Anderson Silva by the numbers
The description most fitting when talking about Anderson Silva – aside from “underappreciated dancer” – is simply, “dominant.” Silva has burst onto the UFC stage with a level of dominance rarely seen at this level of MMA. The folks who questioned whether he deserved a title shot in his second UFC bout are probably feeling a little foolish by now
The FightMetric system uses a stat called TPR (Total Performance Rating) to measure the quality of a fighter’s performance based on six statistical components (it’s like the NFL’s Passer Rating for QB’s). Scored on a scale between 0-100, the average score for a fight winner is 55. Since his loss to Ryo Chonan more than three years ago, Silva’s average TPR across nine fights is 88 with his opponents scoring an average TPR of 19. The sport has not seen dominance like this since Pride stopped feeding Wanderlei Silva a steady diet of undersized Japanese sacrificial lambs.
With his match this Saturday against Dan Henderson posing his greatest challenge to date, FightMetric has analyzed every fight in Anderson Silva’s career to glean insight into how his historical performance might shed light on the upcoming match-up.
When explaining the difference between Silva and Chris Leben, Joe Rogan simply said, “Silva is a different kind of striker.” That would be putting it lightly.
Over the course of his career, Silva’s average striking accuracy per-fight is an even 70%. To give some context, the average fighter’s accuracy is around 35%, and Silva’s opponents’ accuracy in their fights against him is 24%. That means Silva is twice as accurate as your standard fighter and nearly three times as accurate as the people fighting against him. His footwork and technique are such that not only does he connect, he also makes his opponents miss.
Silva has never had a fight in which his striking accuracy was less than 50%. If that doesn’t sound scary enough, think about it this way: If you see Anderson Silva about to throw a strike at you, chances are better than not that you’re about to get hurt.
What this means for Henderson: If Silva’s style is akin to a precision missile strike, Henderson’s style is like a carpet bombing campaign. If he relies on connecting on his third or fourth strike in a flurry, he might find himself beaten to the punch.
It’s true that Henderson has never been stopped with strikes before, but then again, neither had Leben, Nate Marquardt, or Tony Fryklund. Silva also provided stoppages for just the second time in the careers of Rich Franklin, Travis Lutter, Curtis Stout, Jorge Rivera, and Carlos Newton. In other words, he stops guys that are really hard to stop.
What’s important to note is that Silva doesn’t knock people down so much as he crumples them from an accumulated barrage.
What this means for Henderson: Whenever Henderson has been knocked down (but not out) before, it has only been by a single strike. Will he be able to withstand one of Silva’s furious combination assaults?
While undoubtedly successful in the ring, Silva is an absolute master of the cage. Not only has he won each of his nine career fights inside a cage, he has completely dominated them. Only one of these fights (his first) went past the second round.
There are several reasons why Silva has succeeded so well in the cage while an elite striker like Mirko CroCop failed. The key difference is their stalking technique. CroCop’s UFC fights saw his opponents endlessly circling away from his power hand and foot, which is easier to do in an Octagon that has no corners.
Silva stalks differently, with the tendency to stand directly in front of his opponent, shoulders and hips square, moving laterally in the same direction his opponent moves. The wider, circular space makes little difference thanks to Silva’s ambidextrousness. Silva is the rare fighter that can frequently and effectively change from the southpaw to orthodox stance. With his opponent unable to escape either to his right or left, Silva is able to push them backward toward the fence. From there, his Muay Thai clinch increases in effectiveness, with the fence providing a more stationary target than the ring, where opponents have more wiggle room and where Silva has gotten tangled in the ropes.
What this means for Henderson: Greco, and lots of it. Any time the action gets close to the fence, it’ll be body lock, dirty box, takedown attempt. Repeat as needed.
One of the interesting by-products of Silva’s career-long dominance is that his chin is still mostly untested even after 24 professional fights. Silva has never been knocked out and has never been knocked down. From the looks of it, he has never even been “rocked” by a strike. This could be because he has a great chin, but it could also be that he has never been hit that hard.
The best evidence we have in his favor is his fight against Jorge Rivera, where Rivera delivered five consecutive head strikes in the clinch. Silva smiled, said something to Rivera, and then put on a Muay Thai clinic before knocking him out two minutes later. True, he also took solid shots on the ground against Jeremy Horn and Ryo Chonan, but Silva has never been hit, full on, with a good strike at distance. Consequently, Silva has also never been cut. We’ve yet to see how Silva handles fighting after getting hurt.
What this means for Henderson: Who knows? Maybe Silva will go down after the first solid right hand or maybe he’s the second coming of Mark Hunt. It may not be in this fight, but Silva will eventually get hit hard. Even Fedor had his “Fujita Moment.”
When you strike like Silva, you have to expect your opponent will be looking to take the fight to the ground. Only five of Silva’s 23 opponents neglected to attempt a takedown, and three of those fighters got knocked out too quickly to have tried.
The ones who did try have found success. Opponents have landed 29 of 67 takedown attempts, for a success rate of 43%. Silva has proven especially susceptible to clinch takedowns, which account for 68% of successful takedowns against him.
What this means for Henderson: The fact that Silva has been taken down so frequently bodes well. Opponents have succeeded on 66% of clinch takedown attempts, where Henderson is strongest.
Opponents have figured out two ways to beat Anderson Silva: Flying scissor heel hook and by moving to side control. Aside from his submission at the hands of Chonan, Silva’s only two defeats (not counting a DQ against Yushin Okami) came because his opponent controlled the fight from side position. Travis Lutter, Daiju Takase, and Luiz Azeredo had much success pinning Silva to the ground. Takase did this until he could slap on a submission. Azeredo rode the technique all the way to a decision win.
Normally, Silva’s ground defense is excellent, as his long legs allow him to put his opponent in a body triangle from bottom position. This extremely tight guard prevents opponents from passing or creating the separation necessary to throw effective strikes. However, once his guard is passed, Silva has shown an inability to consistently regain guard.
On the offensive side, Silva has never actually submitted anyone by a method other than strikes. Silva has attempted 17 submissions in his career, though 10 of them came in one fight against Alexander Otsuka.
What this means for Henderson: Good news, Henderson’s upper body takedowns in the clinch regularly land him in side control. If it doesn’t, he’ll either have to pass guard before Silva locks on that body triangle…or learn to throw a flying scissor heel hook.
FightMetric is the world’s first comprehensive MMA statistics and analysis system. Visit FightMetric.com to learn more about the system and for analysis of MMA’s closest bouts.