Chuck vs. Wanderlei. The Iceman vs. The Axe Murderer. It's the kind of fight that fanboys dream about and writers pray for. When a major fight like this comes up it gives me an excuse to dig through my tapes and DVD's and try to figure out what direction the fight is going to go in. Going through Silva's 28 fights in Pride from the Carl Malenko fight to the Henderson KO and Liddell's career from Noe Hernandez to Keith Jardine is almost hard to call "work."
It was after watching close to 50 fights I came to take Wanderlei in the upcoming Bloody Elbow staff picks.
Neither guy really has lost to someone with the same style as his opponent.
When you look at Silva's losses:
*Henderson - I don't think Liddell has Hendo's same level of aggression. And Henderson's wrestling is on another level compared to Chuck where it was a major concern for Silva which helped open up the striking.
*Cro Cop - While a good striker, Chuck again isn't quite as aggressive and isn't the same pinpoint striker that Mirko is.
*Arona - You can throw this one out, Chuck isn't going to go with takedowns and GnP.
*Hunt - Again, a bit better of a technical striker than Chuck.
When you look at Liddell's losses:
*Jardine - A different kind of striker than you'll get from Silva. Much more controled pace.
*Jackson (x2) - More of a boxer than a MT guy when it comes to striking.
*Couture - Wrestling before striking. But with a clinch gameplan that Silva could learn something from.
*Horn - Throw it out.
Both fighters have had trouble with guys who commit to striking with them, rather than just striking their way into a takedown attempt. Chuck got more of a fight than expected from Guy Mezger at Pride 14, Wanderlei had issues with Henderson in the first fight (and even more in the rematch).
Again, both guys have pretty legendary recovery skills. Wanderlei has come back from being hurt to score the win on several occasions, in the aforementioned Mezger fight Chuck was dropped by a really solid overhand right, jumped back up, ate a kick and seconds later was firing shots back.
The key here in my mind is that Wanderlei has seen counterpunchers and is working with a gym that should have him ready to come in with a real fighter's gameplan (read: not just throw wild punches) where as Chuck hasn't really had to deal with many really solid always attacking Muay Thai guys in his career (with the exception of 'Pele' in his second fight).
I'm looking for Silva to come in, use low kicks to set up his punches and use punches to transition into the clinch. From the clinch knees to the body will soften Chuck up to where he leans forward to avoid taking any more to the body and eats one on the chin...not to get too specific or anything.
Of course if anyone has looked at the video of Silva and Shawn Thompkins sparring then it's pretty easy to see Chuck landing a solid shot counterpunching and knocking Wandy out.
Follow below the fold as I'll play Joe Silva...
The big question for after the fight is "what now?" One guy is on a three fight win streak and the other guy isn't in position to challenge for the title.
It seems simple enough to me.
The loser of Chuck/Wandy should fight the winner of Machida/Sokoudjou. The winner should face Keith Jardine on the undercard of the Jackson/Griffin show in the summer with the winner of that fight challenging for the title toward the end of '08. You've then got several layers to the title chase picture with a clear cut #1 contender being established while the next wave prepares for their shot.
The UFC really needs to do a better job of pushing the "chase for the title" rather than just having a champion who is fed challengers until beats him and the process repeats. Don't just throw rematches at us, have fighters fight their way back into title contention. In a Light Heavyweight division with Machida, Soko, Chuck, Wandy, Jackson, Griffin, Bonner, Shogun, Jardine, etc. you shouldn't have any problems finding compelling match-ups which propel the title chase forward.