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MMA - UFC 148: Silva vs Sonnen 2
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Anderson Silva (31-4) vs Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
In the summer of 2010 these guys met in a title fight. That night the challenger, Chael Sonnen, fought the best fight of his life. He fought the perfect fight for 23 minutes. He then made the same mistake he?s made over and over in his career, and Anderson Silva caught him in a perfectly executed submission.
Fast forward two years and now we?re in the same spot we were before. Anderson Silva is still the middleweight champion, and Chael Sonnen has seemingly willed his way into another title shot. Both men have fought two more times since the first encounter, and while Silva has had the more spectacular finishes in both fights - thank you, Steven Segal -, Sonnen has beaten two highly regarded middleweights in his own right.
Sonnen again has launched an extremely personal verbal war that literally only he is capable of starting, with the champ only recently deciding to fire back. Most of this is just trying to sell the fight - I?m sure Silva enjoys the revenue from these PPV?s that Sonnen?s mouth helps sell - but you can tell these two truly dislike each other.
As far as game plan goes for both fighters, we pretty much know what we?re going to get. Silva uses range and timing better than just about anyone in the business - in range he?s a notch below Jon Jones for obvious reasons - to keep guys at bay and pick them apart on the feet. I don?t know if I?ve ever seen a more effortless and accurate striker than Silva. He moved up a weight class at one point just for fun to take on the former champ Forrest Griffin.
Silva literally toyed with the much bigger and stronger Griffin for about half of a round before knocking him out with a fall-away jab. It was almost comedic. Oh yea, aside from being able to beat any man in the game standing up, he?s also a skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. No big deal.
Sonnen?s game is largely based off of a decorated wrestling background. He?ll use a very basic standup attack to do juuuuust enough to get in position to fire off a power double and get his opponent to the ground. Once he gets an opponent on the ground, he?s skilled and experienced enough to keep them there, do damage, and grind out a win. That?s where Sonnen?s the best; the problem is that also how he always loses.
In his 11 career losses, eight of them have come by submission. The last five in a row have come that way, and each submission has been because Sonnen gets careless in his opponent's guard. He takes his man down, sees red and just focuses in on delivering punishment. But when Sonnen gets those blinders on, he pretty much ignores - or just doesn?t respect- the basics of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and forgets that his opponent has arms and legs that can used to make Sonnen quit. This is how Silva beat him last time and to me that was Sonnen?s last REAL shot at winning the title.
Most rematches with this kind of hype rarely live up to the billing. Will this one? I don?t know, it depends on who you?re rooting for. In the last two years, Silva has seemed to rediscover that killer instinct that made him so popular when he burst onto the scene, and I just don?t think Sonnen can fight the perfect fight AGAIN. I think Silva underestimated Sonnen just a bit in that first fight and he?ll be much better prepared this time around. Silva takes a round or two to find Sonnen?s timing, and the champ ends this fight with a third round TKO to keep his belt.
Forrest Griffin (18-7) vs Tito Ortiz (16-10-1)
Ahhh, yes ... the other rematch of the night. Except this is the one that no one actually cares about other than the families of the two parties involved. Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz have actually fought twice before; both men earning a win so far. They?ve also each threatened to retire if one loses to the other. I think the perfect solution is a draw, and they both ride off into the concussion-riddled sunset to call it a career.
In all seriousness though, both fighters have a very particular style that can be entertaining in spurts. Griffin used to be known for being able to absorb ridiculous amounts of punishment only to keep coming forward and battling. Tito Ortiz used to be known for absolutely dominant wrestling and a wicked ground-and-pound attack that he used to control the 205-pound belt for years.
The problem is, both guys USED to be known for these things. The skills of both men have deteriorated to the point where they are both basically just names and faces that fans from years ago can recognize. At this point, all we can hope for is that both guys swing for the fences for 15 minutes and make it fun for everyone before the main event.
I?m going to say that Forrest Griffin wins a split decision, that Tito Ortiz retires - again - and everyone is happy.
Cung Le (7-2) vs Patrick Cote (17-7)
This fight should be an absolute battle. Both fighters are known for their standup game, but both have intriguingly different styles. Looking at Cung Le?s record, you wouldn?t think he has all that much experience compared to a veteran like Cote, who has 11 fights in the UFC alone. But Le?s been around for a while - to quote Mike Gundy ?HE?S A MAN, HE?S 40!!.
Before MMA, Le was essentially a living legend in San Shou and kick boxing, having never lost a professional bout in either sport. His background is evident when he fights, too. He?s constantly throwing unorthodox kicks and knees from angles and distances that most fighters wouldn?t even think about trying in a live fight. Le used all of his experience outside the cage to become the StrikeForce middleweight champion in only his sixth professional fight.
Patrick Cote is a guy who has some success in the UFC to counterbalance the recent setbacks he?s had. Cote is back after being cut from the organization nearly two years ago, and he?s rebounded nicely with four straight wins for other promotions.
Cote is the type of fighter you?d describe as a ?bruiser?. He swings for the fences at every opportunity, and rarely is he in a boring fight. Lately, Cote?s started using wrestling just a little bit more to control fights, but I think once he gets in the ring with a wild striker like Le, he?ll be sucked back into his old style of fighting, and everyone should be happy about that.
I think the fight goes into the third round with both men landing big, in constant exchanges. But ultimately, Cung Le lands one of signature kicks and ends this fight late for a TKO win.
Dong Hyun Kim (15-1-1) vs Demian Maia (15-4)
This fight is a matchup between two guys who are masters at their craft, and whoever can play their game the longest wins this fight.
Kim is a super tough judo black belt who up until running into the Carlos Condit buzz saw, hadn?t lost in his first 14 professional fights. Kim uses that judo background to wear his opponents down and grind out ugly wins, and only in one of his seven UFC victories has he finished his opponent. Kim?s shown an improving standup, but his bread and butter is always going to be getting in close to his opponent and using those perfectly-timed trips to get his guy to the mat where his top control is dominant. For most guys, once Kim has you on the ground, he?s keeping you there plain and simple.
Maia is a black belt of another kind. He?s one of the most decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu guys in all of MMA and has shown how well the style can translate over into the cage before. The first five of Maia's opponents in the UFC all submitted to his grappling skills, and he?s one of the few fighters who can threaten his opponent with a submission no matter what position he is in on the mat.
Maia has hit a skid recently where bigger, stronger wrestlers have shown they can smother him for long enough to frustrate him and neutralize his biggest strengths. Like most pure Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters, his standup is slow to progress and that, along with the recent skid, has forced him to move down a weight class.
This one can go either way because if the weight cut isn?t too much for Maia, I think his style is tailor-made to submit a guy like Kim who is constantly exposing his neck and arms in his opponent's guard. But if the cut is too much for Maia, Kim will wear him down and grind out his usual decision victory. I think Maia weathers the weight cut just fine and pulls off a victory in this one.
Chad Mendes (11-1) vs Cody McKenzie (13-2)
I actually like the prospects of this fight a lot. Mendes is a guy coming off his first ever loss in brutal fashion to the 145-pound champion Jose Aldo, while McKenzie is a guy - last seen looking like a background actor in the one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - who is trying to prove he?s more than just a one trick pony in the ring.
Chad Mendes is like everyone else who seems to come out of the Team Alpha Male camp: a stocky wrestler who sets a relentless pace, strong takedowns and a love for throwing overhand rights. Like his mentor Urijah Faber, Mendes fell to Jose Aldo in ugly fashion, but Mendes still looks to have a bright future in the 145-pound weight class.
He?s got a solid and improving standup game, his takedowns are top notch and his submission skills are coming along. The bottom line is that Mendes is a really well-rounded fighter for how young he is, and to already have a title fight under his belt, regardless of the outcome, speaks volumes for his potential at this point.
Cody McKenzie is a strange dude, no doubt. If you passed him on the street, there?s no chance you?d guess he was a fighter. I?d be more inclined to think professional hipster or artist of some kind. Aside from standing out appearance wise, McKenzie has a particular skill that served him very well throughout his career so far, and even during his run on The Ultimate Fighter.
McKenzie has one of the filthiest guillotine chokes on the planet, and 12 of his 13 professional wins have come from that guillotine choke. Recently, he?s shown that if he can?t sink that choke in on a takedown attempt than he?s likely getting outmuscled on the ground and submitted himself. McKenzie really needs to add another weapon to his arsenal if he wants to improve his standing in the organization.
This fight bodes really well for Mendes in the end. I like McKenzie, but Mendes trains every day with Urijah Faber, who has one of the strongest guillotines in the game, and Mendes will be able to fight that off should McKenzie go for it. I actually think Mendes chooses to keep this one standing though, and beats McKenzie up for 2-plus rounds before finishing him in the third.