Somewhere between Chael Sonnen's UFC 136 post-fight interview in which he declared, "Anderson Silva you absolutely suck," and Tuesday's UFC 148 staredown in which Silva gave Sonnen a not-so-friendly chest bump, "Old Silva" disappeared.
Gone is the relaxed, relatively quiet pound-for-pound champion; his poised exterior shell deteriorated thanks to months of Sonnen trash talk.
Silva was in the building during UFC 136 and he watched as Sonnen submitted Brian Stann in the second round. It looked as though Sonnen would have welcomed Silva into the Octagon right then and there, but he settled for telling him that he sucks, a move consistent with Sonnen's past behavior.
Silva, too, reacted with Silva-like behavior. He held back a laugh and feigned a surprised look to the cameras in his face. The Brazilian champion knows what Sonnen is all about outside of the Octagon. He is used to nonexistent bounds of Sonnen's endless banter.
He heard it going into UFC 117 and he has heard it ever since. After Sonnen's near-upset of Silva at that event, Sonnen had this to say, while Silva was just down the table from him (via Eric Holden of Yahoo! Sports): "When I go off, it's like a bomb and anybody around me is going to get dirty. That's the way that it goes. I don't offer any apology for any of that stuff. These guys need to get thicker skin."
Silva's skin has always been thick enough to withstand the abuse sent his way. He didn't seem to mind when Sonnen did interviews with a fake UFC title belt or when he said he was going to end his career. He just responded with non-incendiary one-word answers and took the high ground.
However, somewhere along the way, things changed. It may have been Sonnen's lack of respect for Silva's home country, it may have been something else.
I think one tipping point was when Chael went on "The MMA Show" with Mauro Ranallo and made a humorous, albeit disrespectful comment about Anderson's wife.
"You tell Anderson Silva I'm coming over and I'm kicking down his backdoor and patting his little lady on the ass and I'm telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare just how I like it," he said.
It may have been that, it may not have, we don't know. Regardless of which stone hurled by Sonnen finally broke through Silva's skin, though, it led to the Brazilian blowing up during the UFC 148 media conference call.
This was the first notable time where the change in Silva could be sensed by outsiders—the first time the angry "New Silva" appeared. You can see the full transcript here via Damon Martin of MMAWeekly.com.
Silva essentially said he was going to break Sonnen's face, teeth, arms and legs. He said what he was going to do would change the image of the sport and that Soonnen wouldn't be able to exit the Octagon under his own power.
I paraphrased a little bit, but you can listen to and read the whole conference call full of gems if you want.
Either way, this was nothing like what we saw and heard from Old Silva, and UFC president Dana White was the first to admit that.
7 years in the UFC and I've never heard Anderson talk like this before!!!— Dana White (@danawhite) June 25, 2012
MMA Weekly's transcription doesn't include Sonnen's response, but the video does. In short, Sonnen replied to Silva's verbal outburst in typical Sonnen fashion by simply saying, "medium-rare."
The point here is that Sonnen has always been the same trash-talking, outlandishly-blunt Sonnen.
However, somewhere along the way, the acidic sewage spit by Sonnen finally burned through Anderson's tough exterior, revealing New Silva.
It came out in the conference call and again during the first press conference for UFC 148. The two fighters squared off to do the traditional staredown. Sonnen raised his fists, but Silva, arms at his sides, walked with his chest out right into Sonnen.
He was pulled back but continued forward into Sonnen, who held his ground. Dana White and others continued to restrain Silva, but he kept at him.
This is the kind of behavior consistent with a blackout-drunk frat bro intent on starting a bar fight because some dude looked at him the wrong way or said something to his girlfriend, not behavior consistent of a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Some say that these instances were proof that Sonnen has finally had his way and infiltrated the mind of Silva, which will ultimately lead to his victory on Saturday. Others say Sonnen has awoken a sleeping beast inside of Silva, which will ultimately lead to his swift and ugly demise this weekend.
I don't know which it is.
One thing I do know is that this Saturday's fight is not one to miss.
Will Sonnen be able to take down New Silva? Or will New Silva defend Old Silva's belt?
We'll find out Saturday.
Until then, let us know your predictions in the comments below.
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