Anderson Silva vs Michael Bisping: The Breakdown of Fighting Style and Creativity

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The most important part of the fight.


Anderson “The Spider” Silva vs Micheal “The Count” Bisping has finally met its conclusion and this fight does a lot to leave us in such a controversial manner. These fighters displayed a variety of entertaining strategies throughout a fight that constantly went back and forth. Both fighters managed to drop each other a good number of times. The level of creativity in this fight was amusing and the strategic approaches showed a lot about who did their homework. Anderson went back to some of his former roots, while Bisping went forward and modeled many conventions that proved successful for Chris Weidman in his fight to defeat Anderson.

 Silva’s Past

Anderson Silva has historically been known to fight off the counter against numerous fighters who feel into Silva’s traps. Silva found a lot of success in his career from fighters coming forward to attack because of his ability to counter them after they would miss their shot. Putting too much into your punch will often mean that you’ll leave a lot of room for the opponent to counter should you miss your target. If you need a reminder of how well he countered opponents who put too much into their punches, see this gif example: Silva Rocks Forrest Griffin.

Chris Weidman showed us many aspects of the game when it came to dealing with opponents who looked to counter the way Silva did. He demonstrated many ideal strategies against notable counter strikes like Silva and Lyoto Machida. For example, when approaching, Chris didn’t over-commit so much and probed with his lead hand to gauge the range. This ensured very little opportunities for Silva to find his window to counter strike.

When we look at the bigger picture of this fight, Bisping had a lot of effective strategies to minimize the amount of chances Silva had fighting off the counter. Like Weidman, Bisping touched his way in, making sure that he carefully gauged Silva’s reaction. If you don’t remember, hand fighting is an important part of finding your range in a fight. By looking to control the opponent’s hand, you can also keep his weapons in check. Additionally, your’re in a balanced stance should you have the need to retreat. The fact that you’re investigating the opponent from a far distance means that you’ll have more time to see attacks coming and more time to respond accordingly.

The Art Begins to Unfold

This fight was reduced to the art of hand fighting on the most part. (New readers, if you have time later, please feel free to visit my previous Conor McGregor breakdown on hand fighting if you’re not familiar with the Dynamics).

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Control the hand, sneak your punches through.

Much of the fight centered around breaking through the rhythm of the opponent’s hand reach.

Silva was constantly looking to evade/parry and counter, but Bisping didn’t play into Silva’s game. This allowed Bisping to sneak in a few solid shots here and there while avoiding counters. When Bisping went on the attack, he made sure not to allow himself to stay on the inside long enough for Silva to counter back. Traditionally, previous opponents would throw a shot, overextend while in the pocket, then get countered (Forrest Griffin Gif). With Bisping, when he overextended, he would use the momentum of his punch to move away simultaneously, removing himself from the effective range of Silva’s countering space. The most notable habit I caught from Bisping was his retreating lead hook. Bisping would often enter with a combo and end with a shot that moved him back and away from Silva’s counter window.

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Bisping ends his lead hook by creating distance away from Anderson’s counter windows.

There are a variety of ways to use the retreating lead hook. Some fighters known for good distance management can be seen using this movement as well. Andre Ward and Conor McGregor come to mind with this distancing skill. Here are a few examples.

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Andre Ward using the momentum of his lead hook to move away from the pocket. Evades possible counter shots.


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McGregor practicing the retreating lead hook.

Bisping actually caught Silva with this lead hook to earn him a definitive lead on the scorecards in the second round. However, it was in the first round towards the end that you started to see him land that retreating hook. Bisping repeated this strategy a good number of times because of its dependability. This particular combo worked so well because it offered Bisping plenty of offensive rewards while leaving little risk in return. After entering, he’d exit with little chance of getting countered.

To a smaller degree, an important strategy Bisping used at some point was the use of his probing strike. He used the lead hand strike to draw a reaction, then pull back his range to read Silva’s reaction. Many fighters use the probing jab to draw a response, then attack once their response comes. In Silva’s case, once Bisping probed, Silva committed to a counter that missed once Bisping pulled away. From there, Bisping capitalized by countering the counter puncher.

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Bait a shot with  the lead hand, retreat as they counter, then counter back.

Diaz has demonstrated a similar strategy in his previous fight with Micheal Johnson with his own probing jab.

nate jab bait into hook counter comp 2
Bait with the lead hand, retreat as they look to counter, then counter back.

Enter the Counter Game

Silva’s attempts to counter in the pocket didn’t go so well on the most part. The thing about head movement while in the pocket is that at some point, the head has to return back to its neutral position. If the opponent throws off the rhythm of your head movement, he can effectively time a shot where your head returns back to a neutral position. See the gif example above where Bisping stuns Silva. Notice that as Silva bends at the waist, he comes back up to a neutral position where his chin is met with Bisping’s lead hook.

Silva found his counters best by timing them on the move. While moving with the feet and waiting to counter, you don’t have to wait for your body to return back to a neutral position like you normally would if you stayed in the pocket to slip and counter. The reasons for this is because you’re moving the entire body as one. When you move and counter like this, you can fluently transition into various other sequence, whether it’s to move away or adjust to another position. Silva landed his check hook best on the move rather than in the pocket.

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Silva using movement away with countering.

Bisping’s corner had warned him of Silva’s movement in the early rounds, mentioning that when he moves too much of the upper body, he leaves his body open. It wasn’t just his body, it was everything below his body which was left open. Silva has a strong tendency to move and slip at the waist to evade punches. The only issue with this is that you leave the body in the pocket for shots, and secondly, you can no longer block kicks with your spine out of alignment to lift the leg up to block them.

Bisping took advantage of Silva slipping and use of sporadic head movement. Bisping would often enter with combos and end with leg kicks. Since Silva would bend so much, he couldn’t block the kicks.

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Silva unable to check a kick on the move and while bending at the waist.

Another method of attack entailed controlling Silva’s posture after approaching offensively.

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Bisping ends his attacks but controls Silva’s weapons, then disengaging away.

The general idea of Bisping’s approach was to not allow Silva his counter windows. It was smart for him not to get caught up in Silvas traps.

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“Ain’t nobody got time fo dat”

As you can see, Bisping fought a smart fight to make sure Silva had little opportunities to bring the fight into his game.

The Creative Striking

To Silva’s credit, he did much better going on the offense instead of trying to work his counters. He demonstrated tremendous creativity in his offensive approaches. Bisping had refused to get caught up in traps for the most part. It would have been much better for Silva to play less on his counter game and more on his offensive game. Bisping did so much to avoid Silva’s traps that it should have been a Que for Silva to shift his focus to what would work for him–going on the attack.

Let’s take a look at some of Silva’s creative striking. Here Silva lands the superman punch. In this sequence, he controls the hand of Bisping before making his entry with the superman punch. By controlling the hand, you can control him from attacking from that side, allowing you to sneak that punch in with better defensive coverage.

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Silva establishes a hand reaching rhythm. Draws out Bispings hand and controls it upon his superman punch entry.

This next one shows Silva feinting with the shoulders, making Bisping unsure of which angle Silva will strike from. Silva’s subtle shoulder feint emulates the threat of a cross, but he comes up with a uppercut right up the middle to stun the head for a cross follow up.


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Silva throws feints that loosens Bisping’s guard as it causes him to move his hands all over the place to intercept straight punches. Silva than transitions into an uppercut right up the middle.

You normally don’t see an inside kick like this land, but Silva manages to pull it off. Silva initially gets Bisping comfortable in a hand reaching rhythm. Bisping starts to reach out, then Silva throws an inside kick. Traditionally, fighters use both hands to defend kicks, but when you get them into the rhythm of reaching with the hands, they sometimes end up neglecting to use it for blocking kicks.

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Silva initially establishes a hand reaching rhythm. Bisping gets use to reach for silva’s hand. This temporary occupies Bisping’s arm, allowing Silva to sneak a inside head kick.


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Better view of the inside head kick demonstrated by Luke Rockhold.


Here’s a rather creative yet rare high risk strategy. The knee jab. Benson Henderson had used this successfully against Nate Diaz (who doesn’t normally kick). Initially, the jab serves to condition the opponent’s attention low. The low jab eventually loosens their guard to the head. Silva feints low then goes high.

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Jabs low to loosen the guard. Goes low and changes levels to the head.


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Jabs low to loosen the guard. Goes low but quickly goes high to the head.


Lastly, Silva had a few nice occasions of dropping Bisping with a front kick to the face in the last round as well as his flying bicycle knee to the face in the 3 round.Surprisingly, Silva had rocked Bisping well in the later rounds and a front kick to the face, but neglected to follow up after earning his knockdowns.


These are some of the more notable habits out of this fight. There’s a lot more you can pull out of watching this fight, but hopefully this served to open perspective on what took place. This was an entertaining fight on so many levels. I originally found great interest in this fight because of how different Silva looked against Nick Diaz. He had put less emphasis on his usual counter game in that fight and it made me curious if he’d do the same against Bisping.

In the End, this gave us a chance to witness which tools worked best against what style and witnessed creative approaches. Despite the controversy surrounding who really won this fight, in the greater scheme of things, we all won. We saw a creative display go down.
If you enjoyed this breakdown, check out the other breakdown of some of your favorite fighters on my main page.

Coaches and fighters have been making interesting points lately on McGregor vs Diaz. So on my next project, I may piece together a look at how Nate Diaz matches up against Conor McGregor, so keep an eye out soon if you’re interested.

(I’ll be on discussion forums if you can’t seem to reach me anywhere else. If you have any questions, request, or whatever, feel free to drop by and chat).


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