clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Forrest Griffin Embraces Challenge of Solving Anderson Silva's Riddle

Forrest GriffinPHILADELPHIA -- From the beginning, he's been the underdog. You want to talk about taking the hard road? In his first professional fight, Forrest Griffin didn't face a fellow rookie. He didn't even compete against a hot prospect. The first time he stepped into a cage, Griffin fought Dan "the Beast" Severn, an ex-UFC tournament champion in his 58th career fight.

Most fighters don't have 58 fights in their entire career, so Griffin was literally fighting a guy with two careers worth of experience on him. Proposed bouts with such an experience disparity would not even be sanctioned today. Though he lost, he showed the toughness that would become his trademark, taking Severn to a decision. So Griffin isn't exactly intimidated at the prospect of facing UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, a winner of 10 straight who is moving up to 205 pounds to face Griffin in a non-title bout at UFC 101.

"There's the old saying, 'If you're going to be stupid, you better be tough,'" he said. "Well, I've been a lot of both. I'm trying to be maybe a little smart and tough. We'll see how that works out for me."

Griffin is undoubtedly a man with a viewpoint all his own. When he was recently asked his thoughts on facing such a difficult style matchup, he referred to Silva's unbeaten stretch in the octagon and said, "There's almost a little freedom in fighting the best guy. You can't do any worse than others have done. It's kind of a weird way to look at it, but I don't care."

As chronicled in his book Got Fight: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand to Face Combat, which is currently on The New York Times bestseller list, Griffin has never been one to run from a good scrap. Against Silva, that was a key in initially putting the bout together.

After Silva had two straight snoozers – one against Patrick Cote, the other against Thales Leites – which were in part caused by his opponents' extreme caution, it was obvious "the Spider" needed someone who'd embrace the challenge and not simply look to survive, but take the fight to him. UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva got together, and the thought process didn't take long.

"We were looking for someone to challenge him and go three hard rounds, so obviously Forrest was going to be one of the first guys who popped up on the list," White said.

Griffin is in many respects still underrated despite his recent title reign. Many media observers like to point out that the former police officer has never been the most physically gifted mixed martial artist, and evidence a lack of true knockout power (just three in 21 fights) for proof. But he has a deceptively strong ground game, exceptional stamina and sharp fundamentals, having polished his standup from the brawling style we saw in his early UFC days.

He also seems to rise to the occasion when it's least expected. When he fought Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Sept. 2007, Rua was considered a top three light-heavyweight, yet Griffin wore him down and choked him out. That victory got him a title opportunity against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

It's easy to forget, but Jackson was in the midst of a winning streak that saw him decisively knock out ex-UFC champion Chuck Liddell and earn an impressive decision over former PRIDE double champion Dan Henderson. Jackson seemed to have the edge in most major categories, including striking, wrestling, strength and punching power, and he was on a career-best roll. Yet when the 25 minutes elapsed, Griffin was still standing and his hand was raised as the winner.

This seems to be another impossible matchup. Though this time around, Griffin is clearly the bigger man, Silva has been an unsolvable puzzle for those across the cage from him. Fighters on winning streaks in the prime of their careers flail at him, unable to connect as he dances around, avoiding their strikes before scoring at will. Others take him down and get submitted. Some simply refuse to engage. Whatever the tactic, it's failed time and time again.

"It's like guys realize they're fighting Anderson Silva, they get frustrated, they can't hit him," Griffin said. "He's so quick, he's so talented. By the second round, you're kind of wondering, and maybe you're looking for a way out."

Not that Griffin will be looking for the easy way out. He's here for one reason. He hates travel, he hates the time difference, he even thinks his hotel room bed sucks. And he's not too fond of dealing with the media horde, either.

Forrest Griffin is here for the purest, most basic reason on earth to him: he's got fight.

"He's got that [aura] right now," Griffin said. "At one point, Chuck Liddell had that. Other guys have had that aura. But what I'm saying is, 'You've got to beat me in a fight. You can't beat me with your aura or your presence.'"

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting