The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada will once again host the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization as Zuffa presents UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II on Saturday night. Opening the card is a bantamweight match between “The Hulk” Mike Easton (12-1) and “The Pride of El Salvador” Ivan Menjivar (24-8), proceeded by former top 145lbs. contender “Money” Chad Mendes (11-1) versus TUF alum “AK Kid” Cody McKenzie (13-2). Welterweights “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (15-1-1) and Jiu-Jitsu expert Demian Maia (15-4) will follow the 135ers with Cung Le (7-2) and “The Predator” Patrick Cote (17-7) holding the anchor position. The co-main will see Forrest Griffin (18-7) face “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (16-10-1) for the third time in each man’s storied career and headlining the Pay-Per-View card will be a rematch that nearly everyone in the MMA world has been eagerly awaiting for nearly two years: “The Spider” Anderson Silva (31-4) against Chael Sonnen (27-11-1).
At First Glance: As has become par for the course, Chael Sonnen has talked enough crap leading up to this fight to fill the bed of a Cat 797 rock truck. He has called Anderson Silva every name in the book, slandered his family, his nation, his race, and his reputation. Needless to say, the champion is pissed. On top of the additional animosity that Sonnen has built, Silva still has to regain the piece of his invincible persona that Sonnen stole in their last meeting. When the two first met, no one in the UFC had come even remotely close to defeating “The Spider”. Then Sonnen claimed that he would put Silva on his back and punch a hole in his face and did exactly that for 23 minutes and five seconds of their 23:10 bout. Silva is still seen as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but the memory of the beating he took from Sonnen can only be erased by dominating the Team Quest product in the rematch.
In Depth: The objective analysis of this bout differs very little from the breakdown of their first meeting. Sonnen’s wrestling is far beyond anything Silva has a chance of stopping when it comes to clinch work and takedowns. In their first fight, Sonnen scored takedowns at will, fought off numerous submission attempts, and outstruck the best stand-up fighter in the world 320-64, 89-29 in strikes that caused significant damage. What saved Silva’s title reign was his Jiu-Jitsu game. Silva threw sweep and submission attempts constantly and though they were rarely successful, they prevented Sonnen from finishing him on the mat and eventually pulled the victory from the jaws of an embarrassingly one-sided defeat. There is no doubt Silva dedicated his training camp to preventing a repeat. He will have to stay highly mobile and throw more counter-strikes as Sonnen closes for the clinch if he wants to work his stand-up.
The Wild Card: The variables in this bout are far more numerous than the raw breakdown. Things to be considered are the burning need Silva now has to definitively put Chael Sonnen in his rear view mirror, the possibility that Silva, who had been cruising through opponents, simply underestimated Sonnen the first time, and Silva’s additional training since that time. However the biggest variable is Silva’s ability to handle aggressive opponents. Since he came to the UFC, the majority of his opponents have given him a respect that bordered on fear, those that didn’t, exposed his flaws before he eventually overcame them. “Hendo” Dan Henderson (29-8) put Silva on his back, advanced position, and landed 41 strikes in a dominant first round where he aggressively pursued Silva. UFC washout “The Serial Killer” Travis Lutter (10-6) also embarrassed Silva in the first round prior to gassing out in the second. This was also mainly due to the fact that Lutter came at Silva hard and forced the champ to fight on his terms. That was also the case with Sonnen in the first match. He got in Silva’s space and forced him to fight on his terms at his pace and Silva crumbled. If it is truly an inability to take control of the bout from a fighter who shows no respect for his abilities, Silva is in serious trouble.
The Verdict: They say history repeats itself and it will likely be true on Saturday. Sonnen will come out of the gates and show Silva absolutely no respect and will push the pace, forcing the champion to fight his fight. If Silva simply looked past Sonnen before, the counter KO will be quick and vicious. However, in the last fight, Silva overlooked Sonnen five times. Each new round was a chance for Silva to “take him seriously”. Silva’s Jiu-Jitsu is still a dangerous ace in the hole as Sonnen has been somewhat easy to submit in the past, but a fighter as cerebral as Sonnen will likely be on the lookout for it in the second meeting. Sonnen via Unanimous Decision