In a recent edition of “In the Clinch”, Sportsnickel writer R.K. Menn gave all the reasons why a “superfight” between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre would be a letdown. While it was a very good read, and I encourage my audience to check it out, I’m of the opinion that a fight between the two would be more competitive than Menn makes it out to be. Here are my reasons:
-Striking:Anderson Silva is arguably the greatest striker to perform at a high level in MMA. He’s never been knocked out, yet delivers knockouts himself using punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. At the very least, he’s one of the most diverse, precise, and creative strikers in the game. Against some opponents, he hits as if his bones have been laced with Adamantium. Non-nerds, go look that one up.
However, he’s looked very hitable lately, especially in the later rounds. As far back as his match with Hayato Sakurai, and as recently as his match with Chael Sonnen, he’s been struck, though not really out-struck. And while GSP isn’t exactly “Sugar” Ray Leonard, his striking is above average, having out-struck Jon Fitch and Thiago Alvez the few times they were able to stay upright against him. I’d certainly place his striking, at least on a technical level, above the level of Sakurai and Sonnen. He’s not at Anderson’s level, but might be competitive enough to get the takedown, which is how he wins.
-Clinching: This is Silva’s world, period. GSP has never faced someone with the “Thai plumb” that Silva possesses. Should the Canadian get caught here, he’s going to get destroyed. The flip side is that Silva has shown less inclination to use it in recent fights, and GSP’s bodylock clinch complements his takedowns very well. While Silva has the clear edge here, it may not be an issue, given St-Pierre’s explosive takedowns and Silva’s lack of takedown defense. Speaking of which…
-Takedowns: GSP has great takedowns. Despite not having a wrestling pedigree, he’s out-takedowned (don’t look it up, just trust that it’s a real word) guys like Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, and Jon Fitch. We’ve even seen him in video clips taking down a much larger Rashad Evans. For all his grace and devastation on the feet, for all his composition off his back, Silva is extremely vulnerable to takedowns, and St-Pierre is the best takedown artist in the game. If a drained, dried-out Travis Lutter could get him down, a lightening-fast St-Pierre will be unstoppable.
-Ground fighting: R.K. Menn made a statement in his article that while GSP has good wrestling, he’s not a wrestler. I agree. He’s better: he’s got the takedowns and top control of a wrestler with the guard passing and submission threat of a BJJ black belt. Sonnen took Silva down and mauled him for almost five rounds, but got caught, as he’s done dozens of times before, in a sub from guard. GSP’s only sub loss came when he was relatively green, and against a fighter he was psyched out to face. Silva, meanwhile, has really only gone for triangle-based subs, with the exception of a rear choke vs. a punch-dazed Henderson. GSP will be able to take Silva down, pass his rather passive guard, and beat him up.
-Mass/Strength: In many circles, it’s pretty well-known that Anderson Silva’s “walk around” weight is over 200lbs; in fact, it’s closer to 220 at times. Meanwhile, GSP claims to walk around between 190-195lbs. On the surface, this seemingly give Silva a notable mass advantage, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Silva is a self-proclaimed junk-food junkie when he isn’t training. The man has been blessed with an enviable metabolism that allows him to diet and exercise his way to about 190lbs very quickly, from which he cuts water weight. Remember, earlier in his career he used to fight at 167lbs, and even though he’s added muscles mass since then, his skeletal structure, his frame in other words, hasn’t changed much. On the other hand, Georges St-Pierre is always training and eating healthy. He’s always in fighting shape and cuts water weight from around 180lbs. The mass difference is still in Silva’s favor, but isn’t nearly as great as the “walk around” weights would indicate. And again, we’ve seen footage of GSP handling fighters in higher weight classes. I suspect the strength contest is, again, much closer than at first glance.
-Speed: Silva is quick; GSP is explosive. In other words, Silva simply moves fast, while GSP goes from the proverbial 0-60 in a hurry. In a stand-up exchange, I would bet on Silva’s ability to land more punches, but this isn’t a kickboxing contest. GSP has proven time and again that he’s able to slide in under his opponent’s strikes and take them to the ground. Silva would have to score early and often to keep GSP at bay.
-Game planning: I remember how, after his second fight with B.J. Penn, GSP described the game plan as clinching with Penn in order to build up the lactic acid in his arms and take the snap out of his punches. When a game plan includes how to alter your opponent’s biochemistry, we’ve leapt to Sun-Tzu levels of strategy. Anderson, meanwhile, usually lets his opponent dictate the pace of the fight. He’ll strike with them until he gets taken down, then lock down his body triangle while waiting to be separated. And lately his striking has got his opponents afraid to engage with him… except for Sonnen, who kickboxed a little on his way to successive, and successful, takedowns. Sonnen, somewhat like a submission-apathetic version of GSP, dictated the pace of the entire fight with Silva, bar the last few seconds. GSP, while not always following his corner’s advice, hasn’t lost a round in years; his only losses were due to psychological weaknesses that he has since cleared up. The odds in game-planning are with the Canadian.
-Intangibles: Not all aspects of the fight are easy to break down on paper. As mentioned above, GSP has had psychological problems in the past when it’s come to facing certain opponents. Vs. Matt Hughes, he was facing his idol; vs. Matt Serra, he took him lightly. Since those losses, St-Pierre has seen a sports psychologist and has looked unstoppable. Still, one wonders how he’d handle facing a man many call the #1 fighter in the world.
Anderson, for his part, has looked bored in his recent fights. Even in winning, he’s been inconsistent with his focus and killer instinct. Would having a “worthy” opponent change his mentality? Maybe, but Maia and Sonnen both supposedly invoked the ire of the Brazilian without him turning in barn-burning performances. As well, Silva reportedly fights injured with alarming frequency. Vs. Travis Lutter, his knees were supposedly bad; vs. Chael Sonnen, a rib injury was blamed for a bad performance. He won both those fights, but performed below expectations against men he was supposed to dominate, and frankly took way too long to lock in a submission on a fighter who’s preferred method of submission defense is to scream like a little girl.
The smart way to make this fight happen is to make it at a catch-weight, unless GSP wants to abandon the Welterweight class and move up. As a catchweight fight, neither guy loses too much in a loss; excuses could be that GSP was facing a bigger fighter, and that Silva cut more weight than had in ages. They’d still be the kings of their respective weight classes. This matchup would favor GSP even more, as taking down and holding down Silva without getting caught would be easier for 15 minutes as opposed to the 25 minutes of a title fight. While I think Silva has a better chance of finishing the fight than GSP does, with a smart game plan and his current level of focus, St-Pierre could pick up a decission over the Brazilian champ.
Either way, this fight should happen because things at both Welterweight and Middleweight are getting stale. GSP is already starting to recycle contenders, and Silva will have nothing but rematches left after the Vitor fight. Both fighters are so dominant that their matches no longer have any intrigue. GSP’s fights are criticized as boring; Silva just looks bored. Having them face each other, two champions in their prime, would draw money, and lots of it. After the payday, they could both return to their respective weight classes and go about their merry way. One would have his aura diminished, which would add intrigue to his future title defenses, and another would solidify his place in the sport as a living legend. It doesn’t get more win-win than that.