(Editor's note: This post has been re-inserted on the front page for the weekend of June 11th-June 12th, 2016)
At UFC 134: Rio, Anderson Silva turned in another mind-boggling performance against Yushin Okami, destroying the challenger with apparent ease. One of the strikes he landed against Okami was the same hands down jab that he famously used to knock out Forrest Griffin back at UFC 101. In the lead up to Okami's challenge, I broke down Silva vs. Griffin in a Judo Chop, but as many wisely pointed out, I somewhat short-changed that fight ending punch.
Well, with the jab surfacing again this weekend, this seems like a good opportunity to take a closer look at that punch - known most commonly to boxing aficionados as the Anchor Punch. And to fully appreciate the punch, we have to look back over 40 years.
On May 25, 1965, in the town of Lewiston, Maine, two of boxing's all-time legends met in center ring for the second time. Muhammad Ali, the 23 year old undefeated phenom, was set to defend his Heavyweight title against the brutally tough veteran Sonny Liston. The two had first met one year earlier, with Ali defeating Liston for the title when Liston retired on his stool after the 6th round. Unsatisfied with the finish, fans demanded a rematch, and in Lewiston, they got their wish. But it wasn't exactly what they had hoped for.
After just over 2 minutes of action, Liston suddenly went down. Ali demanded he get up, but it didn't happen. Sonny Liston was KO'd in the first round. The trouble was, no one saw what hit him. Immediately, cries went out that the fight was fixed, that Ali didn't actually connect, and to this day, the finish is surrounded by controversy.
Now, with the benefits of improved slow motion video, you can see that there was indeed a punch, and it's one that should look very familiar to Anderson Silva fans. Here's video of the finish, plus Ali explaining what he calls his Anchor Punch.
Video and more analysis in the full entry.
First up, here's the finish, in super slo-mo:
You see Ali, hands low, dodge Liston's left with quick head movement. As he dodges, he brings the right hand up and around, connecting square on Liston. Ali also moves slightly to his right with the punch, putting himself at an angle to Liston, who is moving forward. Ali throws that punch over Liston's extended punching arm, guaranteeing Liston won't be able to defend it. The combination of Liston's forward motion and Ali's clean shot are enough to put Liston down. If there's still any doubt that the punch lands, watch the way the force of the punch ripples all down Liston's right side.
Here's Ali explaining the punch, in his always entertaining style:
Now, let's compare that to Silva's punches against Griffin and Okami. Here's the Griffin punch again. You see Silva using the same techniques as Ali - the hands down, the head movement to avoid Griffin's attack, punching over Griffin's own punch, and again, the very slight motion to the side. For Silva, he moves just slightly to his left. This causes Forrest to keep sending his momentum forward, while Silva brings his shot in from the side, increasing the punch's impact.
For another look at the Griffin punch and how it compares to Ali vs. Liston, take a look at this cool comparison video, which really highlights the similarities between the two.
Here's the Okami punch from Saturday. This one is a bit different as Okami is not moving in, and therefore Silva doesn't generate quite as much power, though it's still enough to drop him. This one is actually a bit trickier, as Silva is moving to his right, away from Okami's punching arm, and brings his punch to the opposite side of Okami's head. From his position, you would expect Silva to aim for the left side of Okami's head, but he goes to the right in order to go over Okami's extended right arm. It's a very tricky angle to connect at, and the way Okami's head snaps back against the direction you would expect shows just how well Silva hits it.
There you have it - the Muhammed Ali/Anderson Silva Anchor Punch. There are strong similarities between both men's use of it, but to me, the most fascinating similarity is the way that both men have used it to stop fights, and in both cases their opponent has been accused of taking a dive. Sonny Liston fans still insist he was not beaten, but perhaps now, 45 years later, Anderson Silva can help show the truth.
Finally, because there's no excuse not to watch it, video of the full Ali vs. Liston fight: