BY SYL PETERKIN
The UFC has seen it’s run of champions from its early formative open weight days to its current period of well developed weight class of champions. The unassuming and often bored BJJ genius who we call Anderson Silva, and the crowd pleasing powerhouse wrestler known as Brock Lesnar. Both have competed recently, and each brought something to the show. The recent UFC victories of Brock Lesnar over Shane Carwin and Anderson Silva over Chael Sonnen were an eye opener to say the least. These two fighters seemed virtually unbeatable over the past two or so years (with Anderson’s streak being considerably longer).
Brock Lesnar finally met a fighter who could compare to him in terms of brute strength, confidence, size and a comparable wrestling ability. He is likely a more intelligent person (being an engineer), but that does not always mean a smarter fighter. In the first round of action, Carwin (who had previously knocked out or submitted every fighter he had ever fought in the first round) stuck to his game, knocked Brock to the floor and proceeded to pound on him mercilessly. He exhausted himself and by round two seemed to only be waiting for Brock to win the fight somehow.
So what does this performance say about Brock Lesnar? That he can take a hit? That he is not invincible as previously thought? That he utilized the old Muhammad Ali Rope a Dope?
Well for the first question, can he take a hit? He can take a hit, but is vulnerable to aggressive fighters with fists of stone a la Fedor or Carwin. If caught by a fighter with power of that category he will simply fall. Almost every fighter Brock has fought was hesitant of engaging him head on. Shane opened up something that might be exploited by future opponents like Cain Velasquez. Brock fought threw getting dominated the first round (although I would not consider blocking and turtling up a strong fight strategy against a man with uber knockout power) and appeared to be conditioned to fight a few rounds. Maybe Brock utilized the Rope A Dope of letting your opponent throw punches at you and tire themselves out, but I don’t believe this was Brocks strategy.
Brock Lesnar is a supreme athlete – speed of a wrester and strength of a football player, but not the knockout power of a boxer, with a strong pedigree in wrestling. Yes, Brock might have had diverticulitis and had problems “pooping,” but he also has over 15 years as a fully trained athlete and can come back in better condition after 3 months than most of us can after 10 years of training. However, Brock did not beat Shane by any stretch of the imagination. Shane beat Shane no matter what way you look at it. Shane was never conditioned to go more than one round (and that is his mistake but I doubt you will see that mistake again). So Brock, what do I suggest? CASH OUT NOW while you’re still on top! Too many flaws have been exposed and your health is deteriorating. You may not be so lucky with Cain Velasquez!
Anderson Silva? Now what can you say about a fighter who has been so dominant over his career (although he has been beaten in the psat), but continuously improves. He hasn’t lost since 2005 outside of an illegal kick he threw. My take is that he is is simply a bored fighter. He has beaten everyone that has been thrown at him and even defeated a former champion in a heavier division (Forrest Griffin). Dana White loves Anderson Silva but hates the fact that he has become bored. He dances around opponents, plays with them and beats them. Dana White wants fighters who will be “good for the sport” and bring more fans in! When you have a champion who is bored and toys with his opponents the same way you or I might toy with a younger sibling, it’s no wonder a business owner would get very frustrated.
Does Anderson Silva have holes in his game? Yes – he is not the perfect fighter, but is so dominant in what he does that he can make up for it. His takedown defense is mediocre to say the least. Chael Sonnen is a hardy wrestler with a strong collegiate wrestling background (which many Jujitsu fighters seem to have trouble with and vice versa) and seemed to be a viable candidate for Anderson Silva to lock horns with. Sonnen came in supremely confident and had a game plan of smothering and aggressively pursuing Anderson and not allow him to get into a rhythm. He did this quite well for 4.5 rounds and seemed to be on the verge of victory… until he was triangled by Silva.
So what did we learn about the fight? That Anderson Silva is a BJJ fighter who still considers grappling to be like a chess match. That the kitchen sink that was thrown at him by Dana White did not work. That a rib injury did not matter to him, he still beat a prime contender for his title and did so while hurt. Will this fight change the way Anderson Silva fights in the future? I doubt it, he was never in serious danger of being knocked out but was ofbeing grinded out to a decision loss. Dana White wants another fighter as middleweight champ and it’s obvious. Anderson is not the money maker that GSP, Brock, or Shane might be. Anderson’s English skills will draw no fans to see him fight, but neither does Fedor’s language skills. He is though the champion and deserves that respect!
Two such fighters have quite contrasting styles, yet show the diversity of what we call MMA. What can we expect from them in the future is hard to tell. We will have to see how Brock handles similar competition and if Anderson is offered a true challenge to his title.
Editor’s note: This article was written and scheduled for publication before Chael had tested positive and thus no mention of it is in this piece.