Chael with in the second fight before the finish.
7. Leaning over his feet: against Franklin at 4:40, Forrest at 8:41 then again at 8:45 (this is exactly what he would have done if Weidman was reaching like Forrest the whole fight and threw a left hook after the right like Forrest did) again against Forrest at 8:48, 11:24 against Sonnen,
8. Attacking primarily with kicks against opponents who won't come forward or stand in the pocket. The entire Leites fight, parts of the Cote fight, most of the Maia fight.
9. Taunting opponent's to encourage their attacks or hide his own: 8:38 against Forrest, Maia at 9:52.
Note that this is a long highlight, but it's still only a highlight. There are examples of all the things above missing from it. If you go through all his fights, you'll see him use the trademarks described above very frequently.
Anyway, the point is, he did all those things against Weidman. People act like all he did was stand there and showboat when that isn't the case at all.
First off, he didn't start putting himself in horrible defensive positions until the finish. In the first round, he used very careful steps back to stay just out of range and maintain the same distance against Weidman. His hope was that Weidman would try to cover this distance too desperately, so he could counter. His hands weren't always in "good" places, but he can still throw them from there, and his footwork (the same footwork as always) kept him safe with a buffer of range. All Weidman did at first was jab and pull back, so Silva never tried to waste time countering those bait shots. However, he kept his back to the cage ready to defend the takedown. When Weidman clinched him the second time, Silva pivoted off and tried to reach for the head, like always. Right after, Weidman steps forward and ducks as Silva tries to kick. In response, Silva controls the head with his left hand and attempts his right uppercut, but Weidman covers up. Silva tries to capitalize by clinching, but Weidman escapes again. Take note: He has already tried to use the uppercut and his clinch, like I said above. He's also standing square and using the cage to defend takedowns.
Silva starts walking forward instead of back with his hands down. Weidman jabs and Silva pulls back to the right so he jabs again and steps his right foot out to meet Silva as he throws a cross. This is the first time Weidman reaches even a little and Silva tries to counter with a left straight, as you might expect. Weidman hits first and angles off so Silva doesn't land. Silva begins really taunting now (when he gets hit) to encourage the attack. He wants Weidman to come forward like that again so he can go to work his counterstriking. Here he is starting to show his attempts to use hard straight shots to counter forward moving opponents, even though it missed.
Weidman steps forward to reset in front of Silva and Silva throws a hard left straight as soon as Weidman gets close. Weidman pulls back and it misses, so a few seconds later Silva feints a second left straight and throws his favorite left high kick (that misses) as Weidman retreats, then steps into a low kick. Silva then throws a jab that is the only solid punch he lands on Weidman all fight. After, Weidman starts moving forward with jabs and Silva stays just out of range of them, letting one lightly touch his chin. After a few, Weidman steps forward like he's about to throw another and Silva tries to counter the jab he expected to be timing with a left cross again, but hits nothing because Weidman doesn't throw. Soon after, Weidman throws another jab and pulls back, Silva tries to counter it with a left straight but misses again.Silva shows the left high kick he loves, his tendency to kick opponents who won't engage, his tendency to counter with straight shots when people move forward and to lead with them when they stand still.
Anderson goes back to mostly kicking, throwing a few jabs but they mostly get slipped or graze the forehead. Anderson starts waving Weidman on a little, stomping and taunting, but he could have countered at any time if Weidman attacked. At the end of the round, Silva decides to lead with a jab and hard left hand, but Weidman avoids them easily. Weidman throws a right hand just before the bell, but he pulls back so fast that Silva doesn't even consider countering. Again, leading with straight shots because Weidman is standing in front of him, though this time Weidman taunts him.
Coming into the second round, none of Silva's usual tactics have worked. As a result, he needs to get Weidman to start engaging. He taunts a lot but doesn't actually let himself get in terrible positions. Even when he wobbles a little with his arms out 10 seconds into the round, he's still balanced enough to throw a nice leg kick right after. Silva starts moving a lot more and Weidman attacks a bit, but doesn't overcommit and leaves no good openings for Silva. He shoots for another takedown, Silva stuffs it by pivoting and trying to grab the double collar tie, but once again Weidman avoids it. Silva taunts a little, but he's still carefully controlling range with his footwork, taking little steps to keep the distance just far enough that Weidman can't cover it easily.
He tries to knock Weidman out with a front snap kick about 2 minutes into the second round, but it misses also. Note that every attempt by Silva to lead with head shots has missed except for 2 jabs, one of which barely touched the forehead. Silva finally makes a critical mistake by letting himself get too close to Weidman and getting caught. But remember, if Weidman didn't use that backhand, he would have avoided it just like when he avoided Forrest's left hook and maybe followed up for the same knockdown. The backhand is what got Silva in such a terrible defensive position, his footwork was perfectly fine until that backhand came out him. It also can't be ignored how well Weidman covered distance and how far he moved while keeping his feet under him, but for more on that you can read a great breakdown here. Edit: You can also check out my own analytical insight into the fight and finish here.
In summary. Silva hurts people the most when his opponents are coming forward and he's landing straight shots, or when they're standing still and he's landing straight shots (finishes of Leben, Griffin, Irvin, Sonnen II, Marquardt, Okami, Henderson before the choke), or when he can establish the clinch, often after already hurting the opponent with straight shots (finishes of Franklin both times, Leben, Bonnar). He's usually not very effective leading and relies on countering or the clinch to succeed when striking. In the Weidman fight, Silva was unable to counter anything Weidman was doing and unable to establish the clinch. This is because Weidman was constantly pulling back and not throwing enough strikes or with enough commitment to be timed. Silva tried taunting to anger Weidman/give him false openings, but Weidman wouldn't bite enough or be affected by the mind games. Silva tried leading, but he could only land kicks to the leg well. He needed Weidman to at the very least stand still for his strikes and clinch, but Weidman wouldn't and Silva got caught when Weidman finally fully committed to an attack (broken down in the link).
However, Silva uses all his usual tricks and strategies. He used the same footwork to control distance. He used the same strikes, tried to get the same positions and did everything he normally does. Weidman refused to let Silva work his countering or clinch game, and defended when Silva tried to attack first. Eventually, his backhand and ability to cover distance made Silva make a mistake with his footwork that he normally never would have made, resulting in the finish. Even then, Silva was still only an inch away from looking untouchable, and it took a fully committed, unorthodox, four hit combo to do the job. He's still an incredible fighter, and the best defensive MMA fighter of our time.
In all fairness, it should be noted that many people believe Silva did not take the fight seriously, fought with hubris and had no strategy to his tactics. I purposely avoided calling Silva desperate, frustrated, angry, cocky, bored or anything else along those lines. I won't pretend to know what he was thinking and feeling, my post focused on what he needed to happen and how he was trying to make it happen. Emotions may very well have played a part in his decisions, but the techniques and strategy were still there at ALL points in the fight. A lot of people believe he was different because of the taunting and clowning, but just because that's the most memorable thing Silva did DOES NOT mean it's the only thing. Just in case you don't believe me, Silva himself states that he was trying to bait Weidman, took the fight seriously, trained for four months and wasn't trying to brag in this video below, starting around 2:45: