UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2 is just days away now and the wait is almost over for the fighters on the card and the fans clamoring to watch them. Tomorrow the fighters will step onto the scale and then all that’s left is for them to step into the Octagon inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
UFC 148 actually has 11 bouts scheduled on the card but you wouldn’t know it. The majority of the talk has been surrounding the night main event between the UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the only man to give him a run for his money, Chael Sonnen. The attention has been focused on these two for good reason though, it’s the biggest fight of the year thus far and one of the best, if not the best UFC rivalry to date.
The UFC has seen its share of rivalries over the years but as these one is happening right now many are jump to say the Silva vs. Sonnen rivalry is the “best ever”. A lofty claim when you think back to such classic rivalries like Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock or Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. So, as we entering UFC 148, is the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rivalry the best the UFC has seen?
Stephanie Daniels – While their rivalry is indeed a good one, it is not the best rivalry of all time. In my opinion, Shamrock/Ortiz is gonna take that spot. Who can forget the infamous press conference where Ken uttered the words “I’m gonna beat you into a living death!” ? At a time when the UFC needed some spark to kindle an ebbing flame of interest for a tiny, niche sport, Ken and Tito did work, and were instrumental in keeping the UFC alive. I just don’t see anything like that ever happening with Anderson and Chael. It was so amusing watching these two go back and forth, and it represents a big part of what made both these guys all time greats in the sport
Erik Fontanez – It’s hard to argue against Silva and Sonnen and their long-standing feud when considering the greatest rivalry in UFC history. Silva, a champion whose dominance hadn’t been tested by anyone since earning the title in 2006, seemed to be on easy street until UFC 117. That night at Oakland’s Oracle Arena changed everything.
Having been at the fight and witnessed Sonnen pound on the champion for the better part of four rounds, I watched in amazement as he delivered every promise he made in the trash talk he conjured up in pre-fight interviews. The other reporters and I looked at each other in disbelief after every round, saying things like, “can you believe this is happening?!” and “we’re going to have a new middleweight champ.” Of course, “The Spider” caught his prey in the triangular web, putting a stop to any victory dance Sonnen had planned.
Following the fight, Sonnen kept talking, even after being suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for elevated levels of testosterone in his pre-fight screening. Some find his antics comical, but Silva is far from amused. The champion has shown more emotion and irrationality than we’ve seen since he’s been in the UFC.
The most dominant champion in UFC history — a man whose track record should give him the utmost confidence — has an Achilles heel: “Sonnenism.” Sonnen gets under Silva’s skin better than anyone the champion has ever met in his career.
Rivalries like Tito Ortiz versus (insert fighter’s name or Dana White here) made headlines in the past, but Silva-Sonnen plays second fiddle to no other duo.
Jason Probst – I don’t think so. A lot will depend on the outcome of the rematch, namely, if Sonnen is able to finish the job he so aptly started only to lose it with scant time remaining. If he wins, it probably is, because you have an insanely marketable rubber match, in addition to Sonnen snapping the most impressive win streak in the history of the UFC. But if Silva wins – and I think the majority of pundits and experts would pick him to do so – it’s merely another interesting rivalry. Couture-Liddell still is the best rivalry in the history of the UFC for me.
The few not talking about the UFC 148 main event are reflecting on the career of the former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. In his 27th UFC bout Ortiz who will be fighting inside the Octagon for the final time in the UFC 148 co-main event. Before his trilogy fight with Forrest Griffin, Ortiz will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame Saturday afternoon at the Fan Expo.
When an athlete enters the Hall of Fame, like Ortiz, you start to look back at that person career as a whole and rank him amongst the greats of his or her sport. As he steps into the Octagon for one last time at UFC 148, the panel give their take on where to place Ortiz alongside other UFC greats.
Stephanie Daniels – Tito Ortiz was such a key component to the current success of the UFC, I would say he belongs in the Top 3, for sure. The success of events he’s been featured on is evident in the numbers, and if not for UFC 40, we might not even be sitting here today, discussing anything at all about the UFC. His smack talk, infamous walk out shirts, beef with Dana White (and just about everyone he crossed paths with), and consistent dedication to promoting the UFC at the most critical time in its history makes him a shoe in for the number 1 spot in my book.
Erik Fontanez – Tito Ortiz will go down as one of the most memorable fighters in UFC history. He belongs in the Hall of Fame (although I disagree with the selection process), but he is not the greatest fighter, let alone light heavyweight, the promotion has seen.
Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell are two that saw more success in a more talent-rich era of the UFC. Jon Jones and Rashad Evans have solidified their places at the top of the weight class, and are better all-around fighters. But it’s not his skill that’s getting Ortiz in to the Hall. The fact that he’s a pioneer for the company is what makes him Hall-worthy. He was the first to have the flamboyant attitude, the first to embrace the heel image, and one of the first identifying faces of the promotion. His value to the UFC is in the way he carried the company during the tough times before Zuffa, LLC took over.
Greatest UFC fighter of all time? Not even close. In fact, my wife refers to Ortiz as ”an overrated Huntington Beach resident.” Clearly she doesn’t think highly of his career. But she’s at most a casual fan and knows who Ortiz is. When you can reach the casual fan base for years, you’ve secured your spot in the Hall of Fame.
Jason Probst – Tito is definitely a torch-bearer and a key figure during the low ebb of the sport – he provided spark, color and charisma when the game really needed it. He also single-handedly created the persona of the self-promoting, sponsor-friendly fighter. Imitation is the highest form of flattery and what Ortiz did, many others mimicked. On a pure skill level Tito probably isn’t one of the top ten light heavies of all time but he was dominant enough to make five defenses and give the game life when it badly needed it
That’s it for this edition of the MMA Media Roundtable; make sure to follow the MMA Media Roundtable panel members on Twitter and check out their work as well.