Friday, July 6, 2012

UFC 148 Preview: Silva-Sonnen II

It is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a certain class of person in fighting sports: the Promoter class-extraordinaire.

These people could make an event draw simply by opening their mouths. It doesn't matter what actually happens - what matters is that you think anything can happen.

With Floyd Mayweather in Clark County's control, two people actively seem capable of making that happen: AJ Lee in WWE and Chael Sonnen of UFC.

I could talk about AJ for quite some time, but you all will have to settle for the photo(s) in this blog and connecting the commentary to her. Today is about Sonnen and how UFC 148 has been sold.

I watched the Countdown to UFC 148 special (first time in a while I've watched a Countdown) and can honestly say that my interest for the UFC World Middleweight title rematch between Anderson Silva (C - 29-4) and Sonnen (27-11-1) piqued even more simply by hearing the two talk.

A lot of people are thinking of Sonnen as the 'heel' in this circumstance, but I don't really subscribe to that theory. I mean, yes, he did insult Silva's wife and home nation. That said, though, as much as he dominated the fight, it's pretty rude for Silva and trainer Ed Soares to act as if a rematch was beneath them.

Sonnen did what he needed to in order to get the rematch we all wanted, and he's hyped up the fight the way any good promoter would. He's not a heel; he's just a master of psychology and hype. (Kind of like another small girl who is dominating USA and Syfy's airwaves?)

Anyway, I really don't need to waste anymore time hyping this fight (clearly) so let's discuss the match.

Once again, this is a chance for an elite wrestler to establish dominance over so many other styles. Sonnen's stand-up game is not something to be taken lightly, and he can offer some legitimate jiu-jitsu; however, what he plans on using is his A-game: Wrestling.

Sonnen is a former Division I wrestler and was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic team in Greco-Roman wrestling. As such, I expect Sonnen to be able to dictate where this fight will take place, just like last time.

That said, what Silva lacks in wrestling he makes up for in being able to fight on every plane of the Octagon. Silva is a Tae Kwon Do black belt, as evidenced by his use of a snap kick to KO 1 Vitor Belfort. He also, however, is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (contrary to Sonnen's claims) and a black belt in Judo.

While Judo is not ideal to match against a wrestler, it does give Silva some takedown defense. More importantly, being a legitimate striker and grappler means that Sonnen cannot stop looking for attacks no matter where he is.

Still, despite being disadvantaged in terms of credentials, Sonnen has proven that he can hold his own. In their first fight, Sonnen was able to keep Silva from becoming overbearing while standing, holding him at an ideal distance to shoot in for takedowns.

At the same time, when he was on the ground, Silva was unable to be a factor for four rounds, and only suffered when he let Silva have 20 seconds of uncontested wrist control - something even a moderate BJJ fighter could take advantage of easily.

The X-Factor here is going to be Sonnen's ability to get in Silva's head vs. Silva's motivation.

One thing Silva cannot deny is that Sonnen has forced him to get angry in a way he never has been. I had never heard Silva talk about breaking his opponent's limbs until this fight, and one has to question whether Silva is thinking clearly for this fight.

But Sonnen has to be concerned as well. Many of Silva's fights have looked lazy over the past few years. He either wins quickly or appears disengaged while he drags out a decision. This go-around, Silva sounds legitimately motivated, and that should be a concern for not just Sonnen, but the entire division.

Overall, if I had to score the five main categories: Striking, Grappling, Clinch/Takedown, Experience and X-Factors, I'd go with this:

Striking: 10-9 Silva

Grappling: 10-9 Silva

Takedown/Clinch: 10-8 Sonnen

Experience: 10-9 Silva (WAY more big fights and a laundry list of title defenses outweighs Sonnen having more fights)

X-Factors: Sonnen 10-9

Total: 47-47 Draw

Of course, I'm not a complete wuss, so I am making a pick. Given how close this fight could be, I wouldn't bet on Silva at -240; however, I wouldn't pick Sonnen at +280 unless you really felt strong about him winning.

When it's time to fight, I expect Silva's advantage in stand-up to be more pronounced, and for his takedown defense to be improved. Sonnen will still make this fight go a few rounds, and he may be leading on the card, even.

All of it considered, though, I am taking Anderson Silva to retain by 3rd-round KO.

This time around, there will be a definitive winner - which is the exact opposite of how the CM Punk-Daniel Bryan WWE Title feud will go. Where there was clarity once, the small-yet-gorgeous-yet-destructive shadow that is AJ will hang over next Sunday's match.

Co-Main Event: Light Heavyweight Bout: Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz III

These men will both be Hall of Famers soon enough (Ortiz will tomorrow!) and deservedly so.

Griffin pioneered the Ultimate Fighter route to success. His win against Stephen Bonnar sparked the UFC's mainstream success, and he is one of only two TUF winners to become World Champion.

Ortiz remains with the longest UFC title reign of all time, he was a TUF coach, and his feud with UFC President Dana White for years was well-known.

It only is fitting that Ortiz will end his career by ending a trilogy with rival Griffin. Ortiz represents pre-evolution UFC and Griffin represents the spark of that evolution.

Both men will be retired soon, but not tonight. I look at Griffin's game as more well-rounded, however, and have him winning by decision.

Rest of the Main Card

Middleweights: Cung Le v. Patrick Cote - Le by KO 1.

Welterweights: Dong Hyun Kim v. Demian Maia - Kim by Submission (Round 2)

Featherweights: Chad Mendes v. Cody McKenzie - Mendes by Decision

Bantamweight: Ivan Menjivar v. Mike Easton - Menjivar by KO 2

I have truly been looking forward to this card. I needed something to get myself amped for fighting besides the strangest love quadrangle ever. (Seriously, a mountain of DAP to AJ for owning this WWE Money in the Bank hype!)

Everyone enjoy!

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