Through the Eyes of Musashi: Silva vs. Belfort

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"Always look to the mountain and beyond."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

In reading a passage from The Book of Five Rings, I was reminded of a legendary fight between then UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and number one contender Vitor Belfort:

Always take the broader view of the entire situation both when you are in a fight and when you are not. Do not concentrate on details. Keep only one thing in mind: that the thing is to beat the enemy. In this way, your spirit will continue to grow, and you will always be conscious of your surroundings and the situations that appear. Concentrating on one cart when you are crossing the avenue means that you leave yourself open to another cart hitting you from the other side because you were concentrating on the details and not the entire situation. The same applies to fighting. ... If you concentrate on the eyes, he can easily fool you into thinking one thing while he does another. Always look to the mountain and beyond. This way you will be aware of the broader picture and can easily win if you have the resolve to do so.
— Miyamoto Musashi

Vitor Belfort engages Anderson Silva. Rather than standing on the outside, away from all possible strikes from Silva, Belfort stands within proximity.

Belfort is thinking, charge in with punches and/ or a takedown. This grey area is a dangerous one because this brings Belfort within Silva's kicking zone. Classic mongoose vs. cobra.

Silva lowers his stance and looks at Belfort's legs. Inviting a charge from Belfort.

Belfort hesitates to charge, knowing he's being baited. When he tried previously, he was met with a check hook.

Belfort looks to Silva's eyes for clues. Belfort believes Silva will kick his lead leg. Belfort, believing he knows what Silva is thinking, plans to block the kick and possibly catch it for a takedown. Belfort also knows when an opponent looks down at his legs, it could be a trick for a head-kick. Look low, kick high. Since Silva's stance is so sideways, it would be easily telegraphed. Belfort is also nearly out of range for a high-kick, he would only need to lean back.

But it was Silva who first noticed Belfort's gaze. Seeing that Belfort was looking at his eyes, Silva changed his gaze to Belfort's legs. Silva throws the kick. Belfort lifts his lead leg but also leans back, while reaching out to grab the kick. Silva knowing what Belfort was anticipating, throws a front kick right down the middle, where there would be no defenses. From that distance, if Silva threw a high-kick, it would be too slow and would only possibly clip Belfort with the toes. However, Belfort was still within the range of the full force of Silva's front kick.

Vitor Belfort crumbles to the ground at 3:25 of the first round. Belfort thought he was a move ahead, yet he was merely climbing into the web of the "Spider" Anderson Silva. Belfort was thinking punch or takedown, Silva was thinking of the "Way of strategy."

Game, set, match.

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