UFC 148: Silva vs Sonnen is the fight of the year
With the press conference and final training sessions over, the countdown to the middleweight rematch between champ Anderson Silva and challenger Chael Sonnen can now be counted in hours, and as those hours wane it seem the hyperbole builds.
Speaking yesterday at a media workout at the UFC training centre, play by play commentator Jon Anik called this fight, “the most anticipated rematch in the sport’s history.” His boss Dana White echoed is sentiment saying, “this is the one. This is the one that everyone’s been waiting for.”
I can’t argue with them.
Even if contest isn’t the back-and-forth, five round epic that it promises it to be, even if the fight ends with a quick stoppage or one-sided dismantling, this fight could make some amends for the tough year the UFC has been going through.
It’s not that 2012 has been a bad year for the UFC, it’s just that it’s not been the year that it could have been. Belfort against Wanderlei? Nope, injury. Lobard against Stann? Another injury. Junior dos Santos against Overeem? It turns out that one individual fighter isn’t allowed to have the same amount of testosterone in his body that you’d normally find at your average footy clubhouse.
The all heavyweight UFC 146 PPV was going to be the card of the year, but injuries and Overeem’s suspension left the card tilted, with the ‘styles-make-fights’ ethos of the UFC thrown out the window. The worst example of this being the title match between outgunned challenger Frank Mir being comprehensively out-boxed by champ Junior do Santos
Even the UFC 148 under card, which once promised Dominick Cruz against Uriah Faber for the bantamweight title and Michael Bisping against Tim Boetch possibly fighting for a title shot, has been dealt cruel injury blows. Strong replacements on the undercard- including Tito Ortiz’s final fight, again against Forrest Griffin, and a battle between Canadian title contender Patrick Cote and the always-entertaining, sometime movie star Cung Lee will help to make this the event that could right the UFC ship. This weekend however, it’s safe to say all eyes will be on the headline fight.
The title fight between Sonnen and Silva will be a rematch, after Silva submitted Sonnen two years ago at UFC 117. What was significant about that fight is that Silva, often acknowledged as the greatest fighter in MMA history, spent much of the fight on his back, being punished by the former wrestler, before managing an unlikely triangle choke from a disadvantageous position.
Also significant is Silva’s claim that he was fighting with damaged ribs and Sonnen’s subsequent suspension for PED’s, after returning an abnormal blood sample post-fight.
If Sonnen can produce the form he did two years ago and avoid calamitous submission attempts, he could become one of the UFC’s most marketable fighters. The well-spoken Republican has as much heel’s charm as anyone in the history of the organisation (with the possible exception of Brock Lesnar) and with the heavyweight and welterweight belts owned by foreigners, and Jon Jones finding it curiously difficult to engage with fans, Sonnen has the opportunity to not only become one of the most visible fighters in the sport, but also has the opportunity to tap into mainstream US consciousness.
If Silva loses, he becomes the ‘former great’. If he grinds out a win, his revered status remains what it’s been for many years, but it seems there’s even more at stake here.
After Sonnen made disrespectful comments about Silva’s native Brazil and Silva’s wife, the long time champ has uncharacteristically claimed that he won’t just be fighting for a win, he’ll be fighting for blood, furthermore adding that he’ll be breaking Sonnen’s bones, and forcing him to swallow his own teeth this weekend.
If Silva follows through with his threats and dominates and tortures Sonnen (as he has before, against the hopelessly outmatched Damien Maia), Silva becomes an almost mythical figure, who can summon such disciplined rage and skill when needed that not even the second best middleweight fighter in the world can stand near him.
At the press conference earlier in the week, Sonnen did what Sonnen does, clowning around, mocking his opponent, filling the attendant scribes’ columns with fantastic rhyme and pun, and Silva did what he does, replying answers with simple deflections and essentially explaining that all the questions asked will be answered on Saturday night.
But when the pair were called to face each other for the photographers, the usually boisterous Sonnen wouldn’t look at his opponent, and the normally disciplined Silva acted like a school bully, pushing his forehead into his opponents nose, and even whispering an unintelligible threat into his Sonnen’s ear. Perhaps both men understand what’s at stake.
It’s hard to predict what’ll happen in the octagon on Saturday, but I’d be surprised if it’s not a fight that people will remember.
If you can’t get in front of the PPV this weekend, make sure you check out my live cage-side blog of the whole main card here this Sunday.
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