Every now and again Shawn M. Smith and Scott Sawitz get into long winded conversations about the minutia of MMA. And occasionally the subject changes into the big subjects of the day. With this weekend’s big main event being perhaps the biggest fight card of the year in UFC 148. We may have discussed it last on MMA 24/7 with Britain’s most eligible bachelor Will Cooling but we thought that more discussion was needed. Thus another in our “Epic Debate” series: Silva vs. Sonnen 2: Who you got?
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz, News Editor Inside Fights: The big story this week is that Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen are going to rematch for the UFC middleweight title. Probably the biggest card of the year, too, unless something bigger happens. And I kind of doubt that at this point at least. So the question remains.
Shawn M Smith, Editor in Chief Inside Fights: Which is?
Scott: Who you got?
Shawn Chael Sonnen.
Scott I have Anderson Silva … do you think he can do it again?
Shawn Here’s the thing: I’m not entirely sure. Sonnen is the Ali to Silva’s Frazier. He’s under his skin and the champ has already lost his cool and fought a vastly different fight one time because of his distraction. Blame the “hurt rib” or the phantom injuries that Silva seems to have every time he gives a poor performance. Simply put, he got outworked by Sonnen the first time. Sure, Sonnen hasn’t looked like the world beater since that fight and people can argue that he was pumped full of testosterone then, but he’s got more to prove. Everyone already considers Silva the best ever. He should be the consensus pick, no question. Sonnen needs this win to prove what he did the first time wasn’t a fluke.
Scott I tend to think that two rounds in that first fight are going to be what Silva studies the most: the 2nd and the fourth. The second was the worst round he fought because he lost his cool; he came out swinging much more wildly and not looking for his counter game. He wanted to throw down because he was frustrated and angry. Sonnen blasted him with that double and got him to the mat, where he stayed. The fourth Silva won a HUGE portion of that round. People tend to forget how much he dominated Sonnen on his feet in that round; Sonnen eventually got him to the ground but he got that first bit of confidence that he could pull the win off somehow. He may be quite angry but Silva is an insanely smart fighter; he nearly stuffed Sonnen on his feet in that fourth round and he can duplicate that this time. I think he makes that adjustment; Yushin Okami tried following the same plan as Chael and took a beating (and a loss) for his efforts. I’m not sure if Silva will win but I can’t quite justify picking Chael to win; it feels a lot like Penn/Edgar 2 in that regard for some reason.
Shawn Hold on, you mean to tell me that you think that Silva will be LESS angry this time? He said he was going to break Chael’s teeth. He wants to really, really hurt this dude, not just win. If he comes out early and dominates, who is to say that he doesn’t do what he did against Demian Maia? He could come and just toy with his food. The problem is that Chael Sonnen sees Anderson Silva the same way. For all the hyperbole, Sonnen feels 100% positive about one thing: he beat up the World Champion for 23 minutes and then made a mistake. Yes, that’s all that matters at times in this sport, it can be cruel and elegant at the same time; poetic like their last battle. Sonnen, well, he made other errors like the ones you mentioned in round 4 of the first encounter, but consider him just as angry as Silva is and if he lets that fuel his fight and not distract him, he’ll have quite the battle on our hands.
Scott The difference in the Maia fight and this one is that Sonnen isn’t intimidated or scared by Silva, especially now. Silva may talk a big game, and be legitimately angry, but he was also the same way with Vitor Belfort as well. And for all 90 seconds of that fight (or so) he was calm and collected. Sonnen gets under his skin but he’s also not going to be intimidated or wait to engage; it’s why the matchup is so intriguing. The anger is also a new thing, too; it’s not like he’s been actively ticked off all the time and saying he wants to kill Sonnen. I attribute a good chunk of it to just fight hype; Silva wants to make a statement and people don’t think “Don’t talk, train” isn’t quite up to par with everything Sonnen has said. Unfortunately when it’s an athlete against a pro wrestler wannabe in smack talk the wrestler usually wins. So I think he finally just said in public what he’s been saying in private: I am going to hurt this guy.
Silva’s style also thrives on the counter punch and gauging distance; he’s already been in the cage for 23 minutes with Sonnen and knows things like how he moves when he shoots his double. It’s different from seeing it on tape to having someone actually do it on you.
Shawn You’ve got a point. Silva is willing to hurt Sonnen now, which he wasn’t able to do in the first fight. I don’t mean stun or disorient him. I mean that he will legitimately go for the kill this time. Does he make a mistake in the process? I think so. Listen, his striking and BJJ are amazing. He’s among the most dynamic fighters of all-time (hell, I already called him the best) and as long as Sonnen stays in front of him, he’s got a chance to add to his collection of highlight reel knockouts. There’s got to be that fear in Sonnen’s mind that this might be his last shot to step in and pry a title out of someone’s hands as he fell short in WEC as well, let alone his heated rival. He’s just one punch away from being irrelevant, so you’ve got to think that he uses the old Randy Couture handbook and gets Anderson to the ground early and often and hopes to God that he doesn’t get tagged in the process.
Scott I agree with everything you’re saying, and would include that Sonnen has an iron chin to boot, but the one thing Silva has going for outside of his abilities is a better corner than Chael. We underplay the importance of good coaching during a fight but I think it was the key to the first one. Anderson couldn’t adjust like he wanted to with the rib injury and Chael didn’t adjust on the ground. A good corner points out inbetween the fourth and fifth that Anderson was playing wrist control and bad things happen then.
Anderson was playing wrist control the entire night and it was only a matter of time before he caught something with the way Sonnen was playing around inside his guard. It’s the one thing I don’t think Silva gets enough credit for is how effective he is when someone is inside his guard. He made Sonnen sit low in there for a long time; you want to be high in someone’s guard if you’re not going to actively go for passes into side control or mount. A good chunk of this fight is going to be spent inside Silva’s guard, potentially, and Chael hasn’t shown he can handle someone effectively in that spot. It’s why he took half guard from Bisping and Stann for good chunks of time; inside full guard is where he’s always got caught. It’s the one thing Silva does well and I think his game plan is going to involve some sort of trap once Sonnen gets back Silva’s full guard again. The longer he’s there, and the lower he goes, the more deadly the Spider gets.
Tags: anderson silva, Chael Sonnen, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 148