So after the UFC fights last night, I searched my twitter and Facebook walls and notice the usual talk of the action in the cage. As expected, most felt sorry for Anderson Silva who suffered a horrific shin break after his kick was checked in the second round. However the talk seemed to take on a new life, as I studied the trainers and coaches in the sport. It seems like all of them had an opinion on why it happened and how to avoid it. This was in response to their students, who in bunches started asking how it happened and if it could happen to them. As a coach of several UFC level fighters and high level kickboxers, I too got many texts and questions about the shin break. I hope to assure all of you that this is really rare and how it shouldn't effect how you teach techniques.
First of all, the main reason this scares everyone is because of who it happened to. Its just like steroids, who gets caught is what makes us take notice. If this happened to some undercard guy it would have been sad, but no one would have talked about it. Its because it happened to an all time great, who resume wise, showed way more muay thai skill sets than his opponent. If it were to happen to anyone, it should't have been Silva. No one imagines themselves a journeymen, but as a great. So when we see someone great get hurt, it reminds us of our own frailties and inabilities. If it happens to an undercard fighter, than that fighter was just unlucky, if it happens to a legend, than we feel that no one is safe, because these athletes are have dream careers, and no one gets injured in dreams.
Before I get into my thesis, I will recreate the scene from a striking coaches perspective (This is all on my first look perspectively the way, I have no re-watched the fight yet.) Chris Weidman showed a simple game plan, either be offensive or defensive, never exchange, thats how people get caught. After taking round one, he came out defensive, throwing almost no offense and waiting on Silva. Silva, who showed age for the first time, looking a bit slower and lacking his usual fast twitch explosion, began to look for lead left hands, which Weidman avoided by not exchanging, keeping the fight a battle of taking turns. After Silva missed a few long left hands, Weidman knew the kick was coming so he waited on them. Silva attacked the the lead leg first and Weidman checked it, which significantly reduces the chances of that leg attacking for a while, so Weidman waited for the left leg. Silva threw it, he checked it, and Silva broke his leg. The kick actually looked like it scored, because Weidman's leg shot back after the impact, but he was fine and Silva was done.
In response, I have read several long Facebook post, I saw a few videos on technique, all explaining why the injury happened and how a more technical kick would have kept this from happening. Some of the videos had some solid points and some things that everyone can learn from. They all mentioned things like turning the hip up more, making sure the middle of the shin scores and not the side, etc. Good points. Overall, I feel that people are going a bit too far thinking that one of the greatest fighters of all time was suddenly let down by his technical inabilities. Yet I will go further.
First of all, I don't care how great of a kicker you are, I don't care how great of a coach you are, how much you drill, or how much film you watch, it is impossible to throw a perfect kick every single time. There are so many different types of kicks that work for so many different types of fighters, that most of the time, situation provides kick location far more than the will of technique. To assume that perfected technique practice will provide the accurate look for fight preparation, is to assume 7 on 7 football prepares you for an NFL pass rush. I will go further with that analogy. You can look at a NFL Quarterback and use bad technique to describe what happens to their bad passes. Yet a lot of the time, situation leads to how they throw. You will see them throw off balance, side arm, flip passes, all of this is created by situation, meaning that the proper throw isn't the best throw. Not to mention, situation prevents them from using the perfect technique in the first place. Striking is not an exact art. Throwing it with perfect technique won't always land and throwing it wrong won't always miss. The perfect shot could break your hand, the wide shot could score without damage. Whether you delivering Giorgio Petrosyan like precision or Dzhabar Askerov's controlled aggression in his wide shots; there are a lot of ways to land and each fighter, low level or elite, works it out best for themselves. So many different things work in this game and even the perfect kick is subjected to the injuries of the game. Now I am not saying that there is no value in throwing the proper technique, nor am I suggesting that Silva was in a hurried situation that led to an improper kick. I am only suggesting that if you feel that you need to inform your fighters that this happened because of an improper kick and throwing the perfect kick will avoid this, I do not feel it accurately represents what will happen in an actual fight.
Many may feel that this helps, but hearing technical combat advice gives you more confidence moving forward. For those I would suggest a term I use for my fighters, "Don't throw it naked!" What I mean by that is if you want to kick, dress it up with punches. If your opponent has to adjust to punches, its easier to score the kicks and vice versa. Silva didn't really throw combinations in the round, he loaded up on singles. First with right hands, then with a lead kick, then a power rear leg kick. As I mentioned before, Weidman was waiting on it. Its hard to wait on shots if multiple shots are coming at multiple areas. I will give you an example from kickboxing as this is a kickboxing site after all. Lets look at the recent Glory Welterweight championship bout between Nieky Holzken and Joseph Valtelinni. There was a lot of kicks scored and a lot of kicks checked in that fight. But the majority of the kicks got threw due to hiding them behind combinations. Also kick timing. Kick after the other fighter finishes throwing their own offense, throw a combination without kicks, then hide the kick in the next series of combos. In the first round, Holzken checks one of Valtelinni's rear leg low kicks at the 2:18 mark of the round. Valtelinni then throws a switch kick with the lead leg to the body, a short kick to the inside of the lead leg with his same lead leg. He then throws a combinations and steps off. Nieky throws a combo and Valtelinni came back to the rear leg low kick after giving it time to recover. He didn't just wait it out and throw hard with the opposite leg, he gave it time to rest, using his first kick to the body, not risking it low incase it got checked too, leading him to take a break from kicking with both legs. His low kick to the inside leg wasn't with brute force, he tested it first, scoring it simple and looking to score bigger damage later. He patiently used offense to recover his leg. This is all accomplished by not throwing it naked, coming with offensive diversity is the best way to keep someone from timing your kicks enough to check them strong.
Finally, people need to realize how much of a unicorn getting your leg checked really is. I have literally watched ten's of thousands of fights. I watch every kickboxing, Muay Thai, and most high level MMA fights I can get my hands on. I can count on my hands how many times someone has broken there leg due to a leg check. As scary as it sounds, I can actually think of more guys who have died in fights than who have broken shins. It is really rare that it happens. It happening to an all time great doesn't mean that it will be an epidemic assurance that everyone needs to prepare for. It is not the flu and everyone is in need of flu shots now. Peter Aerts once injured his leg in a K-1 World Grand Prix bout against Francois Botha. After the fight the kickboxing world didn't reevaluate how they do things. They saw it for what it was, a fluke accident that can even happen to an all time great. There have been hundreds of K-1 fights before and after that, I can think of less than five in which someone got injured. It really is an anomaly that it happened and it should be treated as such. Don't feel like you have to change anything because of the unfortunate situation to Silva. Your coaching won't keep it from happening and it won't cause it to happen, it just happens.
Steven Wright is a fighter, writer, podcaster and most notably a striking coach, working with Team Takeover. You might recognize him from Johny Hendricks' corner. Listen to his Podcast, Warman's Kickfighting Show (http://lordgaul.podbean.com/) and check him out on Twitter, twitter.com/steventhewarman
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