Many fans thought the actions of Anderson Silva inside the cage in his first-ever UFC loss were disrespectful and shameful. His actions were viewed as disrespectful toward the sport and toward the newly-minted champion Chris Weidman.
The truth, however, is not that simple. Silva has played this game before and knew exactly what he was doing.
Longtime fans of the UFC have seen Silva’s so-called ‘clowning’ on more than one occasion. In fact, some of Silva’s greatest accolades have been garnered from fights where he completely outclassed and clowned his opponent, most recently against Forrest Griffin, Yushin Okami and Stephan Bonnar.
What some fans see as clowning is actually an elaborate game plan enacted by Silva to entice his opponents into a striking match. Hands at the hips exuding complete disdain for his opponents’ striking, Silva persuades his challengers to stand and trade instead of doing what they most often ought to do: take the fight to the ground.
The lowering of his hands also allows Silva to more easily defend takedown attempts. There is, after all, an apparent method to the madness.
The threats that Weidman posed on the ground were apparent very early in their title fight at UFC 162, and Silva quickly realized that he needed to stay off his back. His clowning noticeably annoyed Weidman. Late in the first round, it seemed like the only thing on Weidman’s mind was to put a fist into Silva’s face, and this frustration carried over into the second round.
Silva’s clowning had managed to keep the fight in a position which gave him the best chance of success. His game plan to keep the fight standing actually worked exceedingly well.
Unfortunately for Silva, he lacked the smooth and brilliant counter-striking and avoidance he normally employs in the octagon. He brimmed with overconfidence. Nearly every time Weidman connected with a strike, Silva laughed, shook his head or feigned being hurt. In the end, Silva’s brilliance was outdone by his own hubris.
Silva’s game plan backfired. He continued to fight with his hands down long after persuading Weidman to strike with him. The fact is Silva was too comfortable in his own environment, and he paid the price. He got caught.
Many of Silva’s recent fights have been against strong grapplers with relatively mediocre striking prowess. His previous opponents had no answer to this environment Silva creates, but Weidman did. Silva is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in MMA history, but no one is immune to a perfectly placed left hook on the jaw.
It is hard to say what to expect in their inevitable rematch. While this time off will certainly give Silva and his team time to ponder the correct approach, it will undoubtedly also give the young Weidman time to improve as well. If Silva is able to correct his mistakes in the rematch, it could set in motion one of the greatest trilogies the sport has seen yet.
A motivated and hungry Anderson Silva is not one to be trifled with.