Ever since their first meeting, Chael Sonnen has been waging a tireless mental assault on Anderson Silva; so much so that anything less than a total war between these two men will seem like theft.
Sonnen hasn’t just attacked Silva in the press; he’s insulted the entire country of Brazil and even made comments about Silva’s wife.
If there ever was a line that separated the acceptable from the unacceptable, Sonnen has obliterated it.
But there is something else drifting out there in the madness and the haze; the realization that if Sonnen does pull off this upset as he predicts, no small part of that will be due to how the American got into Silva’s head, much like Muhammad Ali got into the head of Sonny Liston prior to their first bout.
It’s not so much that Sonnen and Ali are similar in their choice of words as it is how similar they are in their tone, the confidence behind them and their relentlessness.
Anytime Ali got in front of a camera or talked to a reporter, he was relentless in his attack of Liston, making bold predictions on one hand while attacking Liston’s character and credibility as a fighter on the other, and it was always a two-fisted attack.
Sonnen is doing much the same thing, but on a much larger scale, and as Liston finally broke and began to return fire by his own limited means, so has Silva.
But the difference is in their styles of fighting. Silva is much more akin to Ali while Sonnen is much more like Liston, which makes this fight all the more compelling.
Sonnen has raised the bar for this bout so high that all other bad blood matchups in the history of the sport are miles below it. He’s invested so much time into his mental attack on Silva that the pressure to deliver rests squarely upon his shoulders.
Anything less than an inspiring and dominant victory will not do, at least when it comes to living up to all the claims Sonnen has made. Of course, any kind of victory that sees him claim the title will be good enough for Sonnen on a personal level, but it won’t be good enough to empower his words the next time he takes to the camera to make bold predictions and demeaning comments.
Still, in the fight game, sometimes the best way to go into such a high-profile fight against such a great competitor is to make sure you have no other option but victory, and Sonnen has done this for himself—or to himself—if he should lose.
If he has truly rattled Silva so much that it will make the champ fight furiously instead of surgically, Sonnen could have perhaps the easiest night of his life.
Or, it could take on all the aspects of Ali’s rematch with Liston, when it was Ali who was the furious one, and we all know how that ended; Ali blew Liston out of the water in the first round as his anger focused his skills to a needle point. Should Silva be of the same state of mind, Sonnen could find himself getting knocked out just like Liston did.
As time winds down, we know one thing for certain: Chael Sonnen believes in Chael Sonnen, no question about it. That in turn begets the true question to be asked of this fight: does Anderson Silva believe in Chael Sonnen?
If he does, then this will be one fight Sonnen has won before even stepping into the octagon.