In anticipation of Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 134 next weekend, we're taking a look at just one of the many tools Silva has in his striking arsenal - the clinch. Yesterday, we started our conversation with part 1 - if you missed it, be sure to check that one out here.
Before diving into part 2, a quick word about Silva's clinching style. As I said yesterday, he is an absolute master of it. He has used it so effectively throughout his career, and has written an excellent book called "MMA Instruction Manual: The Muay Thai Clinch, Takedowns, Takedown Defense, and Ground Fighting"detailing his clinch strategy. That said, while Silva bases his clinch on Muay Thai, it is not always an identical clinch to what you would see in a full Muay Thai rules contest. Silva has adapted the clinch, taking it from the Muay Thai roots and repositioning it for maximum success in MMA. Muay Thai purists may have some questions about his way of doing things, but again, he has made the changes needed to adjust to a different rule set and different kind of opponent. OK, on we go.
In part 1, we broke down the way Silva used the Muay Thai clinch to absolute perfection in order to dominate Rich Franklin and claim the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 64. Today, we look at the rematch, one year later at UFC 77. The general consensus heading into the second fight was that Silva would surely use the clinch again, and that Franklin absolutely had to come in with a powerful clinch defense in mind. As it turned out, Silva did use the clinch, Franklin did defend, but in the end, that defense only prolonged the inevitable.
Full, gif-heavy, breakdown after the jump.
Gifs by BE reader Grappo.
Heading into the rematch, Franklin knew he needed to work on his clinch defense, and he did an admirable job preparing. Franklin came into the fight with three defensive strategies, which we'll take a look at.
1. Wrist control. Franklin's first line of defense if to simply not allow Silva to lock in the clinch. He does this using wrist control. Once Franklin feels Silva secure his left hand on the back of the head, he immediately uses his own left hand to grab Silva's right wrist. Franklin extends his arm down, pushing Silva's right arm away from his head, and not allowing Silva to bring that second hand up. Notice the way Franklin also turns his body in towards Silva as he does this, closing the distance and protecting his head from knees.
2. Arm in. Once Silva does get both hands free, Franklin keeps his left hand in his own clinch position. He brings the arm in tight to Silva's head. As they turn and jockey for position, Franklin uses that arm to push Silva's right arm down and off his head. Silva is able to bring his arm back up, but can not clear Franklin's arm, so that when he secures both hands at the end, Franklin's arm is inside the clinch. This is still not a fantastic position for Franklin to be in, but it is not a clean Muay Thai clinch, and does give Franklin a greater ability to keep control.
3. Takedown. There was a great discussion in yesterday's comments about the possibility of using a takedown, and here Franklin does it. As we said yesterday, one of the ways to control your opponent in the clinch is to use his own movement against him. If from the clinch Silva pushes Franklin backwards, Franklin will naturally resist and push his own weight forward. By quickly switching and then pulling Franklin forward, Silva can throw him off balance, as we saw yesterday. Here, Franklin uses that off-balancing technique to his advantage, continuing to drive forward while keeping Silva's side against the cage so that he can not turn out. Note that Silva does not have the clinch very secure here, so his control is compromised.
All three of these are good tactics that Franklin uses well, with the wrist control in particular keeping him out of trouble at first. Unfortunately, Silva is prepared, and begins making adjustments to counteract Franklin's counters. We start, again, with the wrist control. Here you see Silva with the left hand clinching, the right hand controlled. Silva pulls Franklin down with the left, and twists his arm away. Since Franklin is maintaining that wrist control, Silva moving his own arm away from the body also exposes Franklin's body, and Silva lands a knee. At the same time he connects with that knee, he quickly rotates the wrist, momentarily freeing himself from that wrist control while Franklin recovers.
With Franklin using these techniques to prevent the clinch, Silva begins adding new ways of securing the clinch. And this is where his mastery really starts to come through. First up, we start with the same half clinch/wrist control position. From this position, Silva uses an outside leg trip to push Franklin back and off balance. In order to regain his balance, Franklin drops the wrist, and Silva immediately moves it up to the head, securing the clinch and landing a knee within 1 second of Franklin losing the wrist. You see Franklin escape here, which is a result of Silva focusing on landing the knee instead of securing and maintaining the clinch.
Next is one of my favorites. Silva attempts a flying knee from far outside, but notice how before he even lands, he already has his right hand on Franklin's head. When he lands, he quickly brings the left hand up to complete the clinch. Because Franklin has has head down and his arms out, Silva takes the opportunity to quickly connect with a right uppercut, which pops Franklin's head back up. With his head up, Silva brings the right hand back and fully secures the clinch, immediately off-balancing Franklin and pulling him into the cage, where he does some severe damage to close out round 1.
At the start of round 2, Franklin is nearly done, and no longer able to defend. Silva traps him against the cage, controlling his head from a side position, and bringing in some quick knees to end the fight, much as he did against Chris Leben.
So, what did Franklin do right? He controlled the wrist, kept his arms up and tight to block the clinch, and countered Silva's off-balancing with a takedown. But he was not prepared for Silva to introduce some very innovative ways to secure the clinch, and ultimately did not have an answer for the Spider's superior skills.
As for UFC 134 and Yushin Okami - Okami is a smart fighter, with strength and a wrestling base, which should help him use the wrist control defense if Silva looks for the clinch. But if that does happen, will we see Silva use new tricks to get around Okami's defenses? We'll see soon enough.