Is Anderson Silva still the same fighter that once ruled supreme among middleweights? For UFC 237 opponent Jared Cannonier, he’s not.
He’s even better in 2019.
“The Spider” will collide with “Killa Gorilla” in the upcoming pay-per-view event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 11, and Cannonier doesn’t buy the theory that Silva, who’s won only one of his last seven bouts inside the Octagon, is past his prime and an easier matchup.
Sure, Silva lost most of his recent fights since 2012, but those losses came against some of the best there is, from current heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier to future middleweight champions Michael Bisping and Chris Weidman.
The Brazilian last competed in February, losing a decision to another future (interim) champion in Israel Adesanya. Silva was an underdog that night, but performed better that most expected despite the decision defeat. And even though he never put Adesanya in danger inside the Octagon, it was enough to impress Cannonier.
”He’s been the same Anderson for me,” Cannonier told MMA Fighting. “The thing is, people saw him lose and then, for them, that just made them not be afraid of making them believe that he is beatable. I’m a realist, I live right here on planet Earth and I know what’s real. Anybody is beatable. I’m beatable. I can get in there and get front kicked in the first ‘x’ amount of seconds. It can be the night for me. But I can do the same thing for him.
”Anderson, I think he’s as good as he’s always been. He’s older, that means he has more experience, he’s had more opportunity to see what’s going on. He’s seen the fight game change from what it was to what it is now. He’s still here, competing. I think he’s got that wisdom, you know? And he’s still fit enough to come in there and fight.
”I think he’s a better Anderson. I think he’s still capable of [winning at a high level]. I think it’s gonna be the best Aderson that anybody’s ever seen. That’s the way I have to approach it. If I approach it any other way, like, ‘yeah, he’s old, I’m gonna do this to him,’ that’s just being cocky as opposed to being confident. And I’m not cocky, I’m pure confidence. That’s what camps work for, to prepare for this. I’m ready.”
Silva’s ability to take a punch was one of his best qualities throughout the Brazilian’s legendary run as middleweight king of the UFC. But despite the fact that he has still only been knocked out once in his career — his first loss to Weidman back in 2013 — Silva has been rocked and dropped multiple times over the last few years.
An ultra-confident Cannonier believes “The Spider” is about to get knocked out a second time in front of his countrymen in Rio de Janeiro.
”I’m a lot faster than a lot of people he’s fought, and I hit a lot harder than a lot of people he’s fought,” Cannonier said. “That gives me a better chance of actually knocking him out, especially if he wants to stand up and let me hit him, like he has done to some other people. That, and I have supreme confidence, I know I can knock him out. All I gotta do is touch him. He’s no different from the next man. He can get knocked out, too. All I gotta do is touch your chin or hit the up side of your head, you know? Or I can just wrap my arms around your neck and choke you out.
”Everybody works the same, everybody has a brain, a heart, a liver, and I’ve learned many ways how to take those punches. So, yeah, I’m more than confident that I can finish him. Anybody is capable of finishing anybody, in this sport anybody is capable of getting a finish. That’s only a matter of how. Can we create those moments?”
Cannonier, 11-4 as a professional mixed martial arts fighter, started his UFC career as a heavyweight in 2015. The 241-pound American decided to cut down to light heavyweight after a 1-1 start in the promotion, winning only two of his next five fights at 205 pounds.
Then in Nov. 2018, Cannonier made the most of his middleweight debut by knocking out David Branch just 39 seconds into the second round of their UFC 230 clash.
Nonetheless, having a history of trading hands with heavier opponents is not the reason why Cannonier expects to finish his Brazilian foe.
”That’s just simple physiology, right? You hit any man on the jaw and they are going to go unconscious,” Cannonier said. “He’s good at not getting hit in the head, he’s got really good head movement, he knows how to uses his hands and get his hands in the way of stuff like that, and I’m aware of all these things. But, again, I know what I’m capable of, I know I can get around all that stuff. It’s only a matter of when. Let the fight play out. I know we’re gonna have to fight, we’re gonna get close to him and hit each there. When he’s close enough to hit me, I’m close enough to hit him.
”And like I just said, if I hit you I know I’m able to knock you out. Not saying all I gotta do is hit you to knock you out, it’s gotta be the right punch, but, yeah, I know I have the ability to do. Or I can just hit you to make you change your thinking. I don’t have to knock you out, I can hit you and make you rethink your decision, just control the fight.”
Making Silva rethink his decisions at UFC 237 means showing the MMA legend that dropping his hands and showboating, something he has done against some of the best fighters in history, might not be a smart decision against Cannonier.
”Maybe he won’t do that automatically, maybe he already knows that’s probably not a good idea because, being in there with me, it’s going to be a challenge for him,” Cannonier said. “I don’t believe a lot of people in this division, in this organization, know what to expect from me. They’ve see some fight and stuff, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what I’m able to do in a fight. And I’m only growing more comfortable. The more comfortable I grow, the more you’re going to see out of me.
”And I would take my hats off to him for taking a fight like that, not really knowing what to expect, just knowing that this guy hits really hard, he’s strong and athletic, stuff like that,” he continued. “That’s a dangerous guy to be in the Octagon with, so much respect to him for taking this fight, especially at this point of his career where he could be fighting whoever he wants.
”I’m just excited to be in this position, be able to do it and just fight somebody of his caliber, to challenge myself against a former world champion, a future Hall of Famer, just a dangerous man, a human weapon in Anderson Silva. You know, all these years of playing video games and watching cartoons, martial arts, prepared me for this moment.”
For Cannonier, the offer to face a star like “The Spider” at UFC 237 arrived at his doorstep days after he had already agreed to meet Ronaldo Souza. Instead, the promotion changed plans and presented him with Silva in Brazil as the next move.
“(Fighting Souza) would definitely move me closer to a title shot than a fight with Anderson,” Cannonier said, “but a fight with Anderson Silva raises my popularity, which can also bring me closer to a title shot. It’s not something I’m counting on, I’m just excited to fight. Every fight that I have is going to move me somewhere. Both fights are huge fights, both fights are dangerous.”
It took three years for Cannonier to go from winning a heavyweight bout in the preliminary portion of UFC Zagreb to facing “The Spider” in a middleweight bout, and all he had to do was change the way he eats and his “environment,” moving his camp from Alaska to Arizona’s The MMA Lab. Basically, he realized that training for high level MMA “definitely burns calories.”
”I’m not a natural heavyweight, but here I am fighting in the heavyweight division in a card that was full of heavyweights,” Cannonier said of his first-round knockout win over Cyril Asker. “I mean, (Junior) dos Santos was on the card, (Ben) Rothwell was on the card, (Gabriel) Gonzaga, Derrick Lewis, Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes was on the card. All these guys that were at the top of the heavyweight division, beating the crap out of people, were on the same card I was as a heavyweight. And I was still in there fighting these heavyweights.
”I always knew what I was capable of, I always had the confidence to go in there, stand in the Octagon under those bright lights, hear Bruce Buffer call my name, listen to that ref say ‘fight,’ and go out there and knock whoever out. Whoever is staying in front of me, I’m knocking him out.”