UFC 153 started off as a card that was going to put Jose Aldo in front of fans in Brazil for another title defense and then was changed to Frankie Edgar in a fight that fans had wanted to see since Edgar attained the lightweight title. Ultimately, injuries once again plagued the UFC, and the main event needed two saviors.
Answering the call were Anderson Silva and Stephan Bonnar.
The two met inside the Octagon for what turned out to be another incredible performance from Silva, showcasing once again why he is considered the greatest fighter of all time.
His performance was typical yet extremely unique at the same time. Silva has painted the canvas of his career with highlight reel moments, and not just knockouts or submissions. When many fighters' greatest moments are replayed, they start at the seconds leading up to the finish. With Anderson Silva, there are many moments within the fight itself that make his highlight reels.
This is because Silva is able to do things inside the cage that others cannot. Every person that steps inside the cage has some sort of talent, but many do not possess—or can implement—a unique style the way Silva does. Every man is beatable, and Silva is not invincible, but the manner in which he fights makes him seem untouchable.
In his bout with Bonnar, Silva was once again unpredictable and voluntarily kept his back and position against the cage. This position is usually not preferred since there is little to no room to escape and evade backwards, and the pressure and aggression are all on you. For Silva, he has defined his career from the middle of the cage or being the one on the outside attacking his opponent against the cage.
While the decision to stay on the cage was confusing initially, it does make sense with afterthought.
Bonnar was immediately written off by many when this fight was announced, but as the month rolled on leading up to the fight, many started to warm up to Bonnar’s chances. While still slim odds, Bonnar did posses some key things that gave him unique advantages. He had zero pressure going into the fight, had never been finished before and had a size—and possibly strength—advantage over Silva.
His best chances were to get into a top position on the ground and either smother Silva or look for submissions. This is where standing against the cage came into play. With Silva against the cage, it eliminated the forward motion of a takedown. If Silva was standing in the middle of the Octagon and Bonnar grabbed hold of a double or his body, he could have used his strength and size to bulldoze forward and used the momentum to put Silva’s weight off balance, making him backpedal.
Silva standing against the cage provided a stop behind him as well as gave him a defined place to build a foundation and stand his ground. It eliminated a long sprawl but gave the best chance for him to base himself and prepare. Silva has shown improvement in his takedown defense after his first bout with Chael Sonnen and showed in his rematch with him that he was ready to supplement his lack of wrestling prowess. He showed this again with Bonnar.
Standing against the cage was also intelligent because it forced Bonnar to engage and be the aggressor. Had the two been standing in the middle of the cage, Bonnar and Silva could have sized each other up, thrown feelers out and kept circling and feinting. With Silva giving Bonnar the Octagon control, he forced Bonnar’s hand and made him engage. Bonnar is a fighter who would have engaged anyway, but it gave Silva the mental edge to know that he had Bonnar on the offensive.
Most of Silva’s most memorable performances and incredible knockouts have come from guys who had tried to stand in front of him and exchange. By being confident in his head movement, ability to take a punch and countering, Silva made Bonnar fight his fight. Along with the aforementioned mental edge, he also may have had another psychological factor involved.
No fighter had stood against the cage in such a manner, and it may very well have been a tactic no one—including Bonnar—expected him to use. His positioning and demeanor may have thrown Bonnar off his game plan. Silva is a very intelligent fighter, and beyond the “Medusa effect” that he has on some opponents, he does various things to try to visually and mentally throw off his challengers.
While Silva wanted to save the card and entertain the crowd, his actions in the cage spoke louder statements than just being flashy. He may look like he is playing around, but it is his style and ability to pull off such moves inside the cage in the heat of competition that he is showcasing. Silva is not so much an entertainer, but an entertaining fighter. His strategies against Bonnar were a true testament to his intelligence, his skills, and why he is revered as the best in the world.
Love him or hate him, we are witnessing greatness and history in the making.