UFC Rio: An Early Head to Toe Breakdown of Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami
The last time a Japanese Mixed Martial Artist fought Anderson "The Spider" Silva, it was at Rumble on the Rock 8 in Honolulu, Hawaii—the event that many in the MMA world recognize as the night of Silva's last official loss in Mixed Martial Arts, a loss that came at the hands of Yushin "Thunder" Okami.
On that night, a still-controversial ending occurred in their opening round bout of the Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament, as a Silva upkick landed and seemed to knock Okami out, but speculations arose as to whether it was Okami's feet or his knees that were on the ground.
The referee ruled the upkick illegal, giving the win to Okami, but not leaving either man—or the crowd—satisfied in full with the ending of that opening round bout.
When UFC: Rio finally gets announced, fans of the sport will already know of one fight that will be going down, and as MMA Junkie reported yesterday, that bout will be the rematch between Okami and The Spider.
Years after their first outing, the fighters look the same, but will the tools they each possess result in the rematch producing the same outcome?
This is an early head-to-toe breakdown of the possible main event of UFC: Rio.
There might be little question about whether this is purely Silva's realm or not. Yushin can be an effective counter-striker at times, but unlike his onetime foe, Okami has emphasized his wrestling game more than he has diversified his Striking game.
Silva's striking is one you have to see in order to fully comprehend its lethality and the lengths of its devastation.
He's a Muay Thai fighter, but his arsenal is more than just Muay Thai and Kickboxing, as past outings have shown.
As far as strikers go, few are as well-rounded as Silva.
This is a tough one, as both guys know their way around the submission department.
If Okami uses his strength against Silva as well as his wrestling, then perhaps he could implement his submissions better, but Silva has been known to pull submissions out of weird situations.
Heaven forbid that he's been studying the Vaporizer in order to combat Chan Sung Jung's use of the Twister.
Either way, I'd say this one depends on your bias.
Now I'm not sure that Anderson could pull something like what he pulls on this guy, but he is a fast guy.
Against Okami, this might work in the champ's favor, pending a lack of speed and conditioning work done in preparation for this fight.
I doubt Dan Henderson and "Uncle" Chael Sonnen have done anything to bring out a slower Okami than what we've seen, but despite the new surroundings that Okami has now that he's at Team Quest, I still can't see Okami being much faster than Silva.
This one is a no brainer.
Silva's kryptonite is a solid wrestling game and unstoppable takedown-based offense, which Okami had in their last fight and in every fight since Rumble On The Rock 8.
Granted, Okami's shown lethal striking ability since their first fight, but his bread and butter plan is the takedowns and the smothering top control with the short and heavy shots.
Anderson needs a solid defensive Jiu-Jitsu game in order to neutralize Okami's infamous wrestling offense, or else he's going to find himself in trouble.
Defense (Striking and Takedown)
This here might be a double-bladed sword
Striking-wise, Silva may have the edge here based on how he defends the strikes that get thrown his way.
He's a fantastic counter-striker, and he makes great use of his movement by dodging blows a la Roy Jones Jr.
Okami, on the other hand, is by far the better wrestler, and he is also the man with the better takedown defense—Anderson has always had that one flaw about him, although he was able to quickly get off the ground when Vitor Belfort took him down and appeared to have him hurt.
Without question, Okami is the better of the two on takedown defense, but Silva could be the better of the two on striking defense solely for the manner in which he plays defense.
Whether or not this will be so on Fight Night could be a different story.
Advantage: Split (Silva for striking, Okami for takedown defense)
When Anderson has his head firmly attached to his neck, he turns into the type of fighter that would make you easily punk out of the fight before it ever began.
There's only three fights in which his true aggression has been questioned, although in my own mind, I still maintain only one brought Silva's aggression into question.
Okami could have the edge here if he not only utilizes his wrestling game, but makes attempts to finish Silva off, where Silva ex-foes like Chael Sonnen have not been able to.
That's where I question Okami, because while he has had the chance in fights past to finish off certain guys, he instead fought conservatively and looked a few far cries from aggressive.
If he is conservative against Silva, he will only further justify the argument that only rematches (and probably Michael Bisping) are all that are left for Silva at 185, save for the Superfight against GSP which still is dependent on a GSP victory at UFC 129.
If you don't prepare for Silva correctly, or if you decide to take a shortcut to preparation, or even if you possibly over-prepare, Silva will make you pay.
Of course, Patrick Cote's case was one in which the knee blew out mid-fight, so maybe that's not such a good example of what happens when you overtrain for Silva.
I would anticipate Okami's training being every bit as good as it's ever been for a fight, but don't discredit the preparation of a champion.
Silva's only looked off his game once since becoming the UFC Middleweight Champion, and certain events surrounding his then-challenger are to blame for that.
On the other hand, though, many would like to say that hunger lies more within a challenger than a champion.
Again, it depends on your bias, but for once, I'll give Okami his, as he could be flat-out difficult for Spidey to put down.
Advantage: Split, but may shift more towards Okami come Fight Night
Heart and Soul
Both guys have the heart of a champ, and both guys can pull out all the stops when it reaches do or die time...or can they?
Is it safe to say that Okami's had to show his ability to take and give punches in fights, UFC or otherwise?
I don't know about the rest of you, but even the split decision win over Mark Munoz looked a bit unanimous to me.
You wouldn't think that Silva has had to fight his heart out just to save his rep, aside from the Chael Sonnen fight, but he's had to save his own ass a few times before.
Remember, Dan Henderson took control of the first round before he got tapped out, and Travis Lutter came within inches of being the first man to finish Silva.
Sonnen is just the first guy to dominate Silva for the near-entirety of a five round fight...and fail the post-fight drug tests for it.
To quote a smart man: Never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Silva's had to show it once, and something says that he'll have to show us the REAL Anderson Silva when he rematches Okami.
Even the more-conservative Okami has never truly had that question come up in many if any of his past fights, although that unasked question has been made up for by the slow performances Okami has had.
Any way you choose to look at it, neither the champion nor the challenger can afford to come in mentally unprepared, but then again, the battleground for this event might be enough to light a fire underneath both of their asses.
Yushin was to prove that he can decisively beat Silva, and he wants to do it in Silva's home country.
Silva wants to avenge the loss to Okami in front of his home country and become the only World Champion in Mixed Martial Arts history to have successfully defended his crown an unprecedented, unheard-of, and honestly uber-freakish nine times in a row.
Add in that Silva's gone up until these past few months without having to hear Okami's name, and the lake of fire has been soundly conjured up underneath Silva.
Then again, who says Okami isn't prepared to prove that he would've beaten Anderson if that upkick hadn't connected?
There's no question who you'd give the edge to here, as far as being able to not have a very predictable game plan.
Granted, the gist of the champ's game plan is predictable, but the manner in which he gets the finish isn't.
Some people thought he'd beat Rich Franklin, and some probably thought the Muay Thai Clinch would spell doom for Ace, but few could have thought that the damage would cause Rich to have to get his nose reconstructed.
Some people thought James Irvin was going to lose to Silva, but few thought Silva would make short work of The Sandman.
Some people were just wondering "when?" when they saw Anderson Silva beating Forrest Griffin, but few of them thought that a jab to the chin of Forrest was going to do it (in unrelated news, MMA Junkie has confirmed that Griffin will get Mauricio "Shogun" Rua next).
Of course, the video should demonstrate what Vitor Belfort took from Anderson Silva--I didn't call that one either.
Thing is, you already know what Okami's going to do.
You know that his best shot will be to take Silva to the ground and neutralize his Jiu-Jitsu, because although Okami can stand and trade, he'd be putting himself in danger by doing that with Silva.
With Silva, you THINK you're getting a stand-up war, but as quickly as I say that, the game plan switches.
The winner of this one will be the man who keeps his foe on his toes, and few do that any better than the Middleweight Champ.
Is This Really Anderson Silva's Fight to Win?
I'd like to think that this early breakdown has done enough to spark up the debate that says that Silva will retain his crown, but anything can happen between now and the night of UFC 134, which is slated to be the likely time of "UFC: Rio".
Okami could be training with some highly elite strikers in preparation for Silva, and for that matter, Silva could be training with a few elite Wrestlers and grapplers in preparation for Okami.
So how about it, MMA World: Do the signs point to a Silva victory or do they point to Okami scoring a legitimate win over The Spider.
You guys tell me how you see this one going down.