The Path of Anderson Silva: Buckling the Crippler

Hey guys,

Continuing my intertwining Path of Silva and Path of Diaz series, we're talking about lateral movement and running dudes onto punches. I think we all saw a pretty clear change in Anderson Silva from the time he left PRIDE to his UFC debut.

Hope you don't mind clicking the link and as always all feedback is welcomed!




When we left our hero, Anderson Silva, he had flown over the top of Carlos Newton as his knee collided with the Canadian grappler's face. It was Silva's biggest, and only, notable win in PRIDE FC, and appears on highlight reels to this day.


There has been a great deal of discussion over why some fighters who couldn't make it in PRIDE became big deals in the UFC, and why many of the legends from PRIDE struggled once they came stateside. There's plenty of considerations from PED testing (which can often be more of a test in time management than a deterrent to PED use) to Phil Baroni's theory on jetlag being greater going one way around the world.


But in truth, if a fighter is going to be great, he'll find a way to be great when it is time. Athletic peak means a good deal, but belts aren't won on athleticism or genetic gifts alone. The fighting world is full of Kevin Randlemans and Stefan Struves who never combined their gifts with discipline, game planning and adaptability.


Almost a Nobody


Anderson Silva looked, for quite some time, to be another. He was commonly referred to as the most technically skilled striker in the Chute Boxe camp, and I wouldn't doubt that for a moment. But sparring with other heavy-handed brawlers isn't going to prepare you to deal with the better grapplers out there. Everything the Chute Boxe camp showed in the early 2000's was geared at moving forward swinging and looking to fight off the takedown when it came.


You can see it in Silva's career up to his departure from PRIDE. He was walking forward, squatting low, throwing two punches and then trying to fight off the shot from his opponent. He wasn't a stocky block of muscle like Wanderlei Silva, and he often had a height advantage over his opponents. A height advantage is great in the kicking game, but every inch of height is another split second in the level-change. Too often when Silva moved forward striking, his opponents were able to get in on his hips and take him to the mat.



It was after his fight with Daiju Takase, where Silva was easily taken down as a result of this forward movement, that Silva almost gave up fighting for good. After leaving Chute Boxe and joining Brazilian Top Team with the Nogueira brothers, Silva started to have something of a career renaissance, becoming the Cage Rage middleweight champion.


He picked up a couple more losses, against Ryo Chonan who famously hit a kani-basami or 'crab pincer' takedown into a heel hook, and a disqualification for upkicking Yushin Okami from the guard, but generally Silva was looking a lot more like an all around fighter than an uncomfortable sprawl-and-brawler.


Silva's most memorable moment in Cage Rage came as he knocked out Tony Fryklund with a back elbow which he had learned from the Tony Jaa film, Ong Bak (the techniques of which we have looked at extensively in the past). On the strength of his performance, Silva was contracted by the UFC and thrown straight into a title eliminator against The Crippler, Chris Leben.



Leben was the UFC's wild man. Getting his contract off of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, he was the guy in the house making a ruckus before the contestants were seemingly obligated to do so. But after his unsuccessful stint on TUF, Leben started to put together a streak of wins across the TUF Finale and each of the first four UFC Fight Night cards. A fan favourite for his heavy hands and granite jaw, he looked to be moving ever closer to a shot at Rich Franklin's middleweight title.


“Welcome to the Octagon, Anderson Silva” said Mike Goldberg, as Silva and Leben moved out of their corners. It might have been equally appropriate to say “Welcome to the Octagon, lateral movement”.



Move Laterally and Carry a Big Stick


I remember the first time I read the accounts by Nat Fleischer and others of the heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. I was astounded at what a revelation the simple act of circling out was in the 1920s. Tunney was getting away from Dempsey's vaunted power with some revolution in boxing science. Now it's the difference between a passable boxer, and an unconscious boxer. Yet in 2006, when Silva debuted in the UFC, the movement that he showed was new to MMA.


Notice how Silva gets Leben's feet moving, and Leben doesn't react at all before the jab slams into his head. Silva circles out and throws Leben past him.


More of the same can be seen here. Leben is always reaching, Silva only ever needs to stop retreating when he wants to hit Leben.


The Silva of PRIDE and the Silva of the UFC were polar opposites. No more wading forward and looking to land punches before the opponent had the chance to take him down. Now he was up on his toes, using the length of his strides and dancing around the octagon. You don't need to worry about sprawling on takedowns if you are never in range for them.


And that is one of the major differences between the cage and the ring. In the ring the corners are sharp, if you backpeddle for a moment as a striker, you're in a corner and you're getting taken down. The octagon's corners are so slight that it takes tremendous skill to actually cut off the cage.


An important principle of developing what Jimmy Wilde called “stopping power” is to realize that when you hit someone who is moving away from you, you lose a good deal of your force. If you hit someone who is stepping into you, the opponent amplifies whatever power you provided on your own. It's the difference between rear-ending someone as they slow down, and a head on collision.


The thing about a fighter with really excellent lateral movement is that when you spar or fight them it will feel unfair. It will feel as though they're cheating. They're never giving you the chance to hit them, they're only getting close enough to touch when they're hitting you. It feels like a great injustice is being done and it spurs you on to chase after them with more tenacity. And the harder you push in, the harder you make those collision when they stop and pop a ram-rod straight in your grill.


Silva danced, and lanced with his stiff right jab, as Leben chased wildly. Silva's distance was beautifully measured, always being just close enough to land a perfect straight blow, but too far for a Leben swing. Each charge was side stepped beautifully by Silva, and as Leben paused after another failed charge, Silva snapped a left high kick up into Leben's head. It wasn't a Cro Cop-esque swing, just a quick snapping Taekwondo kick, but it rattled Leben up. And The Crippler only knew how to do one thing when he got hurt, push in hard.


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Great posts. Keep 'em coming. Phone Post

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In Phone Post 3.0

Enjoy the read. Thanks op Phone Post 3.0

So good. Phone Post 3.0

These are incredibly informative. Keep em coming !! Phone Post 3.0

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Very cool

Awesome man.....VU Phone Post 3.0

Stefan Struve? I'd say he's done well despite his lanky body and the fact he came into the sport as a grappler(even though Rogan keeps calling him a Dutch kickboxer). It would be nice to see him throw jabs instead of flying knees but I don't see him as being a waste of incredible talent.


Tad Ghostal - Stefan Struve? I'd say he's done well despite his lanky body and the fact he came into the sport as a grappler(even though Rogan keeps calling him a Dutch kickboxer). It would be nice to see him throw jabs instead of flying knees but I don't see him as being a waste of incredible talent.
He has a completely incoherent striking style when you take into account his physical gifts. Phone Post 3.0

In Phone Post 3.0

Jack, straight up, if you were to make a bet on this, who would it be? Phone Post 3.0

So, do you think the same fights he had in the UFC would have had a different outcome had they taken place in a ring since it's easier to cut off the ring? Phone Post 3.0

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Love reading your stuff. Keep them coming and I'll keep reading. VU Phone Post 3.0