Anderson Silva is still the UFC Middleweight Champion, and he is still the greatest pound for pound fighter in the world. But last night at UFC 117 in Oakland, California, Chael Sonnen proved that he is right up there with the best. He had all but beaten Silva and taken both of those crowns away from him, when he got caught in the Spider’s web. Silva locked on a deep triangle choke to submit him in the closing minutes of the final round.
This was one of the most one-sided fights in Anderson Silva’s career (a career defined by one-sided fights), but for the first time, it was Silva’s opponent who was doing the dominating. Sonnen’s performance was nothing short of spectacular, even if he did not notch a victory. He fought his fight from the opening bell and overwhelmed Silva with constant pressure and his infinite cardio. Not only did Sonnen neutralize Silva’s legendary striking, which has terrorized the UFC since 2006, he actually got the better of the Spider in some of their standup exchanges.
The story of this fight was the relentless wrestling and ground and pound of Chael Sonnen. He came in fearlessly, ripped Silva down from the pedestal that fans and experts alike have placed him on, slammed him onto the ground of cold hard reality, and pounded him out for almost every minute of the five round Championship fight. Up until this fight, Silva had lost only one or two rounds in his 11 consecutive UFC victories. Last night he lost every round decisively, some by a 10-8 margin. While Silva eventually got the win, Sonnen was the star of the fight and proved he was every bit the fighter he talked himself up to be.
Anderson Silva proved a lot last night as well, although he didn’t look as good doing it. The rarely seen ground game of Anderson Silva was on display. He spent most of the fight on his back but did not take much damage, and eventually locked up a beautiful triangle choke submission in the 11th hour. Sonnen brought the fight to Silva like no other fighter before him. He forced Silva to fight with all of his heart or lose everything, and Silva was able to rise to the occasion. It was absolutely amazing to see the best in the world really be tested. This was the first time that Anderson Silva found himself in deep waters, and he survived, pulling out the submission victory when it counted the most.
Fighters who finish fights will always have an edge over their opponents. Anderson Silva is so good because he is a prolific finisher; 20 of his 27 victories have come by way of KO or submission. Chael Sonnen is not; his last 5 wins have been by decision. Last night, while Sonnen dominated Silva for five rounds and gave him the greatest test of his career, he still couldn’t put him away. Silva, on the other hand, was able to find his opportunity and capitalize on it, protecting his win streak, his Championship, and his legacy.
Silva vs. Sonnen was an incredible fight, and nobody walked away empty handed:
Dana White got an excellent fight out of Anderson Silva. As an added bonus he got to see Silva take a beating (which must have brought a smile to his face after Spidergate 112, and all the controversy surrounding his last fight).
Anderson Silva proved he can survive an all out war. Sonnen gave him the fight of his life and Silva came out on top, silencing every critic who questioned his heart and his desire to fight.
Chael Sonnen proved that his trash talk is outstanding, but his wrestling is even better. He got to do exactly what he said he would do, which was beat the living hell out of Anderson Silva.
And spectators got to see two extraordinary, unique, relentless fighters leave it all in the cage in an epic battle that was easily Fight of the Night, easily the best fight of 2010, and easily one of the greatest Mixed Martial Arts bouts of all time.
There is only one thing this fight left to be desired: THE REMATCH.