William Vandry – BJJ In My Eyes: Shogun Rua vs. Anderson Silva

BJJ in my eyes June 2010 article

By Professor William Vandry
3rd degree Black belt Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (Master Carlos Machado)

Shogun Rua vs. Anderson Silva – Two BJJ guys that can outstrike anyone! 


I had discussed with my students the fight with Machida and Shogun in UFC 113.  Many thought it could go either way, and many Shogun fans felt he could win.  My question to many students during the week before that fight was how would Shogun or Machida win?  I think many times viewers or fans look at the best performance their particular fighter displayed in the past, and they base their opinions to that.  In many ways those opinions have some merit.  For example, Anderson Silva is well known for his great striking ability and his finishing, so fans usually can refer to an Anderson Silva fight as a quick finish or he will knock the opponent out, etc., etc.

And then at times a fighter changes his style.  When Oscar DelaHoya fought Floyd Mayweather Jr., he lost a 12 round split decision.  Although Mayweather did enough to win the decision, DelaHoya in my opinion basically got out of his boxing game.  In his interview afterward, he (Oscar) commented that sometimes the jab doesn’t go.  I listened to a man I used to go over every word he said when he spoke.  Emmanuel Stewart in my opinion is the best trainer I have witnessed, but I say that for reasons of his success, his analytical skills, his mentoring to his boxers and his intelligence overall.

Emmanuel Stewart has trained:

1. Thomas Hearns
2. Lennox Lewis
3. Evander Holyfield
4. Wilfredo Benitez
5. Naseem Hahmed

In that same fight with Oscar, Emmanuel Stewart made a comment responding to Oscar’s comment on the lack of his use of the jab.  He commented how you at times cannot abandon the jab; basically what he meant was not to let your fundamentals go.

So how are the fundamental fighting styles of Shogun and Silva?  Who can do what to each other?  Let’s take an analytical view of their tale of the tape, fights, styles; finishes and if they have had similar style opponents to compare them against each other.

Both Shogun and Silva have good fundamentals and a load of talent with striking and grappling.

Shogun: “I’ll Fight Anderson Silva!”

From sherdog.com

Appearing on ESPN2’s MMA Live just moments after his title-clinching stoppage ofLyoto Machida at UFC 113 in Montreal, “Shogun” was blunt when asked by host Jon Anik if he would fight the fellow Brazilian.

“Yes, of course. I’m a professional fighter,” said Rua (19-4).

The 28-year-old’s title predecessor, Machida, had publicly declared that he would never fight Silva, a close personal friend. Machida and Silva’s friendship complicated matters for the middleweight champion, who to this point has no equal at 185 pounds and has tested the light heavyweight waters on a part-time basis against James Irvin and Forrest Griffin with rousing success.

A permanent move to 205 pounds has long been discussed for Silva (26-4). He has won all 11 of his bouts inside the Octagon, a winning streak record for the Las Vegas-based promotion. A jump to the heavier class may have to wait, however, as UFC President Dana White has previously stated that 35-year-old fighter is two wins away from cleaning out the division:Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort.

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua on Anderson Silva: “I Don’t Give a Damn, Even a Parrot Talks!”

Back in 2009, Anderson Silva made an interesting comment about former training partner Shogun.  From bloodyellow, Anderson was quoted:

Anderson Silva ripped Shogun by saying that he doesn’t deserve a title shot:
“I’m not saying Shogun is not prepared but how long did Lyoto have to wait to get a title shot? The truth is Shogun fought twice and how many fights Machida had to do? It’s obvious something is up. I’m not here to talk bad words on nobody but life is made of chances and I said to our managers this fight shouldn’t happen.. Shogun didn’t fight enough to deserve the belt. The thing is precious and if I was Lyoto I wouldn’t accept.”

Soon after on fightersonly magazine:

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua has responded to Anderson Silva’s comments that he does not deserve the title shot he is getting against Lyoto Machida.

Fighters only recently published words from Anderson Silva saying 2005 PRIDE Grand Prix winner Shogun “doesn’t deserve to dispute the belt”.

Shogun‘s response was not angry. “What can I say? Who knows my PRIDE run knows that I came to UFC expected to fight for the title because of my previous history. Everyone can speak what he or she wants, right? I have to worry on my own words and not about what other ones say.”

“It doesn’t annoy me. It’s his opinion and I respect it. Period,” he added.

Silva said it was not right for Shogun to get a title shot after just two fights in the UFC, pointing out that Machida had had to win seven fights to get a title shot, and even then only when Rampage Jackson was unable to face Rashad Evans.

Shogun was less impressed with this. He points to the fact Anderson fought for the middleweight title on his second fight in UFC, making his criticism of Rua rather controversial. Shogun believes The Spider’s words will hit him back

“I think his opinion is contrary but I won’t criticize him. If he criticized me there must be a reason, who knows? I’m calm because I never did anything bad to him. So if he says such things he is being unfair and it will be hard for him a day,” he said.

“Everybody should have respect in this sport because it’s not easy to train everyday. That’s the motive I respect everyone. It’s OK if he doesn’t respect me back. I don’t give a damn on his words. Even a parrot talks.”

Anderson and Shogun were teammates at Chute Boxe eight years ago, where Anderson now trains with Lyoto Machida in the Black House team. But Shogun does not think that Anderson will have useful memories that will help Machida.

“I was around twenty when we trained together. I am another person and possess other technique now. Everything has changed since that epoch,” he said. “But Anderson will be a great sparring for Lyoto. He is a great athlete, a very good fighter, one of the best of MMA. They have to train together to strengthen one another.”

Fight performance comparisons

Anderson Silva’s highlight UFC wins were against Travis Lutter, Leban, Marquardt, and an impressive win over Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin twice.

Shogun has wins over Rampage, Nogueira, Arona, Overeen and Randleman, and an absolutely devasting win over Chuck Lidell, good test against Mark Coleman and total destruction against Machida.
Of the two fighters, the most testing fights for both were Anderson in his win against Dan Henderson, and Shogun lost a match due to injury against Marc Coleman, which he later avenged in a UFC rematch, and many discuss his loss against Forrest Griffin.  The Forrest fight would never have went that way if Shogun was healthy.  He had knee surgery, got married three weeks before and was on his honeymoon.  His wind was very poor.  If he fought now, and he does desire a rematch with Forrest, I think it would be almost like the Anderson Silva – Forrest Griffin fight.

Main weak points

Anderson Silva’s biggest weakness seems to be takedown defense, although he has got a lot better obviously.  I think his actual ground fighting skills are good, but he had trouble against Lutter (his guard was passed and he was mounted), his past fight with Carlos Newton showed that he actually needed striking to win that fight as he was out grappled.  The Dan Henderson fight showed good grit, although the takedown defense, or lack thereof against good wrestlers gave him a bit of damage.

Rua’s obvious knee surgery and lack of cardio cost him the fight against Forrest, so I will wipe that fight out of discussion.  His fight with Coleman was a good test, it was probably Coleman’s last good fight, and it was a good test for Rua against a good wrestler.  Rua needed that fight to shake off dust.

On the ground, I feel Shogun is technically better and has better defense.  He also can employee leglocks, which of course is practically non-existent from the guard these days.  Anderson has held composure very well, and if he is in a pattern he is very good.

Main strengths

Anderson Silva is known as potentially the best striker in MMA.  Anderson has reach, timing, angles, good slipping, deking, feinting and combination strikes that finish or outstrike his opponents.  His ground skills are good, and his ability to outlast or defend is good.  He finished Lutter with a triangle choke with strikes, and Henderson with a good naked choke.

Shogun has very good striking as well.  He has never been outstruck by anyone ever.  His defense is very good, and he keeps the hands high and the chin low.  I think he has really mastered the art of striking.  His skills and talents rival Anderson’s, but I feel his defense may be a little better, although Anderson has more angles but not necessarily better angles.


Anderson Silva finishes if he has a dominant position or good control from guard or back positions.

Shogun is very good with leglocks.  He is definitely the best MMA fighter with leglocks, as he plays unorthodox angles, and works on the kneebar very well.  I personally have always thought leglocks are the great equalizer to grappling/MMA.


Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
D.O.B.: 11/11/1981
Weight: 205 lbs.
Height: 6’ 1”
Fighting style: Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing

MMA Record: 19-4-0

Anderson Silva
D.O.B.: 04/14/1975
Weight: 185lb
Height: 6’2″
Fighting style: Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing
MMA Record: 22 – 4 – 0

The stats are relatively the same.  Both are about the same height (Anderson competes at 205 too), and frame, although despite being an inch taller, Shogun is a bit more powerful.  He also competes at a higher weight, and has also fought in PRIDE against any weight in the Grand Prix, in which he won.

So no size difference or physical advantage.

Who wins, Shogun or Silva?

Ok, let’s get to what everyone reading this article wants to know.  This fight could possibly be the biggest fight in MMA.  What were some of the biggest fights in MMA?  Let’s look at some arguable comparisons.

Rickson vs Takada 1 and 2

Japan had promoted Shootwrestler Nobohiko Takada as the greatest fighter on the earth, and he challenged Rickson Gracie, who was officially the best fighter in the world.  Two fights, two wins for Rickson, and both made a very good payday.  Unfortunately no one has made 1.5 million dollars a fight since, and probably wonts.

Sakuraba vs the Gracies

Sakuraba was a great fighter and very popular in Japan.  Defeating three Gracies made everyone take notice of his grappling and striking skills.

Fedor vs Cro cop

This fight was the biggest and most promoted fight in the world, and probably still is.  Both fighters were known for their great striking and knockout power.  Although exciting, Fedor showed Crocop was definitely not in his league overall.  Crocop had a brief UFC career, and has been subpar so far, although he may return to the ring.

UFC’s  biggest fight

A huge fight depends on two things, either a box office success or fanfare.  Which one is the real determination?  Something in between.  The Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture fight was a huge UFC fight, but Lesnar had only two fights in the UFC, and his bad boy personality was more of the promotion vehicle rather than two MMA fighters.

Box office did well.

I think the most eagerly anticipated fight was the BJ Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre.  Both of them have similar styles to Anderson Silva and Shogun.  All four have good BJJ skills, along with excellent striking.  BJ is probably the best technical boxer, although Georges is better at overall Muay Thai.  Anderson Silva has the most talented angles and problem solving methods, while Shogun has great fundamentals, defense and counterpunching.

Everyone expected a war between BJ and GSP.  I actually didn’t.  BJ is a little small for GSP, and the problem was once it hit the ground.  BJ is one of the most talented fighters on the earth, but could not figure out GSP’s style.  GSP is a great problem solver when fighting.  He can outstrike strikers or out grapple grapplers.  And his defense and takedowns are exceptional.

So how does this compare to Silva and Shogun?  Well, in my opinion we have similarities and a base model to theorize how that fight will go.

Let’s ccompare the striking, grappling, and endurance between both fighters to see about possibilities.

Silva vs. Shogun striking

In these highlights of Anderson Silva, you can see excellent lateral movement, jabs, and knees, leg shots to the head and great bobbing and weaving.


In these highlights of Shogun on you tube, very similar striking to Anderson, including the precision hits, knees and leg shots.


Whenever you have two similar strikers fighting against each other, usually the one that buckles first will lose.  Neither fighter has been outstruck by an opponent yet, so this would be a most interesting fight just based on striking.  I see Anderson starting with his usual warmup of movement but relatively little action until a minute or so.  However, since Anderson is a great counterpuncher, Shogun is a great aggressive striker.  This will be perfect for both of them.  Anderson can get strikes on Shogun, however if Shogun conterpunches with his good defense against strikes with his hands up, it will be difficult for Anderson to KO him right off the bat.

Shogun may get a couple of strong hits on Anderson, but Anderson does have an excellent chin.

If it went five rounds without the ground, Anderson can set the pace, but wind time in later rounds will definitely be a benefit to Shogun.

Anderson would be better to catch Shogun earlier in the fight; the later rounds are better for Shogun.  Odds are even on striking, with a slight nod to Silva.

Silva vs. Shogun grappling

Can this fight go to the ground?  Absolutely.  Anderson prefers to stand up and strike, but one of the great gifts Shogun has to is strike and tie up to wrestling takedowns.  Anderson has a similar style to Machida, and there definitely will be some similarities in the Shogun vs. Machida 2 fight, but not the exact same.  Anderson has a much better striking ability than Machida, and keeps his hands up better too.  Machida was a frustrating counterpuncher, but Shogun can do that too, as Machida paid for the error.

If Shogun ties up with Anderson it hits the ground.  He can probably get the takedown, but Anderson does have good defense.  The problem or if we can pick criticism in Anderson’s game would be his overall defense on the ground not against MMA fighters, but other grapplers.

Against Lutter, Anderson was dominated the first round on the ground.  The second round he ended up using his conditioning and BJJ technique to utilize the triangle choke along with elbows to defeat Lutter.

Shogun has demonstrated two things I have not seen another MMA fighter do.

1.  Defense from half guard.
Shogun showed that even a destructive fighter like Machida cannot counter his half guard game, which is very rare.  If everyone can remember the Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir 2 fight, Mir’s half guard was totally shut down.  If you can look at Shogun’s ability to rock, swing, and move under the hip area from half guard, this imbalance makes the opponent’s stabilize their base and limits their striking or submissions.  Twice he got back to his feet against Machida.

2.  Good takedowns to finish.
Who would have thought that Shogun would have taken down Rampage in his Pride fight?  Look at his methodology.  He outstruck Rampage, wore him down then took him down, and ended up punishing him more.  Very good Robert Duran style of fighting from the 70’s to finish an opponent over torture.

I give Shogun the nod on the ground.  If he is able to employ a kneebar or type of leglock, we have not seen Anderson tested in this area.  I myself am a huge practitioner of leglocks, and in my book Leglocks: the great equalizer!, I mention the theories of leglocking and finishing.  A leglock is like any submission, its not the finish you need to know how to manufacture, it’s the entire setup.  When the great Rickson Gracie was able to choke out a majority of his opponents, he never went straight from the choke.  He broke down his opponents, tired them out, and then attacked.  When I spar, my methods of leglocking has that same premise.  I believe when I setup a leglock, I attack other areas first, combine them and then pick openings.

Mauricio Rua is very good at this type of calculation.  Shogun gets slight nod on the ground.  If he gets side or mount, he may finish Silva.

Silva vs. Shogun on Takedowns

Shogun has made takedowns a part of his game, while Silva prefers more striking to wear down his opponents to get on the ground.  His strikes with knees are great setups for ground finishing.  Definitely Shogun is better on takedowns, although both are susceptible to getting taken down.  Nod goes to Shogun.

Projection of possible fight results of Shogun vs. Silva

The tale of the tape, comparison in styles has been discussed, so lets get to projecting the actual fight.

Possibility one
Silva KO’s Shogun
Round one starts.  Shogun immediately ties up with Anderson.  Anderson backs out; Shogun gets caught with a cross similar to the one Machida got.  Anderson finishes.
Percentage:  5-10%.  I don’t think this will happen, as Shogun has great defense, but you never know with Anderson Silva.

Possibility two
Shogun outstrikes Silva
The first round starts, Shogun blitzkriegs Anderson with clinching, legshots and strikes.  Anderson ties up, and keeps distance the rest of the fight similar to the later rounds in the Damien Maia fight.  Shogun wins unanimous decision.
Perdentage: 10-20%.  In my opinion Silva is a fighter that also has a great heart.  I think if he were to get rocked early, he may counterpunch, but in what could possibly be the biggest fight in MMA history, I think he would prefer to test himself and engage against Rua with strikes.

Possibility three
Shogun takes Anderson down to a decision
Anderson starts out with distance, warming up, and Shogun gets a surprise takedown, some punishment and back to the feet for five rounds.  Later an exchange happens that tests both fighters, and Rua wins mainly with the takedowns.
Percentage: 20-25%.  This may be more of a probability, but assuming that he can control Anderson on the ground.  Anderson is very experienced in defense, and may also wear down Shogun.

Possibility four
Close fight, striking clinic, Anderson wins decision
Anderson starts the game with a flurry, Shogun defends and rocks Anderson.  Anderson and Shogun engage in a Muay Thai clinic.  A few takedowns, mainly a striking demo.
Percentage: 25-50%. Similar to the first Machida fight, good counterpunching by both fighters, and both try to win by outstriking the other.  If Anderson is busier, he can eke out a decision.  If Shogun mixes strikes and takedowns, he could get the nod.  I don’t think either fighter will be afraid to strike with each other.

Possibility five
Shogun combines perfect clinch, takedowns, strikes and ground to finish Silva with a kneebar
Silva usually plays the same game each fight.  He warms up, and then begins strikes, clinches, knees and finishes.  He has also punished fighters over the stretch with counterpunching.  Shogun also has played his game every fight.  He has confidence in takedowns, strikes, grappling and getting hit.  Anderson has confidence as well.  If Shogun came in at his absolute best performance, and he is still getting better, this may happen.  If he clinches and instead of taking down, pulls to half guard or to a rolling keebar, this may be unfamiliar area for Anderson Silva.  I think we can even compare the Chuck Lidell fight strategy Shogun displayed as to what I think he would attempt against Silva, although Silva is another notch better than Lidell.
Percentage: 50%

This fight here every fan in MMA would want to see.  Shogun was Pride’s best fighter with the exception of Fedor, and many people even considered him to be a devastasting fighter as a heavyweight if he wanted to move up.  Anderson has been the UFC’s best fighter pound for pound with Shogun coming in at a close no. 2.  This fight would make an excellent rematch or even a third fight still a sellout.  Fans love to see the best fighters test skills.  For instance, no one wants to see two strikers grapple or two grapplers try to strike for five rounds, they want to see fighters fight their game.  These two are definitely the two best in the fighting game today, and their popularity, skills, talents and killer instincts are the hallmark along with their heart are definitely points that will logged in the annals of great fighters history.

Absorb, and think.

Professor William Vandry

Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai Boxing & Judo – Austin, Texas.