Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will go down as a legend in the world of mixed martial arts, not only for the 10 successful UFC middleweight title defenses he accumulated over a seven-year period, but also for the way he went about achieving those victories.
Blending excellent head and body movement with diverse, pinpoint striking, Silva executed a variety of techniques that forced foes to crumple to the floor and succumb to defeat.
In only a handful of situations did Silva turn to his oft-underrated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game in order to secure the finish.
Only in a trio of infamous performances, though, did Silva look a far cry from the intelligent striker that fans loved to watch—despite winning in those three fights.
His first "dance" came during his UFC 90 battle with Patrick Cote, when Silva literally started to break out a dance move or two to frustrate "The Predator." Silva eventually earned a bizarre TKO win over Cote, but the complacency he exhibited against Cote at times lingered.
Despite controlling much of the action for the first three rounds against Thales Leites, Silva resorted to dancing once again and even slapped his opponent as a means of frustrating him.
Meanwhile, the UFC 112 performance stood out as the last time Silva tried to ever clown anyone, as a universally panned performance overshadowed the fact that Silva broke the record for the most consecutive title defenses in the UFC.
Moreover, Silva faced the chopping block as a result of his performance against Demian Maia, so he knew he needed to snap out of whatever funk he put himself in and start respecting what his foes could do.
Fast-forward to this week, and for the first time in his 38-fight career, he finds himself paying the price for the taunting, dancing and playing around that most associated with his "complacent" title defenses.
Sure, the first time he tangled with now-champion Chris Weidman, he escaped from leg locks and attacked with leg kicks to gradually wear Weidman down, but passed up on other opportunities to show off his vaunted "ballet of violence."
Whereas he once elected to punish foes with knees in the Muay Thai clinch, he instead tossed Weidman to the side. Rather than trying to catch him on his way up, he let him up and tried to defend without even trying to counter.
In short, he did frustrate Weidman, but this time, he got knocked down and knocked out cold for his trouble. Now, Silva is pushing 39, will still come in with a disadvantage in the reach department and doesn't plan on doing anything different from what he did the first time—save for changing up his entourage.
If anything goes Silva's way in this fight, it will stem from how Silva performs in rematch scenarios.
The former champion fought in rematches with Rich Franklin, Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami during his time as the champion, and while the first round of his rematch with Sonnen went the same way as the first round of his first bout with Sonnen, he still kept his mind focused on beating him.
Just like Silva kept composed and focused on beating Franklin, Sonnen and Weidman in those rematches, he must do the same against Weidman.
If he wants to frustrate Weidman without getting finished, he can stick to the leg kicks and keep honing his takedown defense, but he needs to establish himself as the aggressor and give Weidman a reason to step back.
Most of all, though, he needs to keep his head in check throughout the entire fight. If he allows himself to get complacent or decides to taunt in order to create opportunities to attack, he will fall victim to another knockout blow from the undefeated "All-American."
At the same time, however, it remains possible that Silva only declared intentions to keep most of his game the same as a means of hiding the actual changes he plans on showcasing this weekend.
For his sake, he needs to keep a few new tricks up his sleeve. If he doesn't, he'll find himself forced to consider saying goodbye to the sport of MMA for good—whether he wants to or not.
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