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An In-Depth look at Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 2

Easily the most highly anticipated rematch in MMA history will go down on July 7th in Las Vegas, as Anderson Silva takes on Chael Sonnen. For every fan that’s going to be tuning into this fight, there’s a different opinion on how this rematch will be going down at UFC 148. So let’s light up a cigar, grab a tall iced coffee and really dig into this epic match-up.

The Lead-Up

Looking back at this fight, its honestly hilarious to think of how tides have shifted in the last two years concerning these two men. With Anderson Silva coming off one of the worst fights of all time in Abu Dhabi in his title defense against Demian Maia, folks were left confused about Silva’s motivation in the world of MMA. With whispers of retirement from fighting itself or transitioning into the world of professional boxing, it couldn’t be denied that Silva might have been walking into this fight a bit deflated and distracted. The same could not be said of the ultra-intense Chael Sonnen, whom wedged himself into a title shot with wins over top-tier Middleweights Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt. Even still, very few people believed that Chael Sonnen would stand a snowball’s chance in Hell against the greatest fighter of his generation in Anderson Silva.

In Their First Encounter

From the first several seconds of this fight, we knew that wasn’t going to be the typical Anderson Silva dance routine because Sonnen wasn’t going to give him an inch of space. Sonnen charged forward and went toe to toe with Silva, using his unorthodox Team Quest boxing to sneak shots past Silva’s guard while absorbing low and mid-kicks from the champion. Using this tactic, Sonnen was able to secure takedowns in the beginning of every round and work furious ground and pound on Silva while avoiding sweeps and submission from the Spider’s guard.

While Silva was able to hurt Sonnen standing later in the bout, the Oregon native was not to be denied his takedowns and continued his assault on the mat. This game plan carried him within minutes of an easy decision victory until a series of tactical errors found him in a triangle choke in the final round of the fight. With all options of escape denied, he was forced to tap out and Anderson Silva walked away with one of the greatest comebacks of all time and his title back around his waist.

Since The First Bout

With Anderson Silva’s hardest fight to date out-of-the-way, he took some much-needed time off to rest his body and have some minor surgeries done. Once reinvigorated, Silva took on fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort where he landed one of the greatest KOs of all time. Shortly thereafter, Silva found himself once again defending his title against Chael Sonnen student Yushin Okami, whom he dispatched with vintage Silva elusive movement and pin-point power strikes.

Chael Sonnen’s downtime has been filled, not with injuries, but with legal issues from within the sport and in his personal life. Being involved in a huge TRT trial on multiple occasions, Sonnen has found time to fight only twice in the last two years. While his first fight showed his dominant grappling in a submission win over Brian Stann, his bout with Michael Bisping showed exactly what happens if someone comes into the fight with the proper game plan. Bisping chose to allow takedowns from the wrestling guru, but wasted no time standing up from them, putting his gas tank against Sonnen’s.  While the fight went to a close decision in Sonnen’s favor, Bisping certainly showed the blue print on how to deal with Sonnen in the future.

How the Fighters Have Changed

The original Silva vs. Sonnen marked the end of the care-free Anderson Silva, which may be the best thing for him in the tail end of his career. Gone were the dance moves and goofiness of his fights with Demian Maia, Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, instead replaced with the calm lethality of his bouts with Franklin and Griffin.

As for Sonnen, he’s never changed, and that’s kind of the point with him. He’s always been a serious grinder that pushes at high-pace and gives no respect to his opponents. Sometimes it works great, and sometimes he’s hustled, but no one gets an easy fight with Sonnen.

Anderson Silva UFC134 poster 271x200 An In Depth look at Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 2How Silva Could Win

Silva’s best advantage here is a tremendous sense of range. If used properly, Silva can keep himself as far away from Sonnen as possible to stretch the wrestler’s shots, and allow him amble time to land hard counters with his hands. Sticking to boxing rather than kicking will keep him firmly rooted to the floor and allow him to sprawl and escape in situations where he was caught by Sonnen in the last bout.

While the submission saved the day in the last bout, people tend to forget that Silva was working a submission game the entire fight and only nailed it when Sonnen got careless. As such, I think Silva needs to take a page from Bisping and just avoid the entire ground game entirely, instead focusing all of his energy on avoiding or standing up from takedowns, rather than looking for the submission. In doing so, he’ll cost Sonnen a great deal of energy that will make him ripe for a finish any time Silva gets space.

How Sonnen Could Win

Considering Sonnen was a minute and a half from walking away with a 50-43 decision last time, it’s hard to argue against trying for a repeat performance. Sonnen and coach Matt Lindland both have a keen understanding of the rules of MMA, and have played this to the fullest in their careers. While some might consider phantom taps, smothers and dropping a knee on an opponent’s hands to be illegal, they’re not technically so and are therefore fair game if you’re looking to play to win. One aspect of MMA that both men have down to a T is to keep extremely busy from top position. This forces the action and keeps the referee from interfering with the fight, allowing one takedown to carry Sonnen to a dominate round.

It’s this activity that Sonnen could push to the next level and work towards a finish on Silva. At times in the last fight, Sonnen was content to hunt for submissions or work ineffective shots just to keep busy.  By mixing in heavy knees to the body and more elbows, Sonnen can inflict far more harm on Silva than with his busy punches alone.  The more energy Sonnen can sap out of Silva, the less likely he is to mount an offense or stop Sonnen from implementing his own game plan.

How It Plays Out

There are two things I want to bring up to set the tone for the end of the segment:

1. I was the only MMA Analyst to predict Sonnen would win the first fight.

2. I don’t think Sonnen can win this second bout.

The critical element here is that Sonnen has lost the surprise factor. Right off the bat in the first fight, Silva was starting to play his games in the cage with an opponent he didn’t believe was at his level.  Using his wing chun hand moves and odd angled kicks, Silva was setting up another five rounds of playful sparring when he ate a one two and hit the canvas. Even so, it took him three rounds to figure out that he was losing this fight and needed to actually execute against Sonnen if he wanted to keep his title. There will be no three round grace period this time, as Silva knows what Sonnen brings to the table and will be ready to stop him immediately.

The other critical element was how Sonnen achieved his takedowns. While he only needed eight “takedowns” to keep Silva planted for the entire match, one came from a knockdown, one came from a slip, two came from reversing a takedown attempt by Silva, and two came from catching a kick. In reality, Sonnen only landed two legitimate takedowns that weren’t greatly assisted by Silva. With Silva coming in with a much more careful strategy, those takedowns based on Silva’s errors disappear, and we’re left with a very different match from the first.

Final Verdict

Anderson Silva via 2nd Round KO

Sonnen has a hell of a chin, but Silva is the greatest counter puncher the sport has ever seen. Using smart movement in the cage and avoiding the pitfalls of the first fight, Silva will remain upright or quickly spring back to standing during this bout and land considerable power shots on Sonnen. As Sonnen begins to lose steam, his entry will become more and more sloppy, inviting large openings for Anderson Silva to land his KO shots and eventually put Sonnen away late in the second round.

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Tags: Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Middleweight, Mixed Martial Arts, MMA, UFC, UFC 148, UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2

Category: Featured, MMA, UFC

Mike Hammersmith (Staff Writer)

About the Author ()

I'm a 20+ year veteran of martial arts and a fan of MMA since UFC 1, when my world was thrown on its head by the budding sport. I'm obsessive in the pursuit of martial abilities and have competed across the country in everything from Vale Tudo to archery to Scottish broadsword. Once my body broke down, I picked up a pen and went in the direction of writing. I specialize in betting advice, predictions, and I'm a walking encyclopedia of MMA trivia. I own a cafe in Exeter, NH called Hammersmith Sandwich Company and write out of my office between customers.

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