Everything has changed, and everything is the same.
After spending an inordinate amount of time surmising how a Silva-Sonnen rematch might play out, that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn. Everyone’s seen the first fight by now, so let me get right into … wait, you’re telling me that there’s someone out there calling themselves an MMA fan that HASN’T seen Anderson Silva fight Chael Sonnen in Oakland? For real?
Okay, a quick crash course. Chael Sonnen shattered the record for “most trash talked before a fight” in the build up to this one. In the cage, he was well on his way to backing it up, as he scored takedowns and battered Silva’s head repeatedly against the canvas, even wobbling him with a left hook at one point. However, Anderson threw up a hail mary triangle, and that was all she wrote for Sonnen, who tapped out for the umpteenth time in his career.
(This was undoubtedly one of the craziest moments in UFC history, but my thoughts were conflicted. At first, I was like everyone else, hooting and hollering “What a comeback! What a moment! WHAT AN ENDING!!” Later, when I really gave it some thought, I realized that this was an odd reaction to have. I mean, it was Chael Sonnen! Was I really supposed to be blown away that CHAEL SONNEN tapped out? If your answer was “yes”, well … let me just inform you that somewhere, Jeremy Horn is cackling in delight.)
Regardless, it’s the perfect storm for a rematch: one guy is a walking gimmick with a clear way to victory that he’s already demonstrated in spades. The other is the best fighter in the world, someone who hasn’t lost in years, and someone who came the closest to losing against the walking gimmick that insulted him, his countrymen, and possibly his sexual preference.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to breaking the first fight down, and they both involve making excuses for whoever you were rooting for. Allow me to become insufferable for a second …
* in Chael Sonnen superfan voice* “He beat him up for 23 minutes! He took him down at will, smothered his face, choked him with his forearms, landed tons and tons of punches (varying from “really irritating” to “potentially damaging”), and then Anderson got lucky and secured a half assed triangle armbar. How does this mean that he won the fight? That’s sissy BS! It’s rinse and repeat for the gangster from West Linn in the rematch!”
* in Anderson Silva superfan voice * “Anderson was hurt! He couldn’t move as fluidly as he usually does because his ribs were injured. In the rematch, he’s going to KILL Chael! He’ll move around, start his dance routine, land outlandish strikes, and probably guillotine Chael when he desperately shoots in. BRING CHAEL ON!!”
Once you wade through the subjective nuthuggery, you’ll find that both of these viewpoints have merit. Chael is going to try to do the exact same thing he did the first time, minus the part where Anderson controlled his right wrist for a solid 30 seconds before throwing up that triangle. On the flip side, I somehow doubt that Anderson’s gameplan is to see how many punches he can take before pulling a submission out of his ass.
Much has been made about Chael Sonnen and his use of TRT, which earned him a one year suspension. Some people consider that “juicing”, and that said “juicing” is the reason he did so well against Silva. Personally, this idea seems misguided to me. If you believe that Sonnen looked so awesome because he was taking testosterone, then why is it that, since his overall body mass has increased (and it has, by a ton), he’s looked more and more pedestrian? Why did he just pull out a split decision squeaker over Michael Bisping to earn the right to rematch Silva? I don’t see it.
The reason Chael did so well was because he was in his face at the beginning of every round, not bothering to set anything up because he knew that Anderson loves time to measure guys up before he smokes them. He gave him no time, no space, no room to breathe. He could absolutely do that again, but this time, Anderson will expect it.
One surprise in the build up to this fight was the fact that Anderson finally stopped being coy and really ripped into Chael, not only as a fighter, but as a human being. Then again, Chael’s opinion of Brazilian’s isn’t much more flattering than Louis Farrakhan’s opinion of Jews. Nonetheless, it was nice to see Anderson say something about Chael that wasn’t standoffish. This thing is officially on.
So, how will the fight end up unfolding? Without getting into too much intricate detail, I think we’ll see a little bit of everything. Chael is a good enough wrestler to ground Anderson and pound on him, but I don’t see Ando taking nearly as much damage as he did in the first fight, simply due to the fact that he’ll know what’s coming this time. Look for a frenetic pace on the feet, as Chael isn’t known for wasting much time there.
The big difference here is that Anderson seems to still be improving, whereas Chael seems to be improving only in size. This might seem like a simplistic “X factor” to holler about, but wait until you see Chael. He’s a legitimate threat to miss weight. Even if he doesn’t, though, carrying all that extra muscle around won’t bode well for him if the fight goes into the later rounds. If it doesn’t, he has to contend with the dynamic movement and outright unpredictable striking ability of Anderson.
In short, Anderson will spend some time on his back again, but there will be a sense of urgency to either finish or get back up that wasn’t quite there at UFC 117. Get ready for a relatively quick demolition of Sonnen, followed by a really awkward post fight interview where Chael openly wonders if he should stick to his script. Anderson by TKO, round 2.