It’s a long-anticipated rematch and features two of the best middleweight fighters the UFC has to offer. Trash talk and personal attacks aside, both fighters know what to expect from their opponent come Saturday night.
Expect Silva to try and utilize his standup skills to outbox and control Sonnen in the clinch, while the challenger will do exactly what he did last time: turn this into a grinding ground battle.
At UFC 117 in 2010, Sonnen was just a couple minutes away from dethroning Silva from his long-held middleweight championship. Instead, the Team Quest wrestler, after dominating more than four rounds of the fight utilizing grappling and ground and pound, tapped out due to a triangle armbar submission.
Surprisingly, Silva needed the come-from-behind victory, as he spent most of the fight on his back, defending punches and elbows.
Of Sonnen’s 11 career MMA losses, eight of them have come via submission. A rather telling statistic, even if the last five submission losses came to strong grapplers and BJJ practitioners such as Silva, Demian Maia, Paulo Filho, Jeremy Horn and Renato Sobral.
Silva is extremely crafty when he’s working his ground game, even if it’s not a skill set he prefers to use against opponents in the cage. A BJJ black belt under the Nogueira brothers, Silva has lanky limbs and impressive strength when he needs to defend—or attack—with submissions.
When Sonnen finds himself in Silva’s guard, the American wrestler can’t let Silva get wrist or arm control. If Silva captures one of his arms, Sonnen should be aware of the Spider’s legs possibly sliding up his back to set up a triangle choke.
Don’t be content to sit in Silva’s full guard! If Sonnen tries to pass to side control or full mount, he needs to be careful not to be swept during any transitions. He’ll have better luck trying to finish Silva if he can put Silva in even more precarious positions, as Silva will most certainly try and have a more offensive guard.
To help prepare for a possible ground war again, Sonnen recruited BJJ ace Vinny Magalhaes to grapple with. The ADCC champion has a strong BJJ resume, and likely served as a great quality training partner for the West Linn, Ore. native.
Here is what Magalhaes had to say after training with Sonnen, according to Yahoo! Sports:
“Chael makes fun of a lot of things – but he picks stuff up really fast. And the stuff that we worked on, I can guarantee you if he has the chance to use it in the fight, he will do it. If it's a submission, if it's a guard pass, whatever, I guarantee you he can do it. If he gets the chance, he can catch Anderson with something."
Even though Sonnen got submitted by Silva the first time around, he does have the ability to learn new techniques rather quickly. Sonnen has studied the first fight and will look to posture up more—even if Silva has full guard and head control—the Team Quest wrestler was able to land short elbows and punches throughout the fight.
If Silva tries to latch on the triangle choke, Sonnen may be able to escape it without leaving his arm exposed in the wrong position. Before losing in the fifth round, Sonnen was able to defend other triangle setups by Silva earlier in the fight.
Regardless of what MMA fans perceive about the cocky loud mouth, we can expect to see a new and improved ground game from Sonnen.
We are just one week away from one of the most anticipated fights of the year, and we’ll be able to see if Sonnen can take the belt from Silva.