UFC 148 was billed as the biggest match in UFC history and while some of that is promotional hype, this really felt like a huge event. Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen's rematch reached a population here in the United States that does not normally watch MMA and caused a level of energy not felt recently at UFC events.
UFC 148's main event lived up to all the hype. Anderson Silva proved to me that he is the best MMA fighter we've seen thus far. That all said, Silva owes a good deal of his future praise and legacy to Sonnen. Before Sonnen started up with his scripted verbal assault on SIlva, the UFC Middleweight Champion was a fairly unpopular fighter in North American and unknown in his home nation of Brazil.
Then Sonnen created his pro wrestling character that united those who disliked Silva and was so bombastic that he forced all those who didn't approve into Silva's camp. And when Sonnen proceeded to dominate SIlva for four rounds and then lost in dramatic fashion it helped really raise Silva's profile. It was the launching pad for Silva's current popularity. Silva went into his next fight with Vitor Belfort with his "Defender of Brazil" card in hand and then won over much of Brazil when he won by knockout. So while Silva will go down as one of the best, if not the best, Mixed Martial Artist in history, Chael Sonnen will likely be remember as the guy that brought out the best in Silva.
more thoughts after the jump....
- I won't say that Silva didn't try in the first round. He clearly tried to strike and clearly tried to stop the takedown but once on the ground Silva was more inert than normal. I've been critical of Silva's jiu jitsu for his inactivity, but he did not actively resist Sonnen on the ground. At one point Sonnen had an arm isolated to work for a submission and Silva did nothing to fight it off as Sonnen started to lock on a submission. It seemed to me in that moment Silva dared Sonnen to be great and he let the arm go. Sonnen's jiu jitsu coach, Vinny Magalhaes, went on record saying Sonnen lacked the confidence to finish submissions at times and I think we saw that here. It very much seemed like Silva, once taken down, wanted to see what Sonnen would offer that was different for their first fight. After the round Silva's corner said "Now the fight can start" so don't think it is crazy to think Silva was playing possum a little in the first round. I think he felt fairly safe under Chael, he knew that Chael doesn't hit hard enough to get a TKO and would not submit him.
- What the heck was Sonnen thinking throwing a spinning back fist? That spinning back fist goes on the list of all time stupid moves along side Urijah Faber spinning right into Mike Thomas Brown's right hand. Silva had already stopped a few takedowns and landed a few strikes, and when Sonnen flopped on to the ground the Champion's killer instinct took over. Little known fact Steven Seagal developed that knee strike while training in Thailand.
- The aftermath of the fight was a bit odd. It seemed to me that Silva throwing his arm around Sonnen was akin to a big game hunter posing over his kill for a picture. Silva then turned some Sonnen's digs around on him offering to have him over for a barbeque and having his wife cook Sonnen a steak, all while Sonnen looked throughly miserable.
- Speaking of odd endings, Forrest Griffin. That was awkward to say the least. First Forrest runs out of the cage and then they can't get him out of the cage. I think Griffin meant well, but clearly ended up highjacking Tito's big retirement moment. The fight itself was interesting but it seemed that Forrest won the first two round and Tito rallied to take the third round. Hats off to Tito for a great and historic career.
- Cung Le actually won a UFC fight. I've been a fan of Le's since seeing him on late night ESPN Classic wrecking American Sanshou guys in the early 2000s. I've never been too high on his MMA game, but Cote seemed content to fight in a way that let Le show off all of his striking skills. Say what you will about Le, but at the age of 40 he just got a UFC win against a guy who fought for a Middleweight title. Pretty impressive as a lifetime achievement for Le and likely the high water mark of his MMA career.
- Demian Maia and Dong Hyun Kim was a let down. Now clearly Maia is seeing his move to welterweight as a clean slate and is getting back to what paid his bills in the UFC, grappling. It paid off in a way as Kim hurt himself when Maia took him down, but it robbed us off from what would have been some fun grappling. Hope to see Kim comeback strong and that the UFC gets Maia back in the cage soon.
- I love a good body shot and Chad Mendes causing Cody McKenzie to fold in half with a right hand to the gut made me happy. Mendes was clearly going to win that fight, but he made it very clear that McKenzie doesn't belong in the cage with elite fighters. This fight really seemed to get the night started as there wasn't a lot of action before this fight.
- Mike Easton fought smart and clearly won. That said I think he gets a lateral step in competition instead of a step up as I think he still needs cage time to keep developing. He isn't ready to compete with Top 10 guys, so expect Easton to fight another mid-level guy at Bantamweight.
- Melvin Gulliard proved that he is still a solid upper level Lightweight and that he can avoid the submission attack of a BJJ black belt. I really feel that Gulliard was focused on just getting back in the win column to put this losing streak behind him, so he didn't go for broke for the knockout. He did show some nice positional escapes but only because he did get himself into trouble a few times. Not sure what this changes for Gulliard as he still seems to have a mental block when it comes to grappling.
- After that I thought Gleison Tibau won his match, but don't consider it a robbery. Constantinos Philippou looked solid and that eye poke was nasty. Shane Roller got the win, and showed off what he does well by riding John Alessio for two rounds, but didn't make me feel like Roller is progressing as a fighter. Rafaello Oliveira won, but it was very eh.