UFC 117 is headlined by the match-up between reigning champion Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen. This will be an interesting fight, and has been the subject of a great deal of speculation, however, Silva remain the overwhelming favorite to win.
The Fan Frustration With Anderson Silva:
There is an understandable amount of fan frustration with Anderson Silva's last two fights. As fans, we want to see the most exciting fight there can possibly be, especially in championship fights.
Part of the problem with boxing, and many combat sporting events, is that most of the fights are not inspiring to watch and the trash talking is necessary to at least get people to show up. While it is true that the big names in boxing can command $10M to $20M per fight, and none of the athletes in MMA can command the same.
It is also true that most boxers are no where near the stratosphere of their divisions, and have little if any ability to command an audience for any fight they participate in.
Regardless of how much trash talking the competitors do prior to the event, eventually they have to get in the ring or octagon and compete. As unsavory as this thought may be to some, the real competition starts and ends on the mat.
The fans are frustrated with Silva, because it seems to be that he has chosen to toy with opponents that he appeared to have the ability to manhandle. The "boring fights" that Silva has had have been again competitors that demonstrated a complete lack of any ability to force Anderson Silva to sense a need to defend himself.
After watching the Maia fight and the Leites fight, the challenger were my source of frustration. Leites spent have the fight laying on his back, and Maia never even presented a meaningful threat during the fight. There was no opponent for Silva to fight against other than the clock. His opponents appeared to simply be afraid to engage him in a meaningful struggle.
Rich Franklin showed up to fight Silva only to walk out of the ring after one of those bouts to get his face reconstructed.
Since Anderson Silva has been in the UFC, anyone who has attempted to force him into a fight or put pressure on him has been beaten soundly. Really, Henderson came the closest to giving Silva a real fight and he was submitted in the second.
The Anderson Silva is Still the Favorite to Defeat Chael Sonnen:
Chael Sonnen has his opportunity to have a Matt Serra-esque chance to "shock the world" in this fight, but there is a ton of sentiment that he will ultimately lose.
If you doubt that—try to find an odds maker that will give you odds that Sonnen is the likely winner of the contest. (If you do, I'd be shocked if you still bet Sonnen with that book holder, considering that there are so many other sources out there that would give you higher multiples of returns for investing with them.)
Sonnen has taken every opportunity to attempt to delude the public into believing that he is as competent, and just as skilled a fighter as Silva.
Is Sonnen better than Rich Franklin was when Franklin met with Silva? Is Sonnen more skilled a wrestler or nearly as tough as Dan Henderson? Is Sonnen any tougher than Chris Leben?
It is hard to make a case that he is in any way better than the three aforementioned fighters. Is Sonnen any better than Maia? (Keep in mind: Maia submitted Sonnen)
Looking at his record if this fight goes to the ground Sonnen is almost as likely to be submitted as he is to get a win by decision.
Anderson Silva Can Be Beaten:
Anderson Silva has been beaten before and will lose again at some point, if he goes on and fight past his prime. Yet, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Silva has been victorious in all of the UFC fights where his opponent attempted to bring it to him.
With the exception, of the Dan Henderson fight (in which Henderson, a respected and accomplished wrestler, was submitted by rear naked choke) it is hard to identify any opponent that provided a significant challenge to Silva. But, the great thing about MMA is that in any given fight almost anything can happen, because there are so many ways to win and lose.
Anderson Silva Can Be Beaten:
Chael Sonnen is doing a great job of trying to market the fight. He is making sure everyone is aware of his personal disdain for Mr. Silva. Yet, at the same time, nothing that Sonnen says matters.
Silva has recently been thrashed for his comments (or, more accurately, his lack of comments) in the recent teleconference interview conducted. Many of the question were designed to elicit sharp retorts or scathing remarks intended to directly insult his future competitor.
Very few such response were forthcoming from the current middleweight division champ. It would appear that such back and forth type communication is not part of his personal style.
Silva is demonstrating that he is in control of himself and his emotions. It appears to be the same, for the way that no one has been able to effectively pull Silva into a fight, or exchange that he does not wish to have in the octagon. Silva remains aloof.
In this particular match-up it is hard to understand why Sonnen would actually want to motivate Silva to put on a better performance anyway. The best chance for Sonnen to win is for Silva to be inactive for most of the fight. And, to allow a round or two to go to the judges.
The worse thing for Sonnen will be to enter the cage, and find a motivated Anderson Silva seeking to make a statement with Sonnen's face.