In the UFC 117 main event, current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (26-4, 11-0 UFC) will aim to erase all of the criticism of his inability to finish opponents or as many would say -- boredom of his opposition that has turned into lackluster performances that have peeved fans demanding the spectacular. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1, 3-3 UFC) will act as not only the challenger to Silva's title, but in the lead-up to the event -- he's been the epitome of an appealing opponent as he's criticized Anderson Silva's background, heritage, motivation, and accomplishments in mixed martial arts publicly to put some hype behind the clash. Silva has remained relatively quiet, but Sonnen's war of words has been one of the most profound displays of pre-fight trash talk we've ever seen in the sport.
And it's worked for the most part. A fight that, on paper, looks as if it will be a lopsided drubbing has become some sort of enigma. Are fans actually buying into the fact that Chael Sonnen has the opportunity to seize the title from Anderson Silva? Or is there more wishful thinking in their analysis versus actual objectivity? I'd vote for the latter.
Chael's history of bad striking and awful submission defense is one of the major reasons why some fans are giving him no chance in this fight. In pre-fight training video, Chael's striking looked spectacularly unimproved, and it probably gives us a sense of what Sonnen's entire gameplan revolves around -- his wrestling.
For Chael, wrestling could be the ultimate neutralizer as he is one of the best the division has to offer. His constant pace and relentless attempts for takedowns has the ability to wear out opponents, and he can produce some solid damage from top control. But history would suggest that his submission defense is lacking, and I'm not completely convinced that he's fixed those problems in his defense. Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, and Nathan Marquardt didn't exactly threaten from their backs like that of Brazilian jiu-jitsu aces Demian Maia and Paulo Filho. Anderson Silva has that ability, and his lengthy frame, something we normally don't talk about in the context of grappling in a fight, is going to be a real challenge for Sonnen to wade through.
The real question, however, is whether Sonnen can avoid Silva's fists and submission attempts long enough to be a pest consistently over five rounds. A lot of criticism of Silva's Abu Dhabi performance centered around the possibility that Silva just didn't take Maia seriously, and perhaps may have dogged his training a bit. Joe Rogan believed Silva tired from the heat and antics he was displaying in the cage that night, and it's possible that Silva isn't in the greatest shape for this fight either. Sonnen, undoubtedly, will be ready for five rounds, and there is a small chance Sonnen could outlast Silva's conditioning and do some serious damage late.
I don't want to kid myself into convincing people that Sonnen will win. I don't think the man stands a chance, but I never thought Mike Russow could knockout Todd Duffee after getting his ass kicked for two straight rounds. Things happen that we don't expect, and this could be one of those moments.
Silva has a huge advantage on the feet in this fight. Lengthy frame, reach, Muay Thai destruction, and speedy boxing are just a few of those advantages. The early moments of the fight will really determine where Chael can be effective. If he can gain the clinch often, keep Silva on the fence, and in danger of being taken down, there is a chance that Chael could ride out that strategy until the later rounds when Silva tires a bit. Unfortunately, I think Chael is going to eat a lot of punches coming in, and perhaps meet the unconscious world rather quickly if he isn't careful.
Remember, Silva knows Chael will be much more aggressive than other opponents. Chael has said it and Dana White basically stated that's the reason Chael was getting the opportunity. And what happened to past opponents who were aggressive? They were destroyed by Anderson Silva in spectacular fashion.
I'll be very intrigued by this fight if Chael can work the clinch early, but there is no way I can pick Sonnen to win. Too many weaknesses in his game with one huge strength that I believe Silva can nullify with his lengthy frame off his back. And to be perfectly honest, Chael's striking is so awful that he could very well get put down in the first minute of this fight. I'll take Anderson Silva via KO, but I'll definitely be rooting for Chael to make this interesting.