My first live MMA experience
This UFC pay-per-view, especially this match, holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons, but most importantly because I was able to finally watch a UFC pay-per-view LIVE, along with the rest of the world, from the comfort of my home in India. I had been following the UFC regularly, by this point, for more than 4 years and to be able to watch such a monumental event live along with the millions & millions (thank you ‘The Rock’) from all around the world, was truly exciting. While the card was stacked with a number of quality fights, I would be lying if I said that I was interested in all the fights in the same way as I was for the main event of the evening. The rematch had been two years in the making, and it was about to go down finally. It was time for the Middleweight (185 pounds) championship bout, the challenger being ‘The Gangster from Oregon’ Chael Sonnen, and the defending champion being Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva.
The pair had met two years prior at UFC 117, which was preceded by a lot of trashtalk from Sonnen directed at Silva, including his team, coaches, manager, wife and his native Brazil. Fans were pretty riled up, which meant a lot of emotion going into the fight. Silva had his fair share of haters owing to his lacklustre performance at UFC 112, where he won the fight but did not engage much with his opponent. In the fight, Sonnen brought it to Silva when he rocked him with a punch in the 1st round and led the judges’ scorecard for the 4 rounds on points, till the final round. With less than 2 minutes remaining in the 5th round, Silva locked up a triangle choke on Sonnen and earned a submission victory.
The result was paradoxical, and fans and Sonnen alike had been clamouring for a rematch with Silva ever since. The rematch would have come sooner had it not been for Sonnen testing positive for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) immediately after the fight at UFC 117.
Following the ban imposed on Sonnen, Silva had removed all questions from the minds of doubters about his dominance in the Middleweight division, by earning KO victories over Vitor Belfort & Yushin Okami the following year. However, Sonnen upon his return never missed any opportunity to call out Silva on a public platform. He even referred to Silva as being afraid of him, and goaded the President of UFC, Dana White to grant him another shot at the middleweight title after hard-fought victories over Brian Stann & Michael Bisping. Mr. White in his right mind as a successful business man, after a lot of anticipation had built up, scheduled the fight to happen at UFC 148 on July 8, 2012. The stage was set for the much awaited rematch, the gate was sold out and the pay-per-view numbers were off the charts.
Arguably the most legendary talker in UFC history, Chael backs it up in the octagon during fight-time and is never afraid of getting into a ‘fight’. An All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon, Chael predominantly relies on his superior wrestling skills, takedowns and ground-and-pound game to defeat his opponents. As proved in the first encounter against Silva, Sonnen has good hands and never relents when he gets on top of you. Going into the fight, he had said that he planned on taking the champ down and finish him off in ‘no time’.
Named as the best ‘pound-for-pound’ fighter in MMA history by Dana White himself, The Spider is the longest reigning champion in UFC history, and also holds the record for the maximum no. of successful title defences to his name along with a host of other records. Probably the greatest knock-out artist to have ever competed in the octagon, Silva also holds a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu under the legendary Noguiera brothers, and has successfully submitted accomplished wrestlers including Olympian Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen.
The stakes could not have been higher, going into UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As the fight finally took place, Sonnen stood true to his word and quickly took the champion down in the first round and maintained a dominant position throughout, eventually gaining full mount while attacking with ground-and-pound. One cageside judge scored it a 10-8 round as Silva was credited with zero strikes. Sonnen connected with 76 strikes from the top position in the opening round, and held a 22-to-15 edge in significant strikes against Silva. However, Sonnen was unable to inflict substantial damage to the champion, and as the fight got into the second round, both the fighters went at it standing, when Chael uncharacteristically decided to employ a spinning back-fist against Silva, which the champion managed to evade and the move caused Sonnen to fall to the canvas. Seizing the opportunity, ‘The Spider’ landed a knee flush to the chest of Chael and followed it up with strikes to his head resulting in the referee stopping the fight and awarding the win to Silva.
Following the match, Silva very graciously praised Sonnen and downplayed the perceived animosity between the 2 fighters. The convincing win left no doubt in the minds of the fans and the critics alike as to who the real ‘Man’ is in the middleweight division of the UFC.
Following his loss to Silva, Sonnen has moved up to the 205-pound light-heavyweight class and is currently scheduled to take on the reigning champion Jon Jones mid-2013. Anderson Silva too, took a fight at the light-heavyweight division and stopped Stephen Bonnar in the 1st round via another TKO.
The fan in me feels that now is the time for Silva to take a super-fight against either Jones or St-Pierre, given the fact that he is moving towards the end of his illustrious MMA career. Oh, can’t wait for that now….can we?