(See how the stats stacked up in the first fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen at UFC 117)
The "good guy vs. bad guy" motif sells tickets. Marvel's The Avengers is the latest example of such. Humans just can't seem to get enough of the "good vs. evil" stuff; it is all but wired into us. So when it comes to sanctioned fisticuffs, "hero vs. a villain" makes a whole lot of sense (along with dollars and cents) when you can get those two worlds to collide.
In today's increasingly post post-modern world though, stock characters are becoming harder to delineate. At least that appears to be the case when looking at some of the biggest MMA fights of all time.
Rashad Evans vs. Jon Jones: who was the hero and who was the hated on? Things may have slanted toward Evans being the fan favorite, as the haters seemed to have more vitriol in their veins for Jones, but 'Suga" has never been someone the masses were all that sweet on.
What about when Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn re-matched a few years back? While GSP seems to be the clear choice for the role of the protagonist—leaving Penn as the antagonist with angst—both men receive their fair share of both love and hate mail.
What seems to sell the most is when there are equal parts love and loathing for both combatants—think Yankees vs. Red Sox. The Lakers vs. the Heat in this year's NBA Finals would have killed.
And so that brings us full circle, if you'll allow it, to Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.
Who is the white knight and who is the dragon? Perhaps, they are both dark knights.
In a recent poll ran on the UFC page of Bleacher Report, we asked y'all "who are you rooting for?" The results were decidedly divided. Straight down the middle. After 5,000 votes, it was statistical dead heat with Chael winning by a margin of less than two percent (50.8 percent to 49.2 percent).
It is hard to know what to make of the data. Clearly there is no fan favorite in this fight. What would be much more interesting, perhaps, is knowing what makes a Sonnen fan tick versus a Silva fan tock.
I'm left thinking about the movie The Departed where, after awhile, you can't make heads from tails when separating the good guy from the bad guy. Maybe that is what we are left with when looking at Silva vs. Sonnen.