Silva vs Sonnen post weigh-ins psychological analysis

Silva-SonnenAfter the UFC 148 pre-fight press conference, many were surprised to see the aggressive side of Anderson Silva who seemed to push Sonnen around and get right in the challenger’s face. The question then arose: Is Anderson scared or has Chael Sonnen awoken a side of SIlva which perhaps he did not mean to awake?

After weigh-ins yesterday, things did not calm down and Silva seemed to have taken another step forward in his newly displayed aggressive behavior. This time he went beyond getting in Sonnen’s face though, this time he got his shoulder right on the challenger’s jaw. Still the same questions which arose after the presser are yet to be answered and are now joined by others which the entire MMA community is asking. Questions like:

  • Is Silva scared or is he carrying out premeditated actions to intimidate Sonnen?
  • Could it be that Anderson is just plain furious?
  • Has Sonnen managed to awake a side of Silva that he did not mean to awake?
  • Is Sonnen in Silva’s mind and got what he was looking for?
  • Will this aggressive side of the champion play in his favour or against him?

We looked at the weigh-ins video several times, compared it to older ones of both athletes as well as other footage available trying to analyse their body language, non-verbal cues and other elements that could give something away in respect of where the two fighters may truly be mentally. When looking for non-verbal cues there are many things that I personally look for; a few of them are:

  • How shiny the face is – the more shiny it is and typically the more tense one is as when we tense up the muscle of the face stretch the skin reducing the wrinkles allowing light to reflect slightly more.
  • How dilated the pupils are
  • The rate of blinking
  • The position of the feet
  • The body language
  • The position and movement of the lips
  • and many others

However, looking at these things is plain useless without calibrating, without comparing these to how the same elements are during a normal situation. Additionally, one or two cues mean nothing; in order to be accurate, there must be a clutter (3+) of cues in order to establish whether one may feel tense, scared, fired up, angry etcetera. Also, the feet, which because they are the furthest part from the brain, are harder to consciously control where hidden from the cameras. Finally, the use of artificial lights, the weight cut which may have different effects from fight to fight and not being there in person makes it very hard to accurately observe most of the points above.

So all we could analyse was the behaviour and more obvious body language and because of the various barriers, even then a lot of the following is based on personal opinions more than factual truth. The most interesting part was the shoulder hit on Sonnen’s jaw; here is what I and the team at MMA Mind Power think (based on the VIDEO above courtesy of MMA Weekly.com):

  • At 1:30 Silva decides to do something. We don’t think that he made up his mind to hit Sonnen although it could be that for a moment, just before he touches his nose, he goes into a reflective mode, looking down and slightly nodding his head, perhaps unconsciously.
  • At 1:37 he looks to his right and then, when he turns back and starts to walk towards Sonnen, he does so moving faster and he licks and move his lips which could indicate a change in state.
  • At 1:41 when Silva approaches Sonnen, his right shoulder already moves closer to the challenger but Chael left hand is in the way. Could it be that Silva was already going for that sucker shoulder but didn’t because of Sonnen’s posing guard?
  • After it all happens Sonnen could have been angry, furious, he could have complaint to the officials and he could have talked or reacted to Silva; instead he did nothing at all. Could this be a sign that Sonnen was totally shocked and perhaps realised that he got a monster out of Silva that maybe was better locked in? It is fair to think that if Sonnen managed to get what he was looking for (getting a reaction form Silva) he would have reacted somehow, perhaps with a sarcastic smile, or verbally.

I feel that if Silva was scared, he would not have still tried to push forward after the sucker shoulder; if the shoulder was an act of fear, then the next most obvious  thing to do would have been to let the officials be your excuse to end the confrontation which Silva did not seem to do.

My final opinion

  • Is Silva scared or is he carrying out premeditated actions to intimidate Sonnen?
    Both false although the latter part could partially be right.
  • Could it be that Anderson is just plain furious?
    Indeed and determined to make Sonnen pay. I feel that SIlva is still in control of his emotions though.
  • Has Sonnen managed to awake a side of Silva that he did not mean to awake?
    I think so.
  • Is Sonnen in Silva’s mind and got what he was looking for?
    He definitely is in Silva’s mind. However, I don’t think this is a good thing for the American Gangsta
  • Will this aggressive side of the champion play in his favour or against him?
    In relation to our Fighter VS Fighter VS New Breed theory, I think that Silva represents the new breed and would have performed the same way that he will perform on Saturday 7 July 2012 even if he wasn’t fired up like he is. The difference is that he will try to finish Sonnen in a more humiliating, more painful and more impressive way.
  • Pick: Anderson Silva

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