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Daniel Woirin Breaks Down Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort at UFC 126

Daniel WoirinThere aren't many men considered "experts" in training with both fighters for this weekend's UFC 126 Middleweight Title Fight, but Daniel Woirin knows Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort very well. Woirin has trained both Anderson and Vitor in Muay Thai in Brazil, as well as Lyoto Machida. Woirin now lives in the United States, working with Dan Henderson's Team Quest as their Muay Thai coach.

Our good friends at Riddum.com caught up with Woirin to ask him to weigh in on this fight, and it sounds like his opinion falls in line with what most think; Vitor has to force Anderson out of his comfort zone and use his superior speed to his advantage. [source]

Riddum.com: How do you see their fight unfolding and what will be the key to victory for each fighter?

Daniel Woirin: Anderson is taller and has more weapons standing up than Vitor. He will probably work from a long range and try to frustrate Belfort with counters and defensive lateral movement, but also with the clinch in the short range when Belfort reduces the distance.

Vitor has great boxing and he will need to close the distance. He will need to fight from mid-range and for that, he will have to set up his offenses by utilizing feints in order to avoid Anderson's counters.

If Vitor Belfort wants to win, he will have to provoke Anderson Silva and take risks.

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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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