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Anderson Silva: Pro Boxer & Muay Thai Fighter

Silva BelfortHere at LiverKick.com we may like to keep our focus on the world of kickboxing and Muay Thai, but there’s no denying that this weekend’s big fight takes place in MMA where Anderson Silva meets Vitor Belfort at UFC 126.  And while some MMA fights may not hold much interest for kickboxing fans, this is a stand up battle that intrigues me.  Silva and Belfort are two superb stand-up talents, and their championship showdown on Saturday should pique the interest of kickboxing fans everywhere.

In the past weeks, there have been mountains of analysis on this fight, but we wanted to take a look at it from a slightly different angle.  Today and tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how each man has fared in exclusively stand-up competition – Silva in Muay Thai and boxing matches, and Belfort in boxing.

Now, before we dive in, let me just say that the style of striking used in boxing or Muay Thai competition is going to need to be adjusted when making the transition to Mixed Martial Arts.  There are so many things you have to concern yourself with in MMA that employing what would be perfect technique in a boxing match can lead to your quick defeat under MMA rules.  When you use purely Muay Thai criteria to criticize a MMA fighter’s striking ability, you often fail to recognize that these are similar, but different sports.  So this is not intended as a way to comprehensively assess each man’s MMA striking – many MMA pundits have handled that.  Instead, this is an alternative way to look at one of the most kickboxing focused MMA championship fights we are likely to see this year.

Today, we kick things off with a look at the Muay Thai and professional boxing career of the dominant, brilliant UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

Even if you are an MMA fan who knows little about full Muay Thai, it should come as no surprise that Silva has competed under these rules.  He still uses a variety of Muay Thai techniques in his UFC career – the most notable being the Muay Thai clinch (or Plum Clinch as it is somewhat controversially known in MMA circles), which he used most effectively in his two destructions of Rich Franklin.  He also has some nasty Muay Thai styled elbows in his arsenal, one of which he used to great success against Tony Fryklund:

Unfortunately, the world of Muay Thai competition is hard to fully document, so while Silva has definitely trained Muay Thai extensively, it’s hard to know exactly how many professional fights he has competed in under these rules.  Only one exists on the web, this fight against Tadeu Sammartino.  No clue when this is from, but judging Silva’s build I would guess somewhere around 2004-ish.

What strikes me in this fight is that although Silva is often cited as having a strong Muay Thai background, he fights here like a K-1 rules style kickboxer instead of a traditional Muay Thai fighter.  He’s very active on his feet, bouncing around and using a lot of side to side movement.  This is a sharp contrast to the more Muay Thai style of planting your feet and checking strikes instead of evading (for a great analysis on this difference check out this discussion on Silva at My Muay Thai).

He also relies heavily on his hands, which are the lowest scoring strike in traditional Muay Thai.  Silva does use kicks, but he doesn’t always swivel his hips to throw them with full power, instead using them largely to get his opponent off balance in order to set up the punches.  And like many of his MMA fights, it’s the punches that do the real damage, including a quick punch he uses to land the first knockdown here that is very reminiscent of the Forrest Griffin KO.

Finally, while Silva is praised for his knees in the clinch, you see here that he primarily uses those knees when he has the clinch around the back of his opponent’s head.  On a few occasions, the two men have a body clinch, however we do not see the exchange of knees to the body so often used in Muay Thai. He has taken the aspects of Muay Thai that work for him, but is far from a traditional MT fighter.

With Silva’s use of punches, and his very vocal appreciation for Roy Jones Jr., it’s no shock he has tried his hand at professional boxing.  The Spider is 1-1 as a pro boxer.  His first fight was a loss way back in 1998, two years before his MMA debut.  He faced Osmar Luiz Teixeira, 11-2 at the time.  Silva was stopped in the 2nd; I don’t believe footage of this fight exists.  His more well known 2nd bout took place in 2005, less than a year before his UFC debut.  Here, he faced Julio Cesar De Jesus, a Brazilian fighter who has never fought before or since.

Once again, we see Silva’s very active footwork on display here.  As in the previous bout, Silva is constantly on the move, coming in and out of range throughout the fight.  For boxing, this is a common style, and Silva uses it well.  What impresses me with his movement is his knowledge of when to move and when to plant his feet in order to land power shots.

One aspect of his game that this fight really points out is Silva’s defense.  In this fight, as in many others, Silva relies on a combination of speed and a tough chin as his primary defense.  He doesn’t use his hands much to block punches, and gets tagged with a few good shots here as a result – the most notable being in the first round after Silva decides to try a little showboating.  He has a tough chin, so he wades right through those shots, but they do land.  This could be a concern on Saturday, as Vitor Belfort is a fighter who only needs the smallest of openings to finish a fight – just ask Wanderlei Silva or Rich Franklin what happens when you let Vitor land one good punch.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a look at the boxing career of Vitor Belfort.

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Fedor Emelianenko is Training to Win the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP

The upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has been garnering a lot of attention over the past few weeks, all leading up to February 12th where the tournament kicks off at a card headlined by none other than Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko squaring off with Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. The inclusion of Fedor Emelianenko automatically takes what was a great tournament and makes it legendary, with the stakes for winning the tournament being more than bragging rights, but instead to lay claim to being one of the top, if not the top Heavyweight in the MMA world.

With the show just a few weeks out, it means that Emelianenko's media duties have begun, with the Russian Heavyweight only speaking to select media outlets and remaining entrenched in an aura of mystique. A few years ago I argued that part of what makes Fedor so great is the fact that he doesn't train in a state-of-the-art MMA gym with a team of other top fighters, instead he chooses solitude and a simple life. You won't find Fedor on TMZ.com out partying or knocking out college football players in Texas, instead you see stories of him jogging with his priest and just learning about Twitter.

Our good friend, Jon Luther, caught up with Fedor to discuss the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, and Fedor is in it to win it. I also really enjoy Fedor's take on being "number one." It just shows that fans care more about status than most fighters do. [source]

"I can’t wait to compete again. Silva is a great athlete who is skilled in many areas. He has proven to be a very worthy and dangerous opponent. My training camp has been very strong. I feel proud to be representing my country in the tournament. I’m training to win the tournament.”

Eight of the top heavyweights in the world will participate in the tournament, leading many to believe that the eventual tournament champion should be in the running for the title of best heavyweight alive. To Emelianenko, his opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

“The tournament participants are all highly skilled athletes. As for whether the winner should be considered number one in the world, it is not for me to say. That is something left to the media and to the fans.”

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Sebastian Ciobanu to Make Boxing Debut

Sebastian CiobanuThe charismatic "Son of Dracula" Sebastian Ciobanu is trying something new.  The K-1 fighter will make his professional boxing debut on February 25.  Ciobanu will take part in an 8 man tournament titled Bigger's Better 4.  His opponent is not yet determined.

Ciobanu is coming off his career best year as a kickboxer.  The young Romanian has been a professional since 2005, competing mainly for Local Kombat shows in Romania and picking up some good wins over the likes of Doug Viney, Petr Vondracek, and Roman Kleibl.  He made his K-1 debut in late 2009, losing to Sergei Lascenko in the quarter final round of the Tokyo GP (the event won by Daniel Ghita).  But it was last year's East Europe GP where he finally turned some heads.  There, Ciobanu blasted his way to the finals, defeating Daniil Sapljoshin and Mighty Mo both via first round KO in a combined time of just over 3 minutes.  In the finals, he squared off with Freddy Kemayo in an excellent fight.  Despite losing to Kemayo, Ciobanu increased his standing in that tournament, looking very impressive in all 3 fights.  He has since bounced back from that loss with a win over Petar Valkov at the Local Kombat 10th Anniversary show.

Trying boxing may be a good move for Ciobanu, who has always relied more on his hands than his kicks.  That area of Europe is also seeing increased interest in boxing thanks to the big shows put on by the Klitschkos.  If Ciobanu can get on those Klitschko shows, there's a good opportunity for some higher profile fights.

As for his future, Ciobanu remains open to options, saying that he'll see how this fight goes before deciding how much he wants to pursue boxing.  Local Kombat promoter Eduard Irimia assured fans that Ciobanu is not done with kickboxing permanently, and will continue to compete for the company.

For all the details on Ciobanu's boxing career, check out our friends at Kombat.ro.

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Watch Michihiro Omigawa "Train UFC"

Nothing makes me laugh more than the term "train UFC." It has permeated into our popular culture and become a term of endearment for most fans. Most of us have known a guy who has gone to a gym and then boasts to his friends that he "trains UFC." Of course, that isn't the case with one of the top Featherweights in the world. Michihiro Omigawa. Omigawa is a case study in how a fighter dropping weight can go from mediocre to a world beater.

Omigawa's record since dropping to Featherweight is 8-2-1, with his first loss being the first time he cut against a now legendary fighter in the US, "The Korean Zombie" Jung Chan-Sung. The second loss was a close decision loss to Masanori Kanehara in the Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix Finals. Omigawa's run in the Featherweight Grand Prix is now that of legend; a fighter who was down and out, who saw himself as a failure and goes into a tournament with a losing record as fodder for bigger stars emerges as the biggest star in the promotion. To this day, there has not been a fighter in Japan during this era who has went from nobody to big star like Omigawa.

I know certain Japanese MMA pundits will disagree with me, but in today's landscape in Japan everything is leftovers. Omigawa was becoming the first home-grown star since the days of PRIDE. Omigawa just went on a five-fight tear through SRC, ASTRA and DREAM where he demanded his title shot over and over again, when it didn't happen and UFC was set to begin promoting Featherweight bouts, it made perfect sense for Omigawa to accept an offer from UFC and head to the West yet again. Japan's loss is America's gain, as we get one of the most exciting, talented and emotionally charged Featherweights in the world fighting in the UFC yet again. Fighters like Omigawa would make me watch a UFC event.

Here is a video by Dan Herbertson of MMAFighting.com of Omigawa training for his return fight to UFC against Chad Mendes.

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Feb 5: Alexey Ignashov v. Roman Kleibl

IgnashovThis Saturday, February 5 in Slovakia is an event titled Ring of Honor with a featured bout between Alexey Ignashov and Roman Kleibl.

Kleibl is a good fighter who has picked up some solid wins in his career, including a 2009 tournament victory in K-1 ColliZion.  He's not yet been able to quite get over the hump and make an impact on the upper ranks, though he still has the chance to do just that.  Last year he competed at the K-1 East Europe GP.  I predicted he would do well there, but he was eliminated in the quarter final round by Mighty Mo.

As for Ignashov, what else is there to say at this point?  2010 was supposed to be the year of the comeback for The Red Scorpion, but instead he sat out most of the year before turning in a very underwhelming performance against Tomas Hron at It's Showtime to cap it off.  The common talking point about Ignashov is that he has all the tools to be top in the world but lacks motivation, although I'm not even sure that is true any more - he definitely had those tools at one point, but we have not seen them in ages.  A lot of fans still hold out hope for a return of the old Iggy; sadly, I just don't think that's going to happen.

This is the 2nd meeting between these two as they fought in May 2009 for K-1 ColliZion.  Kleibl took the decision win there, and I see no reason not to predict the same outcome here.

The rest of the card is a mix of K-1 rules, Muay Thai, and MMA with a few name fighters in there.  Here is the complete line-up, from The Science of 8 Limbs:

Muay Thai Rules: Abdoul Toure (France) vs Vladimir Moracvick (Slovakia) 75 kg

K-1 Rules:  Vladimir Konsky (Eastern Beasts) vs Mark Wildeboar (Netherlands)

K-1 Rules: Alexei Ignashov vs Roman Kleibl

K-1 Rules: Tomas Kohout vs Vitalij Akhramenko

MMA Rules: Atilla Vegh vs Hans Stringer

K-1 Rules: Erik Kosztanko /MTC BA/ vs James Asamoah /Holandsko/

K-1 Rules: Tomáš Šenkýr /Ares ZA/ vs Tomas Pakutinskaso /Litva/

K-1 Rules: Rudolf Durica /SVK/ vs Chyngiz Alazov /Azerbajdzan/

K-1 Rules: Lukáš Body /Kickbox Poprad/ vs. Fadi Merza /Rakúsko/

MMA Rules: Matúš Mečár /SVK/ vs Rudolf Kríž /ČR/

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Weekly Poll Results

Last week: What did you think of former K-1 fighter Pat Barry's performance against Joey Beltran at UFC Fight for the Troops?

74% - Underwhelming

15% - Impressive

11% - Didn't see it

This week: K-1 MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan is on an amazing 4 year, 30 fight undefeated streak that includes names like Souwer, Kraus, Zambidis, Sato, Buakaw.  This weekend, he scored another big win, this time over Sudsakorn.  He seems unstoppable, but at some point, he has to lose, right?

Who do you think will finally end Giorgio Petrosyan's undefeated streak?

Vote now on our main page and share your thoughts below in our comments.

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Full Card for Oktagon 2011: Mar 12

Oktagon 2010This past weekend, Giorgio Petrosyan once again asserted his dominance over the Middleweight ranks with a victory over Sudsakorn.  With that fight done, The Doctor now looks ahead to his next fight - a March 12 clash with Cosmo Alexandre.

Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Cosmo Alexandre will headline Oktagon 2011, a kickboxing and Muay Thai event taking place in Milan.  The fight will be 3 x 3 rounds, K-1 rules, at 70kg.  We've discussed this fight before, but it should be another good challenge for the champ.  Alexandre has been hot for the past 2 years, with big wins in It's Showtime and other international promotions.  He's a smart fighter with a deadly flying knee that he could use to great advantage here.  The difficulty he may face is the weight cut - Alexandre has been fighting almost exclusively at 77kg recently, and a drop all the way down to 70 could be tough.  He'll have to come in with a perfect game plan, and execute that game plan flawlessly if he wants to earn the win here.  For fans who appreciate the technical side of kickboxing, this one could be a classic.

The full card for the Oktagon show has now been released, and unlike many smaller shows, this one features more of note than just a main event.  In the past, Oktagon has worked in collaboration with It's Showtime, putting on last year's It's Showtime Milan show that featured Petrosyan vs. Khem, plus 2009's first meeting between Petrosyan and Andy Souwer.  They're running this year's event on their own, and have put together another stacked card.

In the semi-main event, Giorgio's brother Armen Petrosyan faces Yoshihiro Sato under K-1 rules.  Like Giorgio, Armen was also victorious this Saturday, defeating Miodrag Olar.  Sato will be a step up for Armen, but the lesser known Petrosyan is a tough fighter himself, ranking at #25 in the LiverKick.com rankings.  Considering that Sato recently lost to Giorgio and is likely looking for a rematch, this could be an interesting contest, giving Giorgio another opportunity to closely scout Sato, while Sato has a chance to make adjustments based on the Giorgio fight.  Again, this will be a technical fight that should deliver.

Also on the card:

Andre Kulebin vs. Fabio Pinca - Pinca has been around for a few years, but has increased his profile lately, with bigger fights and a victory in the 2010 Isuzu Thai Fight tournament.  He also holds a 2008 win over Sudsakorn.  Kulebin is a highly respected veteran who last year was in the WKN Big 8 tournament where he made in to the finals, losing to Sudsakorn.  This is a Muay Thai fight, 5 x 3 rounds, 65kg.  Another one that could potentially steal the show here.

Khalid Bourdif vs. Marcus Oberg - Bourdif has been making waves in It's Showtime lately, establishing himself as a top contender at 77kg.  He drops down to 70kg here to face K-1 MAX veteran Marcus Oberg under K-1 rules.  Oberg is ranked at #24 in our rankings, and although he is coming in off a loss to Kyshenko, he always provides a tough challenge.

Dzhabar Askerov vs. Chris van Venrooij - Askerov is a popular K-1 MAX veteran who had a rough run in 2009 but has since come back and is 7-1 in his last 8.  Van Venrooj is an oft overlooked, but solid fighter.  This is a rematch from 2008, where Askerov took a split decision.

Rounding out the card: Xu Yan vs. Adem Bozkurt; and Daniel Sam, Chingis Alasov, Phillipe Salmon, and a Japanese fighter identified only as "Morija" (?) will all face opponents yet to be named.

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Evangelista Cyborg Santos Puts up Valiant Fight Against Nick Diaz

Nick DiazNick Diaz is a polarizing character in the MMA world, he is brash, disrespectful and he is very talented. Tonight he successfully defended his Strikeforce Welterweight Championship against Chute Boxe's Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos. Mr. Cyborg was coming into this fight off of a two-fight win streak, with a win over Marius Zaromskis in Strikeforce and Paul Daley's uncertain future setting this fight up for him. Mrs. Cyborg was in the audience to support her husband and the storyline going into this fight was Cyborg had really turned his career around and improved vastly.

The first round was an incredible brawl, with Cyborg's technique dominating early in the round. Cyborg worked a brilliant game plan early on, working the leg kicks and following up with some crisp punches. With Diaz reeling most of the early parts of the round, a right hand from Diaz and a flurry was able to change the atmosphere of the fight. It turned into an all-out brawl afterwards and Cyborg looked as if he was slowing down.

The second round saw neither man looking to give an inch. Cyborg's game plan began to fall apart as he simply started looking to take Diaz's head off. As soon as he stopped working the leg kick the fight began to slip from his grasp. Diaz was starting to take advantage of this and was hurting Cyborg standing up, forcing Cyborg to take Diaz down. This proved to be a mistake, though, as Diaz slipped on an armbar to secure the win.

The night also saw Robbie Lawler put up a good fight against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza until it went to the ground, with Jacare choking Lawler out, disproving the "Beard Theory." Herschel Walker remains undefeated against hand-picked opponents in Strikeforce, which they'll note over and over again. Roger Gracie showed a well-rounded game, but finished with his grappling against Trevor Prangley.

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Thai Fight 2011 and Isuzu Tournament Update

For those who missed the introduction article, the winner of the ongoing 67 kg Isuzu Tournament in Thailand gets to represent Thailand in Thai Fight 2011, which kicks off this September. The Isuzu Tournament is about set to move from the groups stage to the semi-finals and finals.

There are two more fights scheduled in the groups: Kem Sitsongpeenong vs Kongjak Sor Tuanthong, and Prakaisaeng Sit-Or vs Thanongdet Petpayatai. Kem is heavily favored to beat Kongjak.

Thepsutin Pumpanmuang and Nopparat Keatkhamtorn have already been eliminated from the tournament. Thepsutin picked up a decision victory over Thanongdet, but was stopped by Prakaisaeng's knees in his next tournament bout. Nopparat went up against Kem was knocked out in the third by punches.

Sudsakorn 13 Coins Gym (out of Sor Klinmee camp) and Dernchonlek Sor Sor Niyom have both qualified to the semi-finals with two wins apiece. Sudsakorn beat Kongjak Sor Tuanthong and Kem Sitsongpeenong for his place. Sudsakorn's advancement did not surprise fans, though his win over Kem was considered a slight upset. Dernchonlek, however, was something of an unknown factor going into the tournament. The youngest fighter in the tournament, at 17 years of age, the combination of his height, style, and the weight advantage afforded by his relative inexperience helped him beat Prakaisaeng and Thanongdet.

Though the tournament portion of Thai Fight 2011 kicks off in September, giving the winner of the Isuzu Tournament plenty of recovery time, there will be three events held separately as part of the Thai Fight series. These events are planned for May, July, and December, and Yodsaenklai Fairtex and Saiyok Pumpanmuang are set to participate.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, The Final Promo Package for It's Showtime on March 6th

I feel like we all got to see an amazing work in progress when AFAV released a video of the footage they took of the It's Showtime stars which was to be used for the final video seen below. AFAV released a video a few weeks ago of all of the footage for this Fighting Stars promo, in a way giving us a look behind the curtain for the number two kickboxing promotion in the world's hype package for what will turn out to be the first major kickboxing show of 2011. There have been many note-worthy shows, but for the current atmosphere, if it isn't K-1 or It's Showtime, it just isn't that huge.

Behind the curtain for this video consisted of a few minutes of guys shadowboxing with cool lighting and some text flying around. Honestly, if you were given a behind the curtain look at LiverKick.com you'd see my kitchen table, my laptop and myself shadowboxing (the wine glasses in the cabinet clang against each other when I high kick or feign a flying knee) with words flying all through my mind with Pink Floyd's "The Wall" playing on a near infinite loop to go with my sometimes intentionally lacking grammar. Writing is like music, once you know the rules and master them you can break them and answer to no one but the inner recesses of your mind.

If this video does not excite you for what is gearing up to be an incredible show, I highly recommend you look up the names of some of these fighters on YouTube, as I'm doubting you've seen them fight before. That is how good this is looking.

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