Steven Seagal mania seems to have broken out all over MMA-ville with the revelation that Anderson Silva’s high kick used to stop Vitor Belfort in devastating fashion at UFC 126 was actually a secret weapon devised by the quasi-Buddha, movie star and martial artist, Steven Seagal. The drama that is unfolding around this revelation on the MMA interweb is enough to make Bas Rutten roll over in his grave. Hold on... Bas is still with us.
The whole uproar is enough to simultaneously make an MMA die-hard nauseous and dumbfounded, yet strangely curious about the whole affair. The nausea comes from an MMA purist-mentality, in a similar manner that Brock Lesnar’s WWE history originally infuriated many old-school fans. It still irks many.
Let’s set the stage for those of you who live under a rock and did not hear about "THE KICK." The "Kick Heard Round The World" came just a few weeks after Anthony Pettis dropped everyone’s jaw with the single most incredible kick we have ever seen in MMA competition by running off the cage wall and landing a near knockout on Ben Henderson with a soccer kick to the head in a very important fight.
Consider that most experts agreed at the time that the Pettis kick was the most astonishing ever successfully executed in the pro MMA ranks... the modern era of which is now nearly 20 years old. Then consider that we the MMA faithful received an even greater example of excellence in foot warfare so soon after the bar was reset! The way the Silva-Belfort fight ended was really incredible.
It is arguable whose kick was more amazing, but while the high stakes nature of the Pettis kick made it special, the stakes were that much higher in Saturday's middleweight title fight. It really wasn’t much of a fight however. It was still very early in a critical "scheduled for 5" championship bout, and basically what we got was a few minutes of dancing and in an instant, a devastating knockout. The only thing that’s not surprising about the outcome is that it would be Anderson Silva that would raise the bar on kicks even higher.
What is very surprising, however, is the now infamous tribute paid by Anderson Silva post fight to his “Coach” Steven Seagal for having given him the impetus to use the kick. The mere insinuation that Seagal alerted Silva to the kick's potential is enough to make 90 percent of MMA die-hards want to puke... especially those that are practitioners themselves. But wait, it gets worse.
There was room to be skeptical about Silva's nod to Seagal because of the real possibility of mistranslation from Silva’s native Portuguese. However, in a interview with Ariel Helwani behind the scenes at Mandalay Bay within an hour after the fight, Seagal confirmed that at least one of the two in this odd couple actually believes he invented the kick! Seagal, in no uncertain terms, very “matter of factly” stated that he had invented and perfected the kick over a 30 year period.
To be fair, in some garbled language, he then floated down to earth on a pillow briefly and gave a nod to Karate, but he quickly reverted to taking credit for a simple high front kick. Wow. I’m not sure what was more amazing, the actual kick that ended poor Vitor's inspiring run, or just how deep in outer space Steven Seagal's ego resides.
There is no denying though that the kick was AMAZING. This may seem contradictory to what I just said about the "simple high front kick," but really it’s not a contradiction. The fact is that it was a simple kick. But in this case, it’s a simple kick executed by perhaps the most natural athlete to ever have used it in an actual competition.
The chosen kick in general is not that impressive. What’s impressive is how well Silva threw it, and that he even threw it at all. To understand why the kick was so jaw dropping, you have to understand why it is so rare.
This kick is rarely ever thrown in combat sport competition. Remember that we’re speaking about highly trained professional martial artists now. The kick is not thrown high because of the inherent risk involved. This is your basic risk-reward scenario in fighting, which oddly, in the very same interview, Seagal correctly pointed out is the single best thing about MMA. This sport cuts out the nonsense. To boil it down, MMA’s sweetest role in the bigger picture of martial arts is to demonstrate what actually works and what doesn’t in a real fight. In a fight, Kata and sparring are out the window and the competitors are literally out to break bones, lacerate eyes, cripple legs, and cause unconsciousness.
So the crucial thing to understand about the kick in question is the fact that it is never thrown; at least not the way Silva did. It’s used to the body in nearly every stand up battle at some point, but 90 percent of the time it is intended only to create space, or as way to facilitate "ring control." In other words, it’s used to either defend, or to “push” the opponent into a position that is desirable for the fighter throwing it. It is much rarer to see fighters go high with this kick, although we do see a handful of high front “push” kicks thrown at every UFC event.
Here’s where the difference lies: the high version of this kick is rare enough, but when thrown with intent of ending a fight, this is the rarest of rare birds. Plain and simple, it’s virtually never attempted in the pro ranks, and I don’t believe anyone has been able to come out since Saturday and say they’ve seen it used to end a fight in pro MMA or any high level combat sports competition. That goes for the UFC, Pride or anywhere else. That’s how rare it is. The conscious nature in which Silva threw the kick is the incredible thing. He fully expected to take Belfort’s’ head off. He nearly did.
Here now is the crucial question: Why is the kick so rarely used with intent to injure (not as a push) and why it has never been executed so successfully? Well we're now talking about THE ZONE. This is pure Michael Jordan territory now.
Nowadays there is no secret as to what made Jordan so special. His pure talent allowed him to do things no one else even dreamed of doing. Similarly, Silva's kick is not used by anyone else because no one else can pull it off. At least no one thus far BELIEVES that they can pull it off. This is the critical point. Silva embodies a combination of the best natural physical gifts in MMA, along with a ridiculous confidence in that ability. This is a guy who thinks he can fly…a la Jordan.
If you watch the kick in slow motion, be careful to note how close Silva is standing to Belfort. For any other fighter with legs the length of Anderson Silva the fighter would be considered to be “jammed” or, in too close. Even novice fighters learn this concept very early on, and the ever more educated UFC faithful understand it now also. There simply should not have been enough room for Silva to have thrown this kick, not with a high level of confidence for a successful outcome. But Anderson Silva was in a zone on Saturday.
Any pro fighter could attempt this kick when jammed up, but they simply don’t because the odds of success are so low and the negative outcome can be game, set and match. If you fail, you’re on your back, often disoriented and in an very awkward position. Bottom line is, if you’re not 100 percent sure you’re going land it, you’d be a fool to throw this kick. There is simply no one else in the game with that kind of confidence. Nobody. If you were impressed with Silva in this fight but yet are asking yourself why pundits are now calling Silva the best there has ever been, this is the reason. Current and former top level pros and even champions are watching that highlight reel stoppage and say "WTF". "The Spider" is not your average champion.
There are many more details about the “THE KICK” and why it succeeded. It’s one of those things that is just not as simple as it looks. The short explanation is balance. Watch the video again and see what kind of backwards-lean Silva is capable of. A ridiculous lean is necessary for Silva to get “un-jammed” without moving the plant foot. The plant foot is key. If he moves the plant foot the element of surprise is gone. To make that space and to go "upstairs" without resetting, a fighter has to be freakishly limber.
Crucially, to do it with power is unthinkable. That is, until now. MMA’s Michael Jordan is in the house. All that being said, what the hell does Steven Seagal have to do with it? In our opinion: virtually nothing.
–J.Wise / Guerrilla Fight