Silva looks to make history at UFC 97
Preview by Brady Crytzer
In the main event of UFC 97: Redemption, UFC world middleweight champion and pound for pound kingpin Anderson “The Spider” Silva readies himself for what could be the most important fight of his career as he takes on grappling specialist Thales Leites. With four title defenses to his credit and eight straight Octagon victories, Silva looks to become the first UFC titlist to defend his crown for a record five times. Although he is on the cusp of making history, the challenger Leites presents a dangerous fight for “The Spider” and has an upset on his mind.
Plainly speaking, there is no one better in this game than Anderson Silva. Although there are better pedigreed strikers, Silva has proven time and again that he can manipulate his Muay Thai background effectively into the complete game of mixed martial arts. While his highlight reels appear as a tapestry of violence, Silva uses crafty footwork and immaculate timing to catch fighters coming in and moving out. As seen in his wins against Rich Franklin and Chris Leben, Silva’s knees and kicks are some of the deadliest in the game. But, as we witnessed against Nate Marquardt and James Irvin, “The Spider” possesses devastating one punch KO power that can end a fight at any time.
Silva’s strikes are second to known in the contemporary world of MMA. Considering Leites has been criticized in the past for his “less than effective” stand up, the fight on the feet will be all Silva.
This will be the most competitive phase of the fight, if it ever makes it to the mat that is. Both Thales Leites and Anderson Silva are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts, but there is a clear difference in mastery of technique. Leites has displayed his world class jiu jitsu mastery in both BJJ tournaments as well as in the Octagon. Silva’s black belt credentials are no joke, and it is unlikely that he will be surprised by any submissions (ala Ryo Chonan and Daiju Takase.) Leites can use superior technique and positioning to control the champion on the ground, but he needs to make every opportunity count and land damaging blows whenever possible.
Leites enjoys an advantage in the strict jiu jitsu department. Seeing as a great wrestler like Dan Henderson couldn’t control Silva, it is unlikely that Leites will either. Leites will need to earn every inch and make every blow count.
This is a stern, and potentially very scary, test for Silva, but he should stop Leites in round one with his superior striking. If there is one knock on Leitas it is that he can be overwhelmed by a more focused opponent. In his bouts with Martin Kampmann and Nate Marquardt, Leites allowed himself to be bullied quite frequently and underperformed because of it. The challenger’s stand up is not up to par and he will be pay dearly in this fight because of it.
Speaking in the turn of UFC history, a win for Silva at UFC 97 will accomplish something that legends like Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, Randy Couture or BJ Penn has ever done. Silva would have defended his title a record five consecutive times.