UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II and the 10 Most-Anticipated Bouts in MMA

Levi NileContributor IIIJune 15, 2012

UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II and the 10 Most-Anticipated Bouts in MMA

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    Anticipation.

    For fight fans, it can mean endless hours of debate on Internet forums, re-watching old fights, viewing any clip related to the upcoming fight, and in general counting down the days, one at a time.

    Come July 7 at UFC 148, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will have their rematch, and the rest of us will get to see if it lives up to the anticipation. It has all the necessary prerequisites: trash talk, bad blood, national pride, and two men who gave us one heck of a fight the last time around.

    But as usual, we proceed with a healthy bit of caution. After all, we’ve been burned before.

    Just because a fight is highly anticipated doesn’t mean it will be great: Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn II, Rashad Evans vs. Quinton Jackson and many others remind us of that fact.

    Of course, when we’re counting down the days until the big scrap, we don’t think of the fights that didn’t live up to the hype, we think about the bouts that did, or at least did their best.

    And in that spirit, here’s a list of 10 of the most awaited, anticipated fights in MMA history.

Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock II

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    When: UFC 5 (April 7, 1995)

    Where: Charlotte, North Carolina

    When Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock stepped into the octagon to face each other for the second time, they were the two biggest names in the fledgling sport, and bragging rights were on the line.

    But there was more to it than that.

    Gracie had become the new hero for martial arts enthusiasts all over the world, where Shamrock looked to be the ultimate test: a large, powerful man with submission skills and a hunger to defeat the man who had choked him out at UFC 1.

    Not only was the record and seeming invincibility of Gracie jiu-jitsu at steak, but an ideal was on the line: that a smaller guy could defeat a much larger man who knew what to expect the second time around.

    And that made it a must see fight for fans of the sport at that time.

Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell II

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    When: UFC 52 (April 16, 2005)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    In their first meeting, Randy Couture pulled off a surprising upset to claim the first ever interim light heavyweight title in company history.

    In the rematch, both men found their audience had grown far beyond what they expected, thanks to their roles as opposing coaches on the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter.

    No one was really sure how/if the show would affect the careers of the coaches, but it did. Both Liddell and Couture drew a great many fans given their transparency during filming and their intensity in training those young men the viewing public had gotten to know so well.

    It was the final question that needed answering, and the fans of the show and the sport were waiting for resolution.

    Liddell upset Couture via knockout, and a new champion was crowned.

GSP vs. BJ Penn II

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    When: UFC 94 (January 31, 2009)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Their first fight saw GSP overcome serious adversity in the form of a bloody face, all courtesy of BJ Penn’s fast fists and aggressive attitude.

    After Penn defeated Sean Sherk to cement his claim as the true UFC lightweight champion, he immediately called out GSP for a rematch.

    The heat associated with the potential match-up glowed like an oven coil left on in the kitchen, and everyone wanted to see it just how bad the burn would be.

    So much so, in fact, that UFC Primetime was born. It was the first show of the series, and it highlighted the training of both men for this epic bout.

    During the filming, Penn was constantly attacking GSP where it hurt the most: his dignity and pride as a fighter. Penn called him about every name in the book and told GSP, through the camera the show afforded him, that he was going to try and kill the welterweight champion.

    It was a huge event that lived up to just about all the hype, safe of course for the fact that no one was killed.

Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz

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    When: UFC 22 (September 24, 1999)

    Where: Lake Charles, Louisiana

    Who would have thought that a couple of inflammatory tee-shirts could set the stage for one of the most anticipated fights the UFC had seen at that time.

    Frank Shamrock, although out on his own, was still associated with The Lion’s Den, the fight camp built by his older adopted brother, Ken Shamrock.

    Frank was seen as the man trying to avenge the disrespect shown by Tito Ortiz, and Ortiz was happy to step into the octagon wearing the black hat.

    Ortiz was so much larger than Shamrock that many thought he would run over Shamrock as he had Jerry Bohlander and Guy Mezger, and in that way, Shamrock was taking up the mantle of the little guy, which always makes for a compelling story.

    Of course, no contest like this really grows in the minds of the fans without a great villain, and at the time, Ortiz was the best. He was big, strong, and he really loved to beat people down, and his demeanor in the cage was wicked.

    All this made for a fight that fans were so anxious to see that they almost dreaded each day that passed, because that was one day closer to the whole thing being over.

    It ended up being a great fight that lived up to all the anticipation, and made for one heck of a story.

Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar II

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    When: UFC 100 (July 11, 2009)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Some things are best left to the professionals.

    One might think I was speaking of Brock Lesnar, professional rabble-rouser extraordinaire, but actually I am speaking of Frank Mir.

    There are very few men in the fight game that could get under Brock Lesnar’s skin. After all, he comes from the world of professional smack-talk and theatrics—the WWE.

    If anyone knows the benefits of bad language and tough talk, it’s Lesnar.

    But Frank Mir managed to push his buttons. He hit Lesnar on a deeply personal level, and he never let up, sounding almost sympathetic and justified in his rhetoric, if his speeches were taken at face value.

    To hear Frank Mir tell the tale, he was simply taking out the trash, and in doing so he hoped to provide an education to Lesnar along the way, if for no other reason that to show him how to find the door out.

    For Lesnar, the rematch wasn’t about anything so grandiose. It wasn’t about proving to Mir, or anyone else for that matter, that he really belonged in the UFC.

    No, for Lesnar, it was about revenge. Simple, brutal, blood splattering, face swelling, teeth spitting, kidney bruising, rib breaking revenge.

    They were heavyweights from drastically different schools of thought and beliefs, and they hated each other, and they were set to battle for the title on the biggest card in UFC history.

    Yeah, it was going to be a huge fight to begin with. But if you want to create a tornado in a teacup, best leave it to the professionals.

    And make sure they have a damn good dental plan.

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz

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    When: UFC 47 (April 2, 2004)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Nothing seems to polarize and inflame fans than a relationship that goes sour. Battle lines are quickly drawn, loyalties lamented, convictions questioned and through it all the gluttony never seems to stop.

    Friendships that go south in the fight game are like fires in the kitchen: unexpected when they shouldn’t have been and damn hard to put out.

    When Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz finally met in the cage at UFC 47, everyone knew someone’s fire was going to get put out, but we just didn’t which one.

    The lead up to this bout had been a multifaceted affair: a title held hostage, a new title created, courage questioned and so on. Both men had seen their title hopes struck down by Randy Couture, and after all the smoke had cleared, they were left with each other, and the need to lash out.

    And the fans had been watching from a distance the whole time.

    This bout was so anticipated because of the soap opera that came before it: when enough people get involved, what should be a simple thing can become a theatre production, and there were a great many people involved.

    But in the end, it only takes two to tango, and when the two in question showed up to dance, everyone was watching and waiting.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

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    When: Pride Final Conflict 2003 (November 9, 2003)

    Where: Tokyo, Japan

    At Pride 25, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defeated Kevin Randleman to claim the No. 1 contender spot for the title against the most destructive fighter on the planet, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva.

    When they finally stepped into the ring to face each other in the finals of the middleweight Grand Prix, fans all over the world couldn’t wait to see if Rampage was the man to take the champion out.

    Both men were destructive fighters, and smart money was that someone was going home early.

    Thanks to their near brawl in the ring after Jackson beat Randleman, Silva vs. Jackson was the crown jewel on a great event, and everyone wanted to know who the better man was.

    This was one of those fights that grew incredibly large for the promise of nothing but unyielding violence.

    And it delivered, with a vengeance.

Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba

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    When: Pride Grand Prix 2000 (May 1, 2000)

    Where: Tokyo, Japan

    When it was announced that Royce Gracie was going to be competing in the first ever Pride Grand Prix, fans of the sport delighted themselves with visions of the ultimate Gracie vs. the Gracie Hunter, and it polarized the fan base of both fighters.

    Royce was fighting to avenge the good name of his family and the art of Gracie jiu-jitsu. He was the undefeated champion of the UFC, and now he was needed in Japan, for the sake of jiu-jitsu purists everywhere.

    Sakuraba was fighting because he loved it, and getting to slap the face of convention was something he just couldn’t seem to resist. He wasn’t disrespectful by any means, but he was a competitor, and he was enjoying himself as he worked his way through a line of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters, scratching them off one at a time.

    It was the biggest event in MMA history to date, and the fight itself ended up being the longest fight in MMA history, clocking in at a staggering 90 minutes.

    For every 15-minute round that passed, fans watched and waited to see who would submit who. Any time they locked up, fans moved to the edge of their seats, expecting that the end could come at any minute.

    Eventually, it was the steady attack of Sakuraba to Gracie’s leg that finally ended the bout, and although it wasn’t the ground clinic that everyone hoped for, it was still an epic bout that no one had wanted to miss.

Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz

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    When: UFC 40 (November 22, 2002)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    This fight was years in the making, and many thought it would never happen.

    Ortiz was the undisputed king of the lightweight division, and the biggest name the company had.

    When Ortiz began calling out Shamrock, it drew out one of the biggest names of yesteryear, and with that came all the bad blood of years past.

    It also drew in legions of those older fans who knew Shamrock as the man of their era and who were eager to see him step back into the house he helped build to shut the mouth of the younger champion.

    Yeah, it played upon many classic rivalries, most of which came from the whole “my generation is better than yours” school of thought.

    It was arrogance vs. pride, youth vs. experience, young vs. old, and all of that made for an explosive mixture that drew in the fans.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II

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    When: UFC 148 (July 7, 2012)

    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    Their first fight was an epic slugfest that saw Chael Sonnen take Anderson Silva to the mat and pound on him tirelessly for over four rounds before Silva scored a thrilling come-from-behind victory via triangle leg choke.

    Now, the rematch is around the corner, and all eyes are going to be focused on these two men.

    The first time around, Sonnen backed up his tough talk, and this time around he’s talked so much trash that he’s almost left himself no room for a future should he lose.

    Given that he almost defeated Silva the first time, many are dying to see if he can pull it off in the rematch or if Silva will prove himself the better man by blowing Sonnen out of the water.

    Of course, there’s a lot on the line for both men, but probably more so for Silva. He’s got his entire home country of Brazil cheering him on to shut the mouth of the man who mocked them, and Silva doesn’t want to let them down.

    This is perhaps the defining fight for both men, and quite possibly the biggest fight of the year.