Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Where were you when Anderson Silva unleashed the Spider Kick?
Like Michael Jordan’s 1988 slam dunk faceoff against Dominique Wilkins, the image has been seared into the world’s collective mind. Jordan’s arm and Silva’s leg outstretched towards the heavens. Perfect case studies revealing a true champion’s instinctive reflex. Each saw only the target and hit the bullseye under insurmountable pressures.
However, for Silva, the stakes were raised making the motion bigger than combat sports. The kick represented the indomitable will to win.
The Irresistible Force Paradox
Silva’s front leg kick stoppage of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 was a case of an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object. This is the irresistible force paradox and it is defined as a conflict between two extreme opposites.
This is exactly what Silva had been through six months earlier. Before the world was given “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, Silva had a career-defining fight against Chael Sonnen in Oakland, California. UFC 117 tested Silva in ways he had never truly seen before. Sonnen, the paradoxical “Gangster From West Linn”, executed a pre-fight trash-talking campaign of epic proportions, the tension was palpable. When the two finally met on August 7th, 2010 at the Oracle Arena, the world collectively wondered: would Silva crack under the pressure? Would Sonnen’s arrogance, real or manufactured, feed into the emotions of the world’s greatest fighter?
From the outset, it appeared possible. Round 1 saw Sonnen stun Silva with a punch before taking him down and dominating from the top position. He would land multiple blows from this position, and this would repeat for four rounds. Takedowns by Sonnen were early and often and he dominated with strikes from inside Silva's guard.
A world used to Anderson Silva finishing all his UFC opponents, save two decisions, was thrown into chaos, a red line in an otherwise blue sky, until the fifth round.
After being tagged by Sonnen's left hook, Silva slipped. Sonnen took advantage of establishing a top position, delivering vicious strikes. However, with two minutes left Silva went full Spider, secured a triangle armbar and forced Sonnen to tap. 3:10 of the fifth and final round. Avoiding defeat by a hair through the worst odds possible. It showed the world that Silva was not only exceptional, but he was also a phenomenon. An argument for being the G.O.A.T. was not only valid but necessary.
The Kick Heard Around The World
When Anderson Silva entered the cage against Vitor Belfort on February 5th, 2011 he had already accomplished the impossible.
Now, against another Brazilian martial arts savant in Vitor Belfort, Silva had the chance to become mythic.
After trading strikes, Silva landed a front kick to Belfort's jaw followed by punches to the grounded challenger.
3:25 in the first round is all it took to become a legend.
Not just because of the spectacular finish but because of the solidification of his ethos. The Spider Kick was predicated by the biggest emotional and mental test of Silva’s UFC career.
It was the kick heard around the world defining the life of a legend in receipt of his flowers today.
About the author:
Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer's Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, and has been there in person for some of Anderson Silva's biggest moments.