Endless hype and partisan talk has flooded the world of MMA leading up to Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman at UFC 162. The hype train runs both directions, as fans either know Silva can't lose or are ready to watch Weidman run through the supposed G.O.A.T.
I believe Weidman poses a credible threat to Anderson Silva's reign. It is not astrology or “just a feeling” from which the forthcoming list is created. It is an objective look at what skills the contender possesses that can be an asset in the road to victory.
Whether Weidman wins is inconsequential. He possesses a set of skills that can be a threat, and in this list you will be able to see just how said skills can result in an epic title reign ending.
Whether Silva fans will admit it or not, there is already a blueprint to getting the better of “The Spider” that has persisted. The set up is simple enough and is only made difficult by the fact you have the most precise, brutal, intelligent striker in the history of the sport standing across from you.
Daiju Takase, Chael Sonnen and Travis Lutter all utilized similar strategies in their respective fights. Ryo Chonan uncovered a few important aspects to besting Silva as well.
Using leg kicks to set the tone, working for single legs, utilizing double-underhooks, exploiting top control, and seeking top-position submissions are all steps toward Weidman's credible threat. If he can effectively use three or more of the maneuvers, he will finish the night with the UFC middleweight belt around his waist.
Watch the Ryo Chonan fight and you will see why leg kicks are important. Silva loves a wide stance, which places weight evenly on both legs. That means he rarely shifts to check a kick. It also means he is less capable of pouncing forward with a counter once a kick is thrown.
Since Silva has always been more of a counterpuncher, Weidman must take advantage of leg kicks early, knowing counterstraights are likely coming his direction as he throws them.
Weidman has shown he is not afraid of using the leg kicks. His most notable use was in in his bout with Alessio Sakara. Since Silva is no threat to take Weidman down, the contender must use the early opportunity to bother Silva and lessen his mobility.
Many will claim leg kicks open up Weidman for too many counter opportunities. But no matter what Weidman does Silva is going to tag him at least once. Weidman has to keep his hands high enough and his chin low enough during his kicks to avoid being stunned.
If he can't do that, there is no strategy that will help him.
Anderson Silva is hands down the best striker in the world of MMA.
Weidman isn't going to beat him at that game. Think of it like a chess match with a computer on an “impossible” setting. The program will be a handful of moves ahead of you no matter how good you are.
How do you beat the superior program? You change the rules and disrupt the logic.
Ryo Chonan and Chael Sonnen had the best success against Silva while standing. Both put Silva off his game by having nonstandard striking styles to complement their ground threat. Sonnen did a lot of chest-over-feet ducking and dodging with peculiar over-the-shoulder punches. Ryo kept his lead arm down and threw leg kicks continuously. He also kept his hips on a swivel, allowing him to roll with Silva's punches and counter.
Both found more success against Sliva than any by-the-book striker, including Vitor Belfort. Even Takase threw a looping 12-to-6 overhand and a snap kick before gaining the takedown that ultimately led to his win over “The Spider."
The concept may seem is counterintuitive, but it is also logical. You just can't beat Silva at well-formed striking. It's pointless. It's fruitless. It will end up with you on the canvas.
Silva always reads his opponents' movements before going on the attack. Throwing continual nonstandard strikes from varying angles forces Silva to recalibrate. That means he has to take more time before he can attack. It all leads to having more opportunities to set up a takedown and avoid Silva's standing game.
Outside of the Sonnen fight, each opponent who has had success at bringing Silva down has utilized the single leg. Lutter and Takase both had terrible early shots in their respective bouts.
Neither gave up, eventually nabbing their takedown via the single leg.
Double legs are traditionally considered the more effective shot in MMA. It is especially true when used by the caliber of wrestler Weidman's credentials suggest; however, due to Silva's wide stance a single is more effective.
It is easier to drag Silva off balance than it is to push through him and "turn the corner." His knees are simply too far apart too often, and one risks being countered more easily from a deep shot.
For Silva, the single-leg takedown appears to be like a slider to many baseball players. He just can't seem to time them correctly. Weidman possesses a high-quality single leg, and matched with his size and power it is sure to be effective if he sets it up properly.
Most will assume that if Weidman has doubles then Silva can grab the thai clinch. But Weidman is a top-class wrestler with plenty of strength. When he has the underhooks and presses in, there is no space for Silva's long limbs to clasp the head and space himself with his forearms.
If Weidman can grab double underhooks from a failed shot or following a wild overhand, he can control the fight via the clinch. From that position he can either toss Silva or drop for a double leg. The latter of which is the strongest option.
Silva stands taller when he's clinched. His knees naturally come closer together as he looks to establish the plum clasp. When this happens, Weidman can drop and shoot for a double leg.
Weidman can also chance a wrestling toss. Silva does not possess a world-class throw/toss defense. He has a gap in his takedown defense in general. While a toss can be risky, given Weidman's skill, it is still an option made possible via the double-unders.
There is a deep, dark secret no Anderson Silva fan wants to admit: “The Spider” has a hard time getting out from the bottom. Takase, Chonan, Dan Henderson, Lutter and Sonnen were all able to control Silva for portions of their respective bouts.
Two of them came out winners.
Gaining the top position and not running out of time in a round is the real obstacle. Getting Silva down is doable. Once to the ground—even in the full guard—opponents have very little to worry about other than keeping the position. All three men who failed to win despite top position seemed to have more trouble with overexerting themselves than they did being miffed by Silva's ground wizardry.
Weidman can sit in guard effectively, but his goal must be half-guard and side-control position. Silva will give up half-guard at least once. When there, Silva would most likely work for a cradle- or Nog-like back-door escape. Both leave open an opportunity for Weidman to slip to the side, where Silva has little recourse.
Weidman has to remember Silva will let him sit in guard. Silva rarely looks for submissions, essentially employing the rope-a-dope strategy from full guard. Weidman has to be smart and patient, looking for transitions. If he does throw strikes they should be used to work the body and create openings for transitions to stronger positions.
The final piece of the puzzle is Weidman's top-submission game. Two of Silva's three legitimate losses are by way of submission. Nobody wants to be on their back with Silva over top—and in fact, “The Spider” will allow the fight to stand if given a choice.
That leaves only one avenue for submissions: the top game.
It is a gambit that is highly risky to many commentators and fans: Wait for a handful of opportunities to beat a man who can beat you so many different ways. But that is simply the reality of the fight for Weidman.
Attempting to primarily ground-and-pound Sliva will only tire Weidman. The contender is powerful, but he is likely to inflict only moderate damage to the champion. In the process, he will gas himself out just like Chael Sonnen.
Weidman has to be strong and remain patient. Strikes should be used to open up opportunities for transitions or submissions. Elbows to the head and punches to the body are his best options.
What Weidman has to remember is to look for submissions that do not necessarily demand a loss of position. His wrestling prowess will afford him moves such as the keylock from side-control, kimura from half-guard, and arm-triangle choke from both positions.
Whatever he does, he has to remember that position over submission is preferred 90 percent of the time. He cannot ignore an obvious opportunity, but he has to not jump at everything he sees. Instead, he must create opportunities and take them as they come.