Allow me to connect the dots between two seemingly unrelated phenomena — this weekend’s successful title defense of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the avant-garde in art.
Silva, as readers of this blog probably don’t know, is the most dominant fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts today. 11-0 in the UFC, he is a highly effective counter striker, meaning he punches or kicks his opponents when they try to attack him.
It works really well, as long as his opponents attack. Given Silva’s ability to demolish opponents [see below], some fighters make the decision they aren’t going to come charging in.
The last time this happened was two fights ago, against challenger Thales Leites, who’s a jiu-jitsu ace, meaning he’s good at wrestling on the ground until he has cut off your air supply or bent one of your limb to the point of breaking. Silva wasn’t going to get close enough to be taken to the ground, so it ended up a standoff, with Silva daring Leites to strike at him. UFC President Dana White declared the fight a disgrace and vowed to make it up to fans. (And oh, did he ever.)
This weekend was déjà vu. Demian Maia, another star jiu-jitsu player, refused to wade in swinging, and Silva not only hung back, he put on a bizarre show. He was no doubt the superior fighter, which he demonstrated by dancing around the ring and goofing off right in front Maia while still managing to bloody his opponent standing. In between potshots, Silva stood and demanded that Maia bring the fight to him, giving the challenger “where’s the beef” gestures and smacking the ring.
It was hugely entertaining. For about two rounds.
LIke last time, nobody knew what to make of a dominant champion who won’t demolish his foe. Dana White skipped out early, refusing to put the belt on the champ. The ring announcer didn’t read the scores. And that’s what makes the fight so avant-garde, if I may be a completely pretentious d-bag about it. To me, something is avant-garde if I want to walk out in the middle of it but it makes me think about the nature of what I am experiencing. Malcolm McLaren would have approved of the Silva-Maia fight.
I realized what was happening during a trip to the bathroom in the fourth round. (Disclosure: I skipped out of the sports bar after the fourth of five rounds, so if anything happened in round five that violates my thesis, I missed it.)
Silva felt disrespected as a fighter. An aspiring fighter once told me that as the challenger, you have to take the belt from the champ. Maia wouldn’t come forward and press the attack, so he was going to punish Maia, and the UFC who put the two fighters together, by forcing him to stand there and feel like a chump.
Silva said as much in the post-fight press conference, speaking through a translator, only he tried to pass it off on Maia’s pre-fight comments, which I don’t buy. Silva said nothing n his own pre-fight comments about having been dissed.
Did Silva himself violate the spirit of the fight, betraying fans and the UFC in the process? Obviously I’m biased, but I like what Silva said in the post-fight press conference about his game plan being to make Maia “feel vulnerable.” He imposed his will on Maia, fans and UFC be damned. And that’s so punk rock.
Anderson Silva badass reel: