The time for talking is over. The UFC’s hype train rolls into station this weekend as one of the biggest grudge matches in the promotion’s history is set to unfold this Saturday night on Pay Per View. Live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada loud-mouthed Number One Contender Chael Sonnen will get another crack at history when he battles UFC Middleweight Champion and Pound-for-Pound Kingpin Anderson Silva.
The two originally met in a clash for the ages at UFC 117. The title fight was preceded by a slew of trash talk from the loud-mouthed challenger Sonnen who insulted Silva’s family, country, training partners and even his wife. He then went on to dominate the champion for four rounds, putting a beating on the champion like no one had ever done before. Then in the final round, it was all for naught as the champion pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history with a Triangle Choke that currently stands as the latest stoppage in a UFC Bout ever.
[adinserter block=”2″]Nearly two years have passed since that last bout, but many questions still remain. Chael Sonnen proceeded to fail a post-fight drug test and was subsequently suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission. He also suffered some legal trouble in the form of a money laundering conviction. Since his return to the cage he has notched a dominating victory over Brian Stann and a close Decision victory over Michael Bisping to earn another chance at Silva. The champion also has two wins since his fight against Sonnen; one a devastating front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort and the other a dominating TKO victory of Yushin Okami in his home country of Brazil.
When: Saturday July 7, 2012
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Live on Pay Per View as the headlining bout of UFC 148
The Fight: UFC Middleweight Championship Bout (5 x 5 minute rounds)
Fighter Profile: Challenger – Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen
Recent Fight History:
UFC on Fox 2 – Defeated Michael Bisping via Unanimous Decision at 5:00 of Round 3
UFC 136 – Defeated Brian Stann via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke) at 3:51 of Round 2
UFC 117 – Defeated by Anderson Silva via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 3:10 of Round 5
Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen is an American fighter from Milwaukie, Oregon. The 35-year-old is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from the University of Oregon and was also an Olympic Greco-Roman Alternate. Sonnen is currently ranked by many MMA publications as the Number Two Middleweight fighter in the world. Sonnen is a member of the Team Quest Gym training out of West Linn, Oregon.
Sonnen stands 6’1” tall and has a 74-inch reach. He is a southpaw, which contributed to some of his success in his first bout against the Champion at UFC 117. Sonnen prefers to use his wrestling in his bouts. He has excellent takedowns and is an absolute handful when in top position. He is constantly working to pass guard and is constantly throwing ground and pound and short elbows, which may not be the most damaging blows, but often accumulate damage and score points with the judges.
According to Fight Metric Sonnen lands an average of 3.24 Significant Strikes per Minute in his bouts and hits at a 44% accuracy. In their first fight, Sonnen was able to land more significant strikes against Silva than the rest of his UFC opponents combined, landing 320 of 434 Total Strikes. Sonnen is also one of the better defensive fighters at Middleweight statistically as he absorbs less than one Significant Strike per Minute on average, with a Striking Defense average of 68%. Perhaps the more important numbers for the challenger heading into this bout are his grappling statistics. Sonnen averages over 4 Takedowns per 15 Minutes of fighting time and lands his takedowns at a 62% average.
Fighter Profile: The Champion – Anderson “The Spider” Silva
Recent Fight History:
UFC 134 – Defeated Yushin Okami via TKO (Punches) at 2:04 of Round 2
UFC 126 – Defeated Vitor Belfort via KO (Front Kick and Punches) at 3:25 of Round 1
UFC 117 – Defeated Chael Sonnen via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 3:10 of Round 5
Anderson “The Spider” Silva is a Brazilian fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The 37-year-old is the reigning and defending UFC Middleweight Champion. Silva is a Muay Thai Striker who also has black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Tae Kwan Do. Silva is one of the most dangerous and most versatile stand up fighters in the world. He is currently riding a 15-fight winning streak and is currently ranked by all major MMA publications as the Number One Middleweight fighter in the world and is a consensus top 2 Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world, often sharing that rank with Georges St. Pierre.
Silva currently trains out of the Black House/Team Nogueira Gym in Curitiba, Brazil and Torrance, California. Silva is a former member of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, the former number one destination for Brazilian fighters. Silva stands 6’2” tall and has a 77.5-inch reach. He is a switch fighter, able to stand in both the southpaw and orthodox positions, but prefers to strike from the traditional Southpaw stance. Silva is one of the greatest counter punchers in the game, who can generate big power in even the smallest of bouts. One need only watch his bout against Forrest Griffin to see proof of that power. Silva also remains one of the best defensive strikers in the UFC, as his combined use of footwork and head movement along with shoulder rolls is second to none.
According to Fight Metric numbers Silva lands over 3 Significant Strikes per Minute on average during his fights. His striking accuracy is an astonishing 68%, which ranks him in the top three in the UFC for that category. His Strikes Absorbed per minute is also astoundingly low at 1.35, which would also be significantly lower if one were to exclude the results of his first bout against Sonnen. Silva is an underrated grappler and counter wrestler, but he has one of the best sprawls in the game. He is taken down less than once on average in a three round fight, with an average takedown defense of 69%. Silva rarely goes for takedowns or trips, but when he does, he is often very successful as he has nearly an 80% Takedown Offense (this could be slightly skewed as some websites fail to differentiate between takedowns, trips and knockdowns.)
Striking Offense and Power: Anderson Silva
Hand and Foot Speed: Anderson Silva
Striking Defense: Anderson Silva
Takedown Offense: Chael Sonnen
Takedown Defense: EVEN
Heart and Chin: EVEN
Fight IQ: Chael Sonnen
Submission Offense and Defense: Anderson Silva
Fight Breakdown, Analysis and Prediction
In their first bout Chael was able to absolutely batter the Brazilian champion everywhere the fight went. He landed more strikes and did more damage in the first round than most of Silva’s octagon opponents to date had accomplished. Silva’s striking game is based on the opinion that most of his opponents will be tentative and gun-shy when they are locked in the cage across from him. Sonnen showed the world what happens when you aren’t scared and simply charged forward behind punches that while not the most technically sound, definitely did their job and allowed him to close the distance quickly.
Another thing that worked against Silva in that first fight was Sonnen’s ability to switch stances regularly. Although both men are natural Southpaws, Sonnen switched constantly while swinging punches and this hampered Silva’s ability to keep distance between the two at a reasonable length. Silva is also an expert at using a variety of Muay Thai kicks and a strong job to keep his opponents at a range. This range is extremely important to Silva’s overall game, as it is what allows him to dictate the range and tempo of his bouts and use his reach to his advantage.
Another thing that might need to be considered heading into the bout is that last time Chael Sonnen talked a lot of trash and Silva largely ignored the comments. This time around Silva has stepped up to the plate and unleashed a few verbal lashings of his own, including a stunning conference call where he told the worldwide media that he was going to “break Sonnen’s teeth out of his mouth and break both his arms.” Clearly Sonnen has gotten the response that he wants, and it will be interesting to see if that changes the approach that Silva takes during the bout.
It’s going to be nearly impossible for Sonnen to stop the champion. His striking looked impressive in the last bout, but he doesn’t use it to stop the fight and doesn’t throw with the necessary commitment to land big power shots. To do so, would likely be folly because it would leave him open to big counters, which is basically Silva’s bread and butter. Sonnen is also unlikely to submit the champion, no matter what his coaches or training partners say. Silva has been submitted only twice in his career and that was many years ago. Since then he has handled a number of higher caliber submission grapplers than Sonnen; Demian Maia, Thales Leites and Travis Lutter all come to mind.
For Sonnen to win he’s going to need an exact repeat performance of the last bout, minus the fifth round meltdown. It’s hard to imagine that Silva is unable to make the necessary adjustments needed to neutralize Sonnen’s takedowns. For Anderson there are numerous paths to victory. He could likely knock Sonnen out, Submit him again or try to sprawl and brawl his way to a Decision win.
I expect that Silva has watched his first bout with Chael numerous times and has learned from some of the mistakes that he made. He will likely be more willing to switch stances and keep distance between Sonnen and his lead legs, which will make it more difficult for Sonnen to land successful takedowns. Silva is surely training with Lyoto Machida and is learning a few circling techniques, which should help him maneuver around the octagon more efficiently.
[adinserter block=”1″]Silva is too good of a fighter to get beat up again and he’s highly motivated for this bout. Silva’s striking will surely be more impressive this time around and his distance control will be something that he has worked on tirelessly. We’ve seen what the champion can do when he’s motivated. Destructions of Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort all serve as reminders to the kind of devastation Silva can bring when he’s on point.
I think Silva has too much pride to let Sonnen escape with another close fight, let alone a victory. Silva was likely overwhelmed by Sonnen’s willingness to engage in the first fight, for this one he’s probably expecting it and hoping for it. If Sonnen has not made some kind of adjustments, he’s likely going to be playing right into the Champion’s game. Silva sticks and moves for a round or two to get confidence, before he really starts bringing the heat late in the second round. Silva obliterates Sonnen in highlight reel fashion.
Prediction: Anderson Silva via KO in Round Three
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