ONE Championship: Alex “Little Rock” Silva has his eyes set on the title

RealSport spoke with Evolve MMA's Alex Silva as he gets set to battle Japan's Hayato Suzuki at ONE: Legends of the World.

After years of persistence, Alex “Little Rock” Silva is finally within reach of a ONE Championship title fight, but he needs to defeat Hayato Suzuki at ONE: Legends of the World first.

After an unsuccessful debut at ONE: Battle of Heroes back in 2012, Silva bounced back with three consecutive first-round finishes against the Catalan brothers. As strange as it may seem, Silva had to make it past each of these family members sequentially and he did so in impressive style, finishing each of them with a different submission. Robin Catalan, the final of the three brothers to face Silva, put up a good fight, but Silva eventually worked to a dominant position before forcing Catalan to tap to an arm-triangle choke.

Next up was Roy Doliguez at ONE: Throne of Tigers. Doliguez proved to be an exceptionally good scrambler and escaped from the grips of “Little Rock” during the first round. By round three, however, Silva had his opponent all worked out and trapped him underneath his full mount before initiating a perfectly executed armbar submission.

A four-fight winning streak of this caliber could see a fighter earn a title shot already, but ONE Championship has matched Silva up against undefeated Hayato Suzuki in a flyweight contest. The winner of Silva vs Suzuki will surely earn their spot as a title contender.

Sticking to his strengths

You'd be unsurprised to discover that Alex Silva, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion and second-degree black belt, enjoys most of his success on the mat in ONE Championship.

Speaking to RealSport in the lead-up to his battle with Hayato Suzuki at ONE: Legends of the World, Silva expressed his desire to keep fights exactly where he wants them:

I’m always trying to fight in a smart way. I will always fight to my strongest parts. That’s my grappling, I’ve been practicing this for over 20 years.

It seems to happen more often than not that a fighter talented in one aspect of the sport starts relying on other paths to victory rather than the one that has worked for them for so long. Of course, it's desirable to be a complete mixed martial artist, and Silva's striking has improved to a level in which he caused trouble for Doliguez in his last contest. However, Silva has no problem admitting that he likes to rely on his clear strength every time he enters the cage.

When I see the opportunity to show what I can do with my hands, I do it. But if I can make my life easier and use my grappling to win the fight, I’m always looking for that.

Silva credited his striking improvements to working closely with Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and also detailed how he has been improving his grappling with Leandro "Brodinho" Issa at Evolve MMA.

I’m always very confident in my ground game. I train here every day with high-level grapplers, so I’m confident in my grappling game and my strikes.

Lessons from a second-degree black belt

It's now been ten years since Alex Silva was awarded his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Achieving black belt status isn't the end of the road for learning and improving. For many black belts, it's actually the beginnings of a realization that there is much more to learn. 

We asked Alex about his jiu-jitsu training and it's clear that his passion for the sport is still stronger than ever:

I believe you never stop learning. Every day you can add something or see something different. You can learn something every day. I’m teaching jiu-jitsu every day, too. I believe when you are teaching, you learn and see different things. That’s why I love martial arts. It’s unbelievable how you can learn more and more and never stop learning.

Intrigued about his experience in traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we also asked Alex for his thoughts on how he has best adapted to the addition of striking in the grappling exchanges during a mixed martial arts contest. Silva shared his insight into the different styles of BJJ and how each of them can serve different purposes. 

I believe there are a few different BJJ styles. There is sport BJJ, in which you play to win tournaments. This is the new generation of BJJ. It’s a different style. I believe this style is not so good for MMA and for self-defense. 

Where I come from, it’s a very old school. It’s a really tight game. It’s very different. This new style isn’t effective for MMA. My style of BJJ is best for self-defense and MMA.

Jiu-jitsu as a whole seems to be taking an entirely new direction of late. Expert leg-lockers such as Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan have been dominating the submission grappling scene, but it's unclear just how beneficial this side of 'sport jiu-jitsu' will be for mixed martial arts. In case you were wondering how it stacks up, we'll find out soon enough now that Garry Tonon has joined Evolve MMA and signed to ONE Championship.

Despite Silva's self proclaimed 'old-school' style, he has racked up a number of tremendous and unique submissions in ONE Championship. When we asked Silva for his favorite of his four submissions in ONE Championship, he described having to pick a favorite submission as like having to choose a favorite son. However, he enjoys his armbar submission against Doliguez more than any other.

My last armbar against Doliguez is my favorite. It was in the third round, and I had almost ended it in the first round but he escaped.

You can watch a breakdown of Silva's armbar submission below.

Coming for the title

Alex "Little Rock" Silva has had his eyes set on a ONE Championship title for a long time now. After having previously competed at strawweight, it appears as though Alex Silva could challenge for a title in either the strawweight or flyweight division. However, his target seems set on Yoshitaka Naito after the undefeated martial artist took away the ONE Strawweight World Championship from Silva's teammate Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke.

We asked Silva how he believes he matches up with Naito:

I think it will be the same as Suzuki because both are grapplers. I think Suzuki and Naito are very similar. They will be grappling fights. I’m not going to change anything, I will continue to train my BJJ and train my striking. I think they are very similar fighters.

As for now, however, Alex Silva will need to make it past another undefeated fighter in Hayato Suzuki on November 10 at ONE: Legends of the World.

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Jake Nichols

Jake is a mixed martial arts analyst and reporter from Australia for The Body Lock.