Note: I know that the fight isn't for 3 weeks, but I wanted to write this before any of the countdown/ hype videos came out, because those always sway my opinion (even if only slightly), and I wanted to give as unbiased analysis as possible. Also, this will be a long read, so let the feint of heart/ attention be forewarned.
With the upcoming MW title fight between "pound- for pound" stalwart/ striking dynamo Anderson Silva and trash- talking, conservative, grinding wrestler Chael Sonnen, I thought it prudent to put aside all the noise and fury that goes on before a big upcoming fight, and provide an objective analysis of both fighters. Obviously, alot has been said about Sonnen's extensive trash talk leading into the bout; equal amounts of ink have been spilled over Anderson's in- cage antics as well. I'm not here to discuss that, and I sincerely hope that the comments of this don't digress into a debate over any of that.
Anderson "The Spider" Silva: A man who needs no intro, Anderson has been considered one of the top fighters in the world, and is widely regarded to be the best in the world. After beating Demian Maia in an odd affair at UFC 112, Anderson cinched the extremely impressive title of the Champion with the most title defenses in UFC history; he also extended his record of holding the most wins in the Octagon.
Anderson is known for having some of the most spectacular finishes in the sport, largely due to his well- rounded skill set, his blazing muay thai skills, and flare for the dramatic. He has been submitted before and dominated from top position before though, and his takedown defense (while markedly improved) isn't entirely bulletproof, and has been exploited in the past.
Chael Sonnen: Standing as a polar opposite to Anderson, Chael is a "nose to the grindstone" wrestler, who generally employs a top control centric, Ground n Pound strategy. Chael has had many ups and downs in his career, and his historical downfall has been his submission defense; although he was an olympic alternate in Greco- Roman wrestling, Sonnen is generally known for using powerhouse double- leg takedowns, and wailing on his opponents from the guard/ half guard.
The Matchup: Stylistically, these two men serve as stark contrasts to eachother. Chael has shown to have decent fundamental striking skills (which he used to cruise to a decision victory in his 2'nd fight with Filho), but is succeptible to cuts, and is woefully outmatched standing against the striking wizard known as 'The Spider'. Anderson has laser precision with his strikes, and is extremely versatile- he has very fluid combos, can put power into any strike aimed at any target with all 8 points, mixes shots to the legs, body, and head very well, etc. All fights start standing, but Anderson likes to feel his opponent out standing, and Chael will waste no time trying for the takedown
Here's where it gets interesting- all of Sonnen's opponents know that he's going for the takedown, but few (if any) can stop it. Anderson has shown some good improvements in his wrestling- minimizing the amount of time spent on the ground against BJJ experts Maia and Leites, stuffing Hendo in the 2'nd round of their title unification bout, reversing Marquardt with a textbook switch, etc etc. However, Anderson hasn't faced a pure wrestler/ top control grinder with as much discipline as Sonnen since Okami (a fight in which Okami gained top control, prompting a frustrated Anderson to throw a fight ending/ DQ inducing illegal upkick); Silva was frustrated in the Yushin fight, and was taken down and thumped repeatedly by Hendo in the 1'st round of their clash. Andy was also taken down (by a sloppy, telegraphed ankle pick), mounted, and momentarily blitzed by Lutter. Chael will undoubtedly try to replicate this strategy.
The question is- will Sonnen be able to follow through with his intentions from this quote?
"As soon as Anderson tries to punch me, I'm going to stick my forehead in his chest, run him against the fence, pick him up, put him on the canvas and that's the end of that round. As soon as Anderson tries to kick me, I'm going to stick my forehead in his chest, run him into that fence, put him on the ground, that's the end of that round."
"I am five strike attempts by him away from being the UFC champion."
With 25 minutes of action, will Chael be able to take Anderson repeatedly and dominate from the top, without absorbing devastating shots standing or being submitted? Silva has the rare ability to end a fight in an instant, by capitalizing on the smallest mistake/ downfall, staying on his opponent, and using his extensive finishing skillset- he's shown that he can hurt opponents with strikes and finish with strikes/ subs, and he's even locked up people in subs and finished with strikes (the deadly elbows against Lutter). Anderson is very good defensively on the ground, and is quite good at getting up too.
Chael's fight with Marquardt stands out in my mind- as Sonnen was able to win a top control, GnP decision, and really layed a beating on Nate; however, he absorbed multiple big shots from Nate standing (including a flying knee that sliced him open) and nearly got submitted in the 1'st and 3'rd rounds with guillotine chokes. Instead of using technical BJJ skills to escape, Sonnen was able to gut it out and outlast Marquardt.
The two big questions heading into this fight are: 1) Will Sonnen be able to repeatedly take Anderson down and win a top- control decision, without getting clipped on the feet or ensnared by the crafty Brazilian's ground skills? and 2) Will Anderson be able to stuff enough takedowns to inflict significant damage on Chael standing, and will he be able to submit Chael?
I tend to think that Anderson will catch Sonnen at some point, maybe with a knee while Chael dives in for a shot (similar to the Carlos Newton KO), or maybe with a triangle from guard; maybe Andy stuns him on the feet and follow him to the ground ala Hendo. Granted, Sonnen very well could grind Anderson out for the full 25, but I have an anecdotal reason for believing that won't happen (to be explained in the comments section); I also think that 25 minutes is a long time for Silva to be able to catch Chael.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.