Pride of a Champion: Breaking down the fight of the year

Shawn SmithCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2008

    Here is my breakdown of the UFC 82 main event between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson


On the Feet:

       Anderson Silva: There is no doubt that Anderson Silva has the advantage on the feet. His Muay-Thai has proven to be some of the best in the world and although Henderson has confidence in his hands, he may want to think about taking Silva to the mat. While Rich Franklin is known for his quick strikes and great power for his size, he was shown up and embarrassed at the hands of Silva.

       Dan Henderson: Although Silva has the advantage on the feet, Henderson is no slouch. He doesn't have the leg strikes of Anderson, but he has unbelievable power in both hands and could catch Silva off-guard. If Anderson Silva is smart he will watch the Wanderlai Silva vs Dan Henderson fight over and over to look for patterns in Henderson's standup. Wanderlai is a great striker and he was KO'd by Henderson, which gives his hands automatic credibility.

       Anderson Silva is slightly taller than Henderson so he will likely have a reach advantage, but if Silva has his way, he won't need this. Silva will want to keep Henderson close and not allow his opponent the room to swing those bear paws at him. The clinch will play a big part in this fight as well. Because of Silva's Muay-Thai background, if he gets Henderson in the clinch, he could be one knee away from a KO. Henderson says he isn't afraid of Silva's clinch and thinks he can out strike him there. Staying in Silva's clinch and trying to strike back is an AWFUL idea. Mr. Henderson, do not, I repeat, do not sit there and clinch battle with Anderson Silva.

On the Ground:

       Anderson Silva: Silva's ground game is one that is not to be fooled with. Although he is known for his standup, Silva is a proven Brazilian Jui-Jitsu expert and if taken lightly, could force a tap-out from Dan Henderson. Travis Lutter is considered a top 5 BJJ expert in the MMA world and Silva was able to escape his mount and eventually triangle choke him into submission.

       Dan Henderson: Although Henderson does not have a lot of submission finishes, he is generally considered to be lethal on the ground, thanks to an extensive background in wrestling including two Olympic appearances. When fighting against Jackson, Henderson was able to take him down almost at will, and would be smart to use a similar strategy against Silva.

      Who has the advantage on the ground? That's a good question and a hard one to answer. Anderson Silva is a BJJ expert who could easily catch Henderson if he is not careful. However, Henderson is no slouch either and could make Silva pay if he tries anything fancy on the ground. Anderson Silva's hands are widely considered to be better than Henderson's.

Other factors:

       An interesting reality which could be a factor in this fight is that neither of these fighters have ever been KO'd. This is quite rare for fighters who are known for their striking. On the other hand, both have proven to be susceptible to submissions, Silva with leg locks, and Henderson with arm bars. Could we see either fighter try to take advantage of the other's weakened submission defense? Don't count on it.

       When watching the UFC All Access, the training regiments from the two camps differed greatly. Henderson appears to be training for a long five round fight. Repeatedly we heard how he has been doing weight lifting to prepare his muscles for 5 solid rounds. Henderson thinks conditioning will be a big factor in this fight, and Silva disagrees. Silva stated that he can't see this fight going past round 2 and expects a KO of one of them. Henderson often goes to a decision (usually for a victory) while we haven't seen Silva go to a decision since 2004. Will Silva be ready to go 5 rounds with Henderson?

       Another interesting dynamic that could play a factor is opponent specific training. During the All Access we saw Henderson do a lot of detailed training while Silva did not seem to prepare for Henderson. We saw Henderson training against a lot of taller people as well as preparing for left handed strikers. Henderson also trained against Muay-Thai fighters, so he should be prepared for Silva. Granted, none of these men are at the level Silva is at; Henderson should be able get a good feel for what to expect by training with these fighters. Silva, on the other hand, doesn't appear to have done much specific training for Henderson. We saw a lot of Muay-Thai training as well as a little BJJ rolling with his partners. Other than that and a little cardio workout, we didn't see anything specific. Wrestling may be one of Silva's weak points, and if Henderson is smart, he will try to take advantage of that.

       Experience may be the thing that makes the difference in this fight. Henderson is five years older than Silva and has been in MMA 3 years longer than Silva. This doesn't include Henderson's 1992 and 1996 Olympic appearances. Not only has Henderson been around longer, but when comparing who the men have faced, there is no question that Henderson has a more impressive resume. Henderson's record includes wins over Renato Sobral, Ryo Chonan, Renzo Gracie, Murilo Bustamante, Wanderlai Silva and UFC Heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. When comparing this with Anderson Silva we see a stark difference. Silva's most substantial victories were against Hayato Sakarai, Carlos Newton, Travis Lutter, Nathan Marquardt and of course Rich Franklin (2x). Henderson has experience against many of the top fighters in the world; will this help him conquer Anderson Silva?

      There has been a lot of talk about whether or not this is a legacy fight for either fighter, and if you ask me it is. After this fight, there really is no competition left for either of them. If Henderson wins, you can always give Franklin a rematch at some point down the road, but if Silva wins, where does the middleweight division go from there? Bisping has moved down, and because of his Ultimate Fighter fame, could make a marketable title match. Does anyone think he could actually beat Silva or Henderson? The only match that could cause excitment following this fight would be if St. Pierre moves into the division


       This fight is extremely hard to predict. Both men have their strengths and weaknesses, and predicting a winner is about as safe as flipping a coin. These two men match up well against each other and it should create an explosive fight. I won't pick a winner because I can't, simple as that. The winner of this fight will prove to be the greatest middleweight in MMA history with out any doubt.