Blogkick: Silva vs Belfort Analysis

The highly anticipated main event at UFC 126 sees UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva, attempt to defend his middleweight title for a record 8th consecutive time against former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Vitor Belfort. Silva will enter this fight a heavy favourite with an astonishing 12 consecutive wins in the UFC. Belfort is currently on a 5 fight win streak with 4 of those fights ending by knockout, the most recent coming against Rich Franklin at UFC 103. Silva and Belfort feature at number one and two respectively in the current Lowkick.com middleweight rankings. Silva, considered by many to be the number one pound for pound mixed martial artist in the world, currently sits at the number two spot in Lowkick’s pound for pound rankings. Belfort does not feature in the top 10. This article will attempt to dissect this fight with respect to three distinct categories: mental game, ground game and striking.

Mental game

This is a critical aspect of the fight game that many fighters struggle with. Anderson Silva is not one of those fighters. He is an incredibly skilled mixed martial artist with unfaltering confidence in every aspect of his ability. He is so confident, in fact, that it has been suggested that some of his lacklustre performances in the past (see the Thales Leites and Demian Maia fights) might be the result of a sense of boredom with the lack of worthy competition in the middleweight division and a frustration with his opponents’ unwillingness to engage with his stand up. This shouldn’t be a problem for Silva this time out as there will be no shortage of motivation when he enters the cage against Vitor Belfort and there is little doubt that his opponent will engage The Champion on his feet.

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Unlike his opponent, Belfort is not renowned for his mental toughness and has been known to allow fights to slip away from him if they are not going his way. This is particularly true of his earlier career and is exemplified in his decision losses to the likes of Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. One can only speculate as to how much of this can be attributed to the adversity Belfort has been forced to face in his person life, particularly in relation to the kidnapping and murder of his sister several years ago. Recently, however, we have seen a more mentally solid Belfort amass the longest string of consecutive wins in his career. Which Vitor Belfort will we see enter the cage this Saturday? We will have to wait to find out but history suggests that Anderson Silva will have the mental edge.

Silva 1 – 0 Belfort

Ground Game

Should this fight take place on the ground, both fighters hold black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. Of Belforts 19 professional career wins, just two have come by way of submission and he has been submitted just once in 27 professional fights. Silva has submitted five of his opponents. Two of those submissions were in title defences against Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. He has been submitted twice in his career including one somewhat miraculous flying scissors heel hook by Ryo Chonan.

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Chael Sonnen set the blueprint for how to win rounds against Anderson Silva. He repeatedly exploited The Champion’s relatively weak takedown defence and scored with takedowns and relentless ground strikes. Unfortunately for Belfort, he does not have the same wrestling credentials as Sonnen so this may not be an option. He may be able to use his striking to set up takedowns in an effort to steal rounds but a Sonnenesque war of attrition in which Silva spends 25 minutes on his back is unlikely.

In fact, a fight where either fighter spends a lot of time on their back is unlikely, as despite their proficiency on the mat both fighters are known for their stand up and I expect this to be a striking battle. If either of these fighters has an advantage on the ground, however, it would have to go to Silva due to the quantity and the quality of the competition he has been able to submit.

Silva 2 – 0 Belfort

Striking

Both of these fighters are devastating strikers. Silva is known for his incredible precision and technique while Belfort is renowned for his speed and knockout power. 15 of Silva’s 27 wins have come by knockout compared to 13 of 19 for Belfort. Belfort himself has been stopped twice in his career whereas Silva has never been knocked out.

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The Champion will look to use his long limbs to attack his opponent from the outside while avoiding damage. The challenger will attempt to get inside, disrupt his opponent’s rhythm and use his powerful striking to look for a knockout. Although Silva has fought and knocked out highly proficient strikers in the past, Rich Franklin among them, he will never have faced an opponent with the hand speed and power of Vitor Belfort. If Belfort can get inside and land it could be a short night for Silva. That being said it is difficult to pick against a guy with the Muay Thai skills of Anderson Silva and who has yet to be knocked out in 31 professional fights. Again, the advantage, albeit slight, goes to The Champion.

Silva 3 – 0 Belfort

Finally, although the advantage in all three categories goes to Silva, the advantage is slight. Make no mistake, this fight can go either way. If they both bring everything they’ve got, Silva should take this fight on the feet. If, however, Silva brings another lacklustre, under motivated performance, don’t expect Vitor Belfort to stand back and watch him slap the mat. Either way, it should be a night to remember for MMA fans.