It is a rare occasion when you get an inside look at Anderson Silva. Like Water shows a fascinating backstory behind one of the greatest fights and fighters in UFC history yet still left plenty of unanswered questions about who Anderson Silva really is.
If you are expecting to learn a lot about The Spider I think you’ll be disappointed. They certainly cover Silva’s beginnings and his entry into MMA. But the background is very brief which I found unfortunate. I would have loved to know when the greatest fighter of all time evolved, struggles early on, lessons he learned, stories about training with Wanderlei and his team, Pride FC, etc. They just aren’t here. This is more a simple story about the champion preparing for a fight than it is about Anderson Silva’s story.
The timeline here in Silva’s career makes this documentary even better. Silva is coming off a controversial win over Demian Maia at UFC 112. Silva and the UFC are at odds with Dana White basically threatening Silva’s job if he repeats that same performance against Chael. Ironically Silva never actually addresses this issue which seems kind of bizarre considering how big of a story this was and the fact that Dana actually addresses this in the documentary.
Silva leaves his family for three months and comes to the United States to train for the fight. Silva appears to be having a great time with his MMA family and friends. The film shows a different side of Silva during this time as a coach, a side you don’t see in the UFC. Silva is working with a protégé and winds up seconding him at a small MMA show. Silva is intense as a coach and shows more emotion during these few minutes than he often shows during his own fights. One of the biggest criticisms that Silva’s critics have of him is a lack of passion. He’s got passion, but where he shows it is the biggest question for me.
One of the biggest takeaways I had from this movie is that none of the trash talking Chael Sonnen did leading up to UFC 117 got to Silva. Anderson didn’t seem bothered at all and Silva’s manager Ed Soares appeared to find Sonnen’s insults more amusing than offensive. It’s funny because going into UFC 117 you had a lot of MMA fans and reporters playing up this story about Sonnen being in Silva’s head. He just wasn’t. Silva was more home sick than he was motivated by Sonnen’s promos.
Remember following UFC 117 and Silva said that he had injured ribs coming into the fight? I looked out during his training for this injury because Sonnen and some others accused Silva of lying about it. It happened. Silva did hurt his ribs close to the fight but it is really hard to ascertain how badly they were injured. There is a scene where he is warming up a day or so before the fight and he has to stop because they were bothering him. They certainly weren’t broken but there absolutely was some kind of rib injury prior to the fight.
I had mixed feelings about seeing Silva with his fans. Silva seems to have a really good time meeting fans and taking pictures. However, there is a scene where Ed is asking Anderson if he mocked the fans in his foreign tongue which Silva says he didn’t. Obviously for that question to be asked it must have happened before. There is also another scene where Silva is playing around and has to be dragged kicking and screaming to an autograph signing.
The other biggest takeaway for me was the scene where Silva and his team were practicing for the exact same scenario that ended the fight with Sonnen. Silva and his team were practicing Silva getting a triangle from his back. What is interesting here is that it appeared that Silva was having a bit of a hard time getting it during training, which of course could be due to the magic of editing. Nonetheless I was blown away to see him actually preparing for that same scenario which ended the fight.
On a side note if you watch the UFC 148 behind the scenes special that has aired on Fuel TV, you can see Sonnen practicing the spinning backfist quite a bit.
Other than the fight the most dramatic scene in the movie is probably the call Dana White makes to Ed Soares after the infamous UFC 117 media call. Silva gives one word answers throughout the conference call as Ed is seen just shaking his head in a remote location, obviously frustrated with his friend and client. Immediately after the call Dana calls Ed and basically threatens Silva’s job. Ed took it seriously and you have to feel for the guy who is caught in between White and Silva at a time when Silva was on the hot seat.
The biggest disappointment here is that you still don’t get to know the Spider in this documentary. Sure you follow him in training but there is not a whole lot learned here. If the fight didn’t turn out to be as legendary as it has, I wonder if the documentary would have been half as interesting. Lucky for them it didn’t and helped create a compelling movie with Like Water.