UFC 148 Silva vs Sonnen 2
Sometimes, the final outcome doesn’t tell the whole story of a fight.
Sometimes, the final outcome doesn’t tell much of the story at all to be honest.
I’m not just talking “Matt Hamill holding a victory over Jon Jones” type stories either. I’m thinking more along the lines of Dennis Hallman dominating 14:55 seconds of his fight with John Howard at the Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights finale before “Doomsday” connected on with a thunderous punch that put “Superman” out and earned him the win.
For me, the first fight between Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva falls into that category, and as we count down the hours until the middleweight rivals step into the cage for a second time, I find it curious that so many people are counting Sonnen out, especially based on what we saw the first time around.
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I’ve been predicting a Silva victory by “Payback is a bitch!” since the fight was first announced, and don’t plan on backing away from that call any time between now and Saturday night. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not acutely aware of the possibility that “The American Gangster” walks into the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and finishes what he started at UFC 117.
Silva came away from their first encounter with the victory and the middleweight title still in his possession, but for roughly 23 minutes of the fight (which lasted an additional 10 seconds), Chael P. Sonnen dominated Anderson Silva like no one had previously done, and has yet to duplicate since.
From the commando roll away from Silva when he caught an attempted kick to the early cross than landed squarely on Silva’s jaw, Sonnen was in control of their first fight from the outset, and was two minutes away from earning a dominant decision win over a fighter who hadn’t lost in more than four years. Just how one-sided was the first fight before Silva caught Sonnen with that triangle choke? After four rounds, the judges had the fight 40-34, 40-35, and 40-36 for the man who hails from the mean streets of West Linn, Oregon.
As the second bout between the two inches closer, it seems like most people have chalked up that first contest as an aberration; a bad performance from Silva brought on by an injured rib with Sonnen’s success amplified by the synthetic testosterone that was coursing through his system on fight night.
While I don’t doubt that the injury Silva was battling lessened his effectiveness and hindered him during the fight, chalking everything Sonnen was able to deliver up to a Silva having a broken rib is robbing the 35-year-old wrestler of the accolades he deserves for a standout performance, injury or not.
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Up until Silva latched his right knee over his left ankle and squeezed a tap out of the submission-allergic Sonnen, just about everyone was resigned to the fact that a new champion was about to be crowned in Oakland, California. Now, in lieu of learning Silva was battling an injury in the first fight, and the fact that he’s all fired up this time around, people don’t even seem to be giving Chael a chance this weekend.
I think it’s going to happen too, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Sonnen come out and do exactly what he said he was going to do on Monday: wait for Silva to throw a kick (because he always does), plant his forehead in his chest, and put him on his back before running his right hand into his head into his face for the duration of each and every round.
Of the those two scenarios — Silva by bludgeoning or Sonnen by wrestling-based beating — we only saw one of them executed to near perfection in the cage the first time around, yet most fans and critics are convinced the other is the only outcome that we could possibly see on Saturday night.
I know seeing Silva get dominated in the first fight was an unfamiliar occurrence, but the performance put forth by Sonnen wasn’t. He’d earned the opportunity to face Silva by doing just about the exact same thing to Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, and Nate Marquardt in consecutive fights. It’s the same formula he’s employed in his two wins since losing to Silva at UFC 117 as well, though he showed off his submission skills against Brian Stann, and wasn’t nearly as dominant in defeating Michael Bisping.
More importantly to this weekend’s festivities, it’s the same approach Sonnen is bound to take when he stands across the cage from Silva this time too, and there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the outlook that he’s got little-to-no chance of planting the middleweight champion on his back for a full 25 minutes this time. If anything, the evidence we do have suggests Sonnen probably will find success with his patented approach on Saturday night; it’s just a matter of whether or not he can avoid getting caught in the process.
What’s really interesting to me is that throughout Silva’s reign of terror over the middleweight division, the consensus opinion on what kind of fighter stood the best chance of dethroning the champion was a dominant wrestler with a superior top game.
If you look up “dominant wrestler with a superior top game” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Chael Sonnen. For the record, Ben Askren’s picture is right beside it; you may think he’s “boring,” but I think he’s pretty bad ass.
So not only does Sonnen fit the bill as the type of fighter most assumed would give Silva fits in the cage, we’ve also witnessed him giving Silva fits in the cage, and yet somehow, we’re all convinced that Saturday is going to be a one-sided beating and it’s going to be Sonnen on the receiving end?
I know he lost the first fight, but Sonnen was awfully close to coming away with the victory, and the more I think about it, the more I think we’re selling him short heading into the rematch on Saturday night.
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