Its been SO long in coming but the wait is finally over. Today, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will weigh in and tomorrow, assuming all goes well today, they will have a rematch that the MMA world has been dying for ever since their first meeting at UFC 117.
That fight saw Anderson take a mauling for four and a half rounds before Sonnen made a critical error and allowed Silva to lock in a triangle. To say the fight was epic is an understatement - it was one of the few that lived up to all its build-up hype by providing action and edge-of-your-seat drama.
Now, who are we putting our money on to be the UFC middleweight champion come Sunday morning?
Editor, Fighters Only Magazine
Itâ€™s been proven normal people donâ€™t fight smart when theyâ€™re angry. You get an opponent riled up and their concentration goes, the red mist descends and the gameplan theyâ€™ve been drilling for weeks is replaced by pent up frustration and a tidal wave of adrenaline. More often than not, a fuming fighter will charge head first into a strike or submission or empty his gas tank in the opening minutesâ€¦
But then, whoever said Anderson Silva was a normal person?
Itâ€™s clear Chael Sonnen has done everything in his staggering psyche to upset the UFC middleweight champion, to get inside his head and ensure heâ€™ll enter the Octagon at UFC 148 on Saturday night a bubbling volcano of anger and outrage.
Silva has built his legacy on fighting smart. Thatâ€™s how heâ€™s had the incredible success that he has, and itâ€™s exactly why heâ€™s the pound-for-pound world number one. He doesnâ€™t get angry, he doesnâ€™t get upset. Itâ€™s never personal, and itâ€™s always just sport. Or, at least, that used to be the case.
Now he wants to hurt Chael Sonnen. He wants to bury him in the Octagon and shut him up for good. But heâ€™s going to have to attempt it in a completely alien mindset, one heâ€™s ever been in before. This is the true test of Silvaâ€™s greatness. Can he succeed here, when the pressure is on him more than ever? After all, an entire nation expects him to mute the insults.
Sonnen has played a very dangerous game, but if he can get through the opening round, itâ€™s a game he can definitely win. Unlike Silva, thereâ€™s no pressure on Chael. And remember, heâ€™s still confident after dominating the champ for 22 minutes in their first meeting in 2010. I believe Sonnen will survive a few early scares to set up an arena-filling end to the greatest trilogy in MMA.
Fighters OnlyÂ Website Editor
The first fight was one of those odd situations where the winner had more things to think about and work on than the loser. Anderson lost every round of the UFC 117 meeting so comprehensively that his corner were going crazy between rounds. Sonnenâ€™s were equally agitated going into the fifth, because they know their man has a tendency to brainfart and get caught with submissions late into fights that he is winning.
Such was the case at UFC 117 and so Sonnen went away with two things to work on - maintaining focus and submission prevention. Not submission defence, because at the UFC level that is often too little too late, but submission avoidance full stop - prevention is better than frantic attempts to cure. As weâ€™ve seen since, Sonnenâ€™s focus on submissions has also fed into his attacking game - he is using his wrestling ability to get to top position then look for submissions of his own.
Anderson had to go away and think about how many times he was taken down in the fight, and with such ease. Anyone who has trained, let alone fought, will know what a mental weight it is to be up against someone who has massively better wrestling than you. It can make you very hesitant and, worse, its hard to bridge the gap even with intensive training. Wrestlers like Sonnen start very young.
And so I think Anderson is going to be looking at takedown avoidance - lots of movement, circling off and away, staying out of the clinch and not using many kicks. This could actually be a bit of a boring fight. I donâ€™t see him coming forward to try and take Sonnenâ€™s head off - Sonnen would be straight in and under one of those big straight lefts and hitting a double as Andersonâ€™s momentum carried him forward into it.
Sonnen is going to have to walk him down and try to hit that takedown. When he does, I think Sonnen is going to look for a submission from the top, like an arm triangle, or a fight-ending barrage from mount. He has the gas to go the distance but I suspect that his own planning has included â€˜crisis avoidanceâ€™ - instead of worrying about maintaining focus in the later rounds, he is going to try and avoid the later rounds full stop.
I think the fight is going to look a bit like Condit-Diaz, albeit with the Diaz (Sonnen) looking for takedowns and top game. I think Sonnen is going to get the win, inside the distance or grinding it out, unless Anderson can get him to walk on to something massive and knock him out.Â
Fighters Only Assistant Editor
When I think about the Silva vs Sonnen fight coming up on Saturday, I have to kick myself a little. It only feels like yesterday I was explaining to my flatmates that, â€˜Anderson Silva was the best fighter in the world.â€™ And how I couldn't comprehend how Sonnen was able to take him down and beat him up so easily. Safe to say, as MMA newbies, they were largely unimpressed by 'The Spider.'
Then the amazing happened. After four and a half rounds of being mauled, Silva wrapped a triangle choke around Sonnenâ€™s neck to win the fight. It was that very moment which confirmed Silva's greatness for me, and itâ€™s also the reason Silva will also win the rematch.
It makes sense to look at their last fight and believe Sonnen simply needs to do the same thing he did the first time, but not get submitted. But what if he can't get Silva down though? What's his plan B? There's only one way Sonnen can win this fight, but there are so many ways Silva can.
When they set foot in the cage, and the door closes, everyone knows what Sonnen is going to do. He tells us every time he speaks. However, the fact Silva is so unpredictable and also incredibly angry will be the eventual downfall of Chael P. Sonnen come Saturday night.
Staff Writer, Fighters Only Magazine
Â Rematches are usually difficult things to predict, unless of course the first meeting was a one-sided beat down. Except Silva and Sonnenâ€™s first fight was exactly that, and the guy who took the beating walked away the winner. So what, if anything, is going to be different when these two meet for a second time?
Anderson has already taken the best that Chael can dish out and it wasnâ€™t enough to beat him. Sonnen has not experienced Silvaâ€™s best offensive capabilities and, if his ribs were as badly injured going into the first fight as he says, weâ€™re sure to see a much better version of the Brazilian this weekend.
The biggest problem for the American challenger in this long-awaited rematch is that there isnâ€™t much he can do in this fight that he didnâ€™t do brilliantly in the first matchup, other than manage to keep his head out from between his opponentâ€™s legs for a full 25 minutes. Sonnen had the perfect strategy and an almost perfect performance against Silva last time round, and Anderson still got the better of him.
With so little room for improvement on Chaelâ€™s side, coupled with the fact the defending middleweight champion knows pretty much exactly what to expect on the night of the fight from his outspoken nemesis, it appears the odds are stacked in Anderson Silvaâ€™s favour.
I believe weâ€™ll see the best Silva weâ€™ve seen in a long time, and Iâ€™m picking him to retain his 185lb title with a TKO in the second or third round.
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