Thursday, December 26, 2013

Anderson Silva And The Art Of Showboating

When it comes to sports, I have a bias towards wrestlers. I loved Robert Quinn coming out of college, because he was a state champion high school wrestler. I loved Ray Lewis for the same reasons. I don't even know what level Deron Williams wrestled at before switching to basketball full-time, but I remember an announcer mentioning it while he was at Illinois, and I still support him, even though he has been rapidly declining. Never is this more true than in the UFC. In my mind, you need to have a wrestling background to be great, because without wrestling, you have no control of where the fight ends up.

I have always underrated Anderson Silva because of this. To be fair, he has gotten a ton better at wrestling, going from childlike to a poor wrestler. He's not going to shoot for takedowns, but his sprawl and underhook defense has gotten a ton better, and really, that's the only aspects of wrestling that Silva is going to need.

It's fair to say that my underrating Anderson Silva was a huge whiff on my sports predictions. It isn't the first, and won't be the last, but even though I have been wrong, it has been a blast watching him fight. Watching him strike from his feet is poetry in motion. It's so ridiculously smooth. There is nothing in this world that I can do as smoothly as he strikes, and that includes seducing the ladies. Win or lose this weekend, Silva's career is winding down, and we should appreciate all of the opportunities we have left, even if he is no longer in peak form.

My only proof that he may not be in peak form is that he is 38 years-old. Outside of that, there isn't much video evidence to suggest he has lost a step. Yes, he lost his last fight, but he got caught while doing what Silva does, believing in his skills to the point where he feels comfortable making his opponent look bad.

We have all been taught that showboating is bad. In most cases, it is. The showboating itself is not bad, but so few athletes can be so great that they are able to back it up. Anderson Silva is one of those amazing athletes who actually benefits from showboating. He demoralizes his opponents and kills all confidence with his showboating. Outside of the first Chael Sonnen fight, he has made his opponents believe that he was better than them in every other fight he has been in. He stands there with his hands down and easily dodges all strikes that come his way. At this point, his opponent feels helpless, and it is amazing how the energy can drain from an opponent who doesn't know what to do. Anderson Silva is the water; his opponents are the helpless swimmer. The harder they work, the more dire their situation becomes.

Don't fool yourselves. Chris Weidman has looked like an absolute monster in all of his fights, but by the second round with Silva, he looked beat. He was putting his head down and charging in for shots like the world's slowest bull. Silva dismissed him, as he should have, because all visual evidence was pointing to him being done. That all changed when one of Silva's dips mistimed into a left hook from Weidman, and all of a sudden, Silva was human again.

Michael Jordan stuck his tongue out, shrugged his shoulders, and shot free throws with his eyes closed. He didn't do this because it helped his game; he did it because he could. And mentally, his opponents were defeated before the end of the first quarter. Silva is that sort of athlete. He has such a myth around himself that his opponents are fighting a mental battle before they enter the cage. The showboating just puts the nail in their mental coffin.

As I said before, Weidman has been a beast in all of his previous fights, and the one time he didn't look like a beast, against Silva, he still knocked his opponent out. If he comes in with proper cardio and has his wrestling working, it's going to take something special for Silva to win. At the same time, I can't shake the feeling that we are going to see that classic Anderson Silva performance of easily rolling away from shots while effortlessly peppering his opponents with pinpoint striking.

I don't know what is going to happen on Saturday, but I know it's going to be special. If I had to make a pick, I'm going with Weidman. I have underestimated Silva throughout his entire UFC career (I thought Rich Franklin would win BOTH times), so why stop now? But this time, I will admit, there is a little piece of me hoping that I'm wrong, because getting another opportunity to see that sort of greatness is something I don't want to miss out on.

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