Stop and think for a minute. Go back about five years or so. Did any of us have an inkling we’d be talking about Jake Paul and Anderson Silva throwing down in a boxing ring? Or that the fight would come after Paul had already KO’d a former UFC champion?
To be fair, I’m sure there are many reading this who had no clue who Jake Paul was five years ago (I’d be one of them). Nevertheless, this is what we find ourselves on the cusp of witnessing.
Jake Paul vs. Anderson Silva
Given some of the content Paul has put out over the years, I can understand how some people might want to see him get his block knocked off. But we’ve also got to be at least a little fair to him and his older brother, Logan. They’re self-made celebrities. They didn’t rise to social media fame based on who their parents were, or mooching off a celebrity friend. It was through their own hard work and intelligence. Thus, when the two of them first jumped into the celebrity boxing gig, maybe we shouldn’t have been too surprised when they started finding success.
For one, they got involved in the celebrity side of boxing in their early 20’s. Most don’t get into that field until after their celebrity has peaked. If that means their opponents became celebrities due to athletic endeavors, it also means their athletic peak had come and gone. In other words, the Pauls have been very smart about who they have been fighting.
Anyone who follows MMA knew Ben Askren only ever had success on the feet due to the threat of his takedowns. That was evaporated when Askren agreed to a boxing match. Those same people know it’s a similar story with Tyron Woodley, though Woodley was at least a solid athlete with some power. Regardless, Paul has been picking opponents that he knows he can beat. The improvements that are consistently seen from fight to fight prove that he’s also putting in the work. He’s showing better footwork, better knowledge of when to attack, better defense... he’s just flat out getting better in all areas as tends to happen when someone is still a relative newcomer to a sport.
But is he biting off more than he can chew in Silva? I get that Silva is 47, by far the oldest opponent Paul has faced thus far. But this is Anderson Silva we’re talking about. The man has one of the most impressive highlight reels in the history of MMA, most of those moments coming on the feet. A fighter doesn’t develop that type of highlight reel without an innate feel for striking, a craft he has honed for years. And while Silva may no longer be an active UFC fighter, he’s only two years removed from competing in that organization. Sure, Silva wasn’t close to his prime self at that point, but he proved he could still be dangerous. Plus, it isn’t like he’s just been sitting on his hands since that point. He won a boxing fight against former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last year. Chavez may not be what he once was, but it was his own sport Silva beat him in it—despite Chavez being almost a decade younger than the ‘Spider’.
My first instinct is to say Silva has this in the bag. For one, it’s hard to believe Paul won’t have some sort of an awe in facing one of the greatest MMA strikers of all time. I get that this isn’t MMA, but Silva doesn’t need kicks, knees, and elbows to create highlights. Y’all remember what he did to Forrest Griffin? Silva has lost a step, but he also showed some ability to adapt to his declining athleticism. He even gave Israel Adesanya one of his more competitive contests on his way to the title.
Then as I watched Silva against Chavez, I saw it took him some time to warm up. Once Silva settled into a groove and got flowing, he pieced up the younger Chavez. But Chavez had the early success. Watching Paul’s performances, he’s walking into each contest with a unique strategy. Given he’s still undefeated, it’s obvious those strategies are working. Plus, Paul knows the money train slows down monumentally if he gets KO’d. That may be the only reason a lot of fans continue to tune into his fights. He wouldn’t accept this fight without knowing the chances of him finally taking a nap are minimal... would he?
There’s also been some unexpected controversy, with Silva talking about being KO’d twice in the lead up training for the bout. Silva claimed his was misunderstood due to English being his second language and he’s totally fine. To his credit, he did have a doctor examine him and says he sees nothing that indicates Silva is having issues with concussions. All that said, I’m more inclined to believe Silva is playing games. A number of months back, Drakkar Klose indicated he was still suffering from the ill-effects of Jeremy Stephens shoving him from a year prior. That led to many to dump money on Klose’s opponent, Brandon Jenkins. Klose looked better than he ever had. Silva has always been good at the subtle mind games. To me, it looks like he’s trying to get into the head of his opponent.
Perhaps this is all just indicative of my preference for MMA, that has me siding with Silva—even with the younger fighter having significantly less wear and tear on his body. Despite Paul being in his physical prime; despite Paul not being the idiot many seem to think he is. But what ultimately swayed me in that direction with finality is Anderson Silva is a man of magic moments. For whatever reason, something out of the normal seems to pop up in his contests. That’s a sword that can cut both ways—see his broken leg against Chris Weidman or the craziness of his loss to Michael Bisping—but he also seems to rise to the moment when the expectations are lowest. The fact that intelligent people in combat sports are picking Paul to win indicates just how low the expectations are. That isn’t me saying these people are stupid, I fully understand why they are picking him. That’s just me saying the Spider seems to be at his best when he’s doubted.... Silva via TKO of RD6
Uriah Hall vs. Le’Veon Bell
I’m not going to deep into this fight, but figured it was worth throwing a quick paragraph on. Hall was fighting in the UFC just earlier this year. No, he didn’t have a good showing in his last contest, but that was also Andre Muniz enveloping Hall with grappling. Bell isn’t going to be able to resort to dragging Hall to the mat. This is a boxing contest. While Hall would benefit from being able to kick, he’s perfectly happy to only be able to throw his hands if he doesn’t have to worry about takedowns.
Bell may be younger by almost eight years, but he also played perhaps the most bruising position in all of football, running back. His body has a lot of wear and tear on it, as the severe drop off in his performance on the field over the last few years would indicate. And while he looked like he could have a real propensity for boxing when he KO’d Adrian Peterson, it’s worth remembering Peterson has even more football miles on his body than Bell. Hall has always been an exceptionally dangerous striker who never got enough credit for his boxing ability. He does tend to need some time to warm up, so I’ll say he gets Bell out of there in the second rather than the first. Hall via KO of RD2