At this point most MMA fans can agree that Anderson Silva is regarded as one of , if not the best pound for pound fighter to have fought in the UFC and subsequently all of mixed martial arts. Out of his 14 wins under the UFC banner only twice has he gone the distance, registering nine (t)kos and three submissions. Anderson’s rise to the top of the Middleweight division was about as fast and vicious as his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 5 in 2006 when he finished TUF 1 bad boy Chris Leben in under a minute. Leben was riding a 5 fight win streak after The Ultimate Fighter. The win convinced the ufc brass as well as the fans that Silva was ready to face reigning champ Rich Franklin. As the story goes Anderson Tko’d “Ace” in the first round utilizing Muay Thai that would make Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak anyone?) proud. Silva would continue this trend by defending his title 3 times before deciding to move up a weight class to 205lb. Silva would fight twice at light heavyweight with both fights ending in TKOs for Silva in a combined total of four minutes and twenty four seconds, Oh yeah and one of these opponents was the former light heavyweight champion. His next three title defenses were considerably different and would lead to criticism from the media, fans as well as Dana F’in White. Against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Damien Maia, the champion fought defensively; he appeared to be uninterested in the fight, like Brock Lesnar at a vegan buffet. Silva would win all three fights, but receive heavy disapproval for his lack of urgency and seemingly lethargic approach toward the once coveted Middleweight strap; Anderson seemed to need motivation to continue fighting at middleweight.
Chael Sonnen is a journeyman. He has been fighting professionally since 1997 compiling a total record of 27-11 that’s 3 more fights than Anderson and Chael is 2 years younger (unless you ask Chael in which case he thinks he is 28 and Silva is in his 40’s). Sonnen fought his way through many organizations, with the WEC in 2008 he avenged a loss to Paulo Filho “earning” him the WEC middleweight belt… if Paulo ever shipped it to Chael as promised (the bout was ruled a non-title fight after Filho missed weight…by almost 7 lbs). After the WEC evaporated into the cloud that is Zuffa, Sonnen naturally found a spot in the division, which at the time of his first UFC fight, was ruled by none other than Anderson Silva who had recently defended his title for the fifth time. After losing his first fight to Demien Maia, Chael compiled 3 wins in a row and impressed many with his skills in the cage. However, it was his skills out of the cage that made Chaels bid for the title seem more worthy. Sonnen is as charismatic as a used politician salesman and if you’ve heard his banter, than that last line would make sense. Chael talked his way into the list of challengers by convincing the MMA fans that Anderson was an ailment and Chael was the cure and he would serve as the new face of the UFC at 185lbs. He spoke and EVERYONE listened whether you were on his side or not. Including D.F. White who had been publicly critical of Silva for his lackluster performances in his last few title defenses, and the fight was on. Sonnen vs. Silva would fight at UFC 117. Chael had won the confidence of his boss and many fans through his voice and now all he had to do was prove it.
The fight began with Chael out striking the champion 51-2 in the first round. Sonnen surprised Anderson with his willingness to strike as well as to avoid being hit by the same Anderson Silva that had put out Forrest Griffin and caused Rich Franklin to have nightmares about being in a Thai clinch. Chael controlled the fight by taking The Spider down and continuously hitting him with strikes. For four rounds Sonnen controlled the fight, neutralizing Silva’s strikes and keeping him on the mat. The final round saw Silva back on the mat and Chael in his guard scoring points with every strike. Late in the fight Silva sunk in a loosely locked triangle choke in a moment of desperation. Chael tried to create space and wiggle out of the submission, when that failed he attempted to punch his way out of it. His attempts were unsuccessful as Anderson locked the hold and Sonnen was forced to tap with just one minute and fifty seconds left in the fight. During the fight Silva was thrashed and controlled for four and three quarter rounds but he still left with his championship and his record intact. Chael proved himself a worthy challenger for the belt and for twenty three minutes he was the best middleweight in the world.
After the event speculation arose about the health of Silva prior to the bout, rumors of an injured rib lingered and were never proven. Chael was disappointed though he continued to talk as if he was the new champion (according to Chael he is in fact the champion Anderson just has the belt). Required drug testing after the fight revealed that Chael Sonnen had an extremely high testosterone ratio and was subsequently suspended for a year (kind of). The suspension of Sonnen put a hex on what was an incredible performance against one of the greatest fighters of our generation. After serving his suspension Sonnen returned to action against Brian Stann at UFC 136, and Chael defeated the former marine with an arm-triangle choke in the second round. His next fight was at UFC on Fox where he defeated Michael Bisping (who replaced Mark Munoz) by unanimous decision to earn the right for redemption at Silva. Anderson defended his belt twice since the fight with Sonnen, first with a knockout of Vitor Belfort that will grace posters in little kid’s rooms for many years to come and then against his rival Yushin Okami scoring an impressive tko while almost avoiding getting hit at all.
Well, that’s how we got to this point on July 7, 2012 Sonnen and Silva will once again duke it out to see who is the middleweight champion (belt included). In my humble opinion the first fight between these two made both of them better: Anderson learned that what it feels like to be hit also, he cannot fight solely with emotion, Chael took him out of his game for four rounds. As for Chael, he learned (in my opinion) that game plans can win fights and in Chaels case his game plan for this fight started in the post-fight interview of his last fight against Silva, and probably won’t end until Anderson and Chael are both retired.
Thanks for reading. @sakurhombus