Anderson Silva: Lessons Learned from His First Fight with Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva is a man of elegance and style.
Inside the UFC Octagon, Silva moves with an unparalleled grace, always ready to strike, yet always ready to defend.
Like his movement, Silva's rise in the UFC's middleweight division was sensational, a highlight reel of exotic finishes and displays of utter brilliance.
And then came Chael Sonnen.
For more than 20 minutes, the itsy-bitsy "Spider" tumbled clumsily down the water spout.
At UFC 117, Silva was not graceful.
He was not elegant, and he was not stellar.
He was, in fact, terrible.
Like all great ones, however, Silva managed to pull off a historic comeback in the form of a triangle-armbar midway through the bout's final round.
For Silva, the win was close...too close.
At UFC 148, Anderson Silva must be better, or he will find himself on the wrong end of another beatdown, and he will not want to have to rely on a Hail Mary submission attempt a second time.
Here are five lessons that "The Spider" learned from his first matchup with Sonnen.
Chael Sonnen Can Hit...hard
After his performance at UFC 117, much was made about Chael Sonnen's dominant wrestling, and rightfully so. He pinned the champion down for one-third of an hour, and that is a feat in and of itself.
What I remember more sharply from this bout, however, is Sonnen's boxing.
Where did it come from?
Anderson Silva possesses, in my opinion, the most spectacular head movement and footwork in all of MMA, but Sonnen landed several hard punches on the champion.
Remember Silva's video game-like striking defense against Forrest Griffin and Yushin Okami?
That was nowhere to be found against Sonnen, who floored him with punches repeatedly at UFC 117.
For a man who was considered by many to be untouchable, Silva was on the canvas too many times from the result of punches in his first matchup with Sonnen.
Sonnen may not be the best striker in the world, but "The Spider" needs to take his challenger's hands a little more seriously, or he may not be getting up this time.
Chael Sonnen's Wrestling Is on a Different Level
Anderson Silva has made a career off defending takedowns and counterstriking his way to victory. After all, with eight limbs of devastating fury at his disposal, why would Silva ever want to go to the ground?
Against Sonnen, though, not going to the ground was simply not an option.
The Oregon wrestler's takedowns were relentless and powerful, and Silva had no answers.
I'm sure Silva drilled his takedown defense hard going into their first matchup, but now he has a taste of just how strong Sonnen's wrestling truly is, and he needs to use this knowledge and adjust.
Some guys just have elite skills, even among other professionals, and Sonnen's wrestling is a prime example.
If Silva wants to break Sonnen with strikes at UFC 148, he is going to have to stay off his back, a reality learned at UFC 117.
Trash-Talking Isn't so Hard After All
Chael Sonnen's pro wrestling-style trash-talk before his title fight at UFC 117 was intense, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.
After his defeat to Silva, Sonnen's tirades became legendary exhibits in the UFC's trash-talking hall of fame, as insult after insult flowed effortlessly from his spiteful tongue.
Whether Anderson Silva did not care or did not know how to respond to the hatred is unclear, but in the past week the champion has took it upon himself to clarify something: He can trash-talk with the best of them after all!
On a UFC 148 conference call, Silva turned the tables on Sonnen and unleashed his inner hate-spewing beast.
With brutal assertions spraying out of him, Silva promised to do just about everything except kill Sonnen, and for that, both fans of trash-talk and the UFC's ticketing department are thankful.
On the call, Silva showed that you can only poke a hibernating bear so long before he decides to wake up and eat your face off.
It took two years, but Sonnen finally received some return fire, and boy was it lethal.
Sonnen Cannot Finish
By the rules and regulations of any street fight across the world, Chael Sonnen beat Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
On the street, the guy who punches the other guy in the face harder and more often wins, no questions asked.
In MMA, however, a guy can get, oh let's say, roughly 300 punches landed square on his chin and still emerge victorious.
The fact of the matter is that, while Anderson Silva was beat up at UFC 117, he was never unconscious, he never tapped and he never gave up.
Chael Sonnen threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, and there he was, wrapping his limbs up in an elegant tangle that constricted Sonnen's blood flow and put a halt to the brewing upset.
It is unlikely that Silva will sustain more punishment a second time around, so he can feel good knowing that Sonnen's best punch is good, but still not enough to put him away.
Sonnen's Submission Defense Is Still Terrible
For somebody who spends the majority of his fights on the ground, you would think Chael Sonnen would put more time into his submission defense.
Seriously, Sonnen has 11 career losses, and eight of these have come via submission.
It does not take a genius or a gangster from West Linn, Oregon to figure this one out Chael: You need to brush up on your submission defense.
Anderson Silva's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is well-earned, and "The Spider" has a mean triangle if things decide to hit the mat.
While there were very few positives to take away from the UFC 117 matchup, Silva should feel confident knowing that, should Sonnen pin him to the mat again, he has the skills to win from his back.
Only let's try not waiting 20 minutes to attempt a finish this time, all right Anderson?