Coming to terms with the oddness of Silva vs. Weidman
After the initial shock of Anderson Silva being knocked down and finished by challenger Chris Weidman at UFC 162's main event last night -- a moment that delighted some fans and devastated others -- some observers of what transpired may have been left with a feeling of uneasiness in the immediate aftermath. I myself am still trying to get a grip on the sequence that ended Silva's night, without even thinking about it being the abrupt halt to the best UFC win and title defence streak in the promotion's not-quite 20 year history.
Chris Weidman had the backing of many fans, pundits and peers who believed that he had a very real chance of winning. In Weidman's own mind, he believed he would win with internal doubts being minimal-to-none. It's hard to believe though that anyone in their right mind would have picked Weidman to knock down Silva and finish him with strikes in the second round.
Silva was the favourite in the stand up by a mile, and after the initial success of Weidman using his takedown and ground fighting skills in the first, blending his experience as a Division I collegiate wrestler with his prodigal absorption of the jiu jitsu game, it appeared Silva had figured Weidman out by the half way point in the opening stanza. Silva's timing, speed and footwork were all on point and for many it just felt like it was a matter of time before Silva set Weidman up for the kill.
Instead we witnessed what appeared to be a case of Silva breaking the cardinal rule of many striking disciplines when he failed to keep his hands up and got clipped by a Weidman left hook. For any other fighter, I could readily accept this as reason enough for the end of their night. We see it often at the lower level where either fatigue or inexperience perhaps combined with cockiness causes the dropping of their guard leaving them open to attack.
Anderson Silva though, is better than that. The aforementioned timing, speed and footwork of Anderson Silva is still several levels above his contemporaries, his technique and skill so solid that he can use feints and fakes to snake charm opponents before landing pin precision strikes. Anderson Silva is not someone who typically has a low fight IQ, and yet his in-ring theatrics that are meant to frustrate and deceive the men standing across the cage from him last night reached a new height of absurdness.
Not since Silva's Charlie Chaplin routine of hiding behind the referee in his fight with Demian Maia have we seen him act such the fool inside the Octagon, but last night his wobbly-kneed antics trumped his Abu Dhabi shenanigans. When Weidman initially tagged him, Silva appeared caught on the back foot as he tried to gesticulate the feigned trouble he was in; two punches later he was down on his back getting hit further until Herb Dean waved off the bout.
It's hard to recall though the last time Silva's weight was shifted to the back and he was that prone to gravity outside perhaps a couple of the exchanges he had with Chael Sonnen in their first fight, where Sonnen parleyed his move-forward punching into takedown opportunities. Usually when Siva is on the back foot, he's stable enough to land counter punches, and it's brief enough for him to circle out of the path he's being forced down.
Some unreasonable fans have called the fight a fix, even some believing Silva bet on Weidman to win to make a ton of money at the bookmakers and that he was looking to get knocked down. Such claims are largely unwarranted as it's too difficult to fix fights of this magnitude without an investigation uncovering such blatant corruption, and it doesn't consider the money Silva would be giving up now the prospect of super-fights featuring him and Georges St. Pierre or Jon Jones are dead and buried.
The unfortunate reality is likely this: the best fighter we've ever seen in Mixed Martial Arts acted like an amateur and paid the consequences. We just have to accept the oddness of it.