The Forward Roll: UFC 162 edition

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A few days after the left hook that shook the fight world, many have yet to fully process what happened. I know this because I've read things suggesting that Anderson Silva threw the fight, that he didn't care about winning, that he was more interested in embarrassing Chris Weidman than defeating him.

All of these things are written and said with complete disregard for or ignorance in Silva's own long-stated philosophies on martial arts. He is a student, first and foremost, and he counts Bruce Lee as his personal hero. That is why his documentary was named "Like Water."

And what is the rest of that quote, that Bruce Lee quote, from where the title is taken?

"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water."

Silva's style against Weidman has faced heavy criticism only because he lost. But if you follow the arc of his career, his actions were nothing out the ordinary, or at least, his ordinary. Which is to say, extraordinary. So much so that we can't wrap our heads around it.

Silva's style has always been defense into offense. He needs his opponent to come forward, and to throw something he can duck, dodge and counter. He does that by any means necessary. He goads. Puts his hands by his side. Taunts. Some people have incorrectly called it trolling, but that's inaccurate. Trolling is in and of itself the end game. The description is the job. Silva goads his opponent as a setup of what is to come.

This may not sound traditional, but neither is Silva, a singular talent in an often cookie-cutter world. Neither was Lee, whose entire Jeet Kune Do style was designed to go against the grain.

"All fixed set pattern are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside all fixed patterns," he once said.

Silva did things no one else did because he could, and because he believed in a philosophy. On Saturday, he was there to fight, and statistics bear that out. In his career he's averaged 3.15 landed strikes per minute; against Weidman he landed 3.17 per minute. He just didn't land the one he needed.

Sometimes water flows. Sometimes it crashes.

After a well-deserved vacation, he will likely eventually accept a rematch, but I wouldn't expect something so different next time Silva and Weidman meet. The bobbing may not be quite so pronounced, the weaving might not be quite so theatrical, but his style is his philosophy. It cannot be changed.

On to the predictions ...

Frankie Edgar
After three straight losses, it's back in the win column for Edgar, who outclassed a game Charles Oliveira in a decision. The fight was largely won by Edgar's striking and conditioning, as he turned up the pace in each round, landing 31 strikes in the first, 34 in the second and 49 in the third. The ability to outpace opponents has always been his hallmark and Edgar showed no lack of hunger in his first non-title bout since 2009. Good sign.
Prediction: He fights Nik Lentz

Cub Swanson
After finishing the durable Siver, who'd only been KO'd once in 29 previous fights, Swanson has nothing else to prove when it comes to earning a chance at the title. It was over four years ago when he lost to Jose Aldo in eight seconds, and while that lopsided loss can't be erased, Swanson has proven that his game has matured and that he's ready to fight for the division's biggest prize. A five-fight win streak with four knockouts makes him a credible challenger.
Prediction: He fights the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Chan Sung Jung

Mark Munoz
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" put forth a strong effort in his return to the octagon a year after a crushing loss to Chris Weidman. In defeating Tim Boetsch, Munoz scored five takedowns and landed 132 strikes, which were both statistical leaders for the evening's action. He looked both physically and mentally prepared for everything, and announced himself a viable contender again after so much doubt had crept in.
Prediction: Given the current state of the division, the matchup that makes the most sense is Luke Rockhold

Tim Kennedy
Kennedy notched his first UFC win largely by out-grappling Roger Gracie. Showing fearlessness against a decorated Brazilian jiu-jtisu black belt, Kennedy had no hesitation in taking the fight to the ground twice, and even passed Gracie's guard once. All told, he out-struck Gracie 101-14 as well. It was quite one-sided.
Prediction: He faces Francis Carmont

Gabriel Gonzaga
When Gabriel Gonzaga parted ways with the UFC in Oct. 2010, he clearly returned to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots, as evidenced by his results afterward -- three submissions in three fights. But against Dave Herman, he showed he still has the massive knockout power that once made him the division's No. 1 contender. Gonzaga starched Herman in just 17 seconds, giving him his third victory in four fights since coming back to the UFC.
Prediction: A fight with Stefan Struve sounds perfect

Edson Barboza
The 27-year-old Barboza remains one of the most exciting standup lightweights in MMA, with his thudding kicks and sharp Muay Thai often carving up opponents. His latest target was Rafaello Oliveira, who became Barboza's third career leg-kick TKO victim. Time for a higher-profile opponent.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 matchup between Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson

Mike Pierce
Pierce is with little question the UFC's most underrated, underappreciated fighter. He's 9-3 in his UFC tenure, with his only losses coming against Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck, and two of those were by split-decision. He's derided as a boring wrestler, yet he's finished four of his last seven wins. Competing on the Facebook prelims, he KO'd David Mitchell inside of two rounds. He deserves better.
Prediction: He fights the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 match between Matt Brown and Mike Pyle

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