Two years ago, Chael Sonnen came closer to beating middleweight champion Anderson Silva than anyone in the UFC before him. The majority of players in Sherdog.com’s MMA Pick’Em fantasy game are not putting too much stock in the past, however, as 70 percent have chosen “The Spider” to retain his title against the Team Quest member in the UFC 148 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Silva and Sonnen last tangled on Aug. 7, 2010, with the Brazilian pulling off a triangle armbar submission in the fifth round after being dominated by his opponent for the majority of the bout. Since then, Silva has twice been victorious in impressive fashion, scoring a first-round knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 and stopping Yushin Okami in the second frame at UFC 134. The 37-year-old is unbeaten in 14 Octagon appearances, with nine of those triumphs coming by knockout or technical knockout.
Sonnen has also won twice since UFC 117. The West Linn, Ore., native submitted Brian Stann with an arm-triangle choke in October in his first fight since being suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission. He followed that performance by outpointing Michael Bisping in a No. 1 contender’s bout at UFC on Fox 2 in January. Sonnen has won five of his last six bouts since falling to Demian Maia at UFC 95.
The co-main event features the swan song of former light heavyweight king Tito Ortiz, as he attempts to capture the rubber match of his trilogy with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Forrest Griffin. Pick’Em participants expect Griffin to give Ortiz a rude sendoff: 81 percent favor the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative in the 205-pound scrap.
Griffin had a two-fight winning streak stopped in August, when he was knocked out by Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the opening stanza at UFC 134. He had taken unanimous decisions against Rich Franklin and Ortiz in his previous two outings.
Ortiz went 1-2 in 2011, with his submission of Ryan Bader at UFC 132 serving as one of the year’s biggest upsets. He could not continue that momentum, however, losing to Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to close out the year.
Other Pick’Em trends for UFC 148:
• Users give Patrick Cote a slight edge (52 percent) against San Shou specialist Cung Le in a middleweight tilt. “The Predator” has not fought in the UFC since a three-fight skid resulted in his release in 2010. Le lost via technical knockout to Wanderlei Silva in his Octagon debut in November;
• Fifty-three percent of contestants like Maia to defeat Dong Hyun Kim in a welterweight clash. Kim has only been defeated once in 18 professional fights -- a knockout loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 132. Maia is making is 170-pound debut after a 9-4 stint in the promotion as a middleweight;
• In another fairly close call, 56 percent of players believe Mike Easton will earn his third Octagon victory against Ivan Menjivar at bantamweight. “The Hulk” owns UFC wins against Byron Bloodworth and Jared Papazian, while Menjivar has bested Charlie Valencia, Nick Pace and John Albert since returning to the UFC;
• A whopping 84 percent of players expect Chad Mendes to rebound from his first career loss against Jose Aldo and defeat Cody McKenzie in a featherweight matchup. The Team Alpha Male product was unbeaten in his first six bouts with the WEC and UFC, with all but one of those triumphs coming via decision. McKenzie, a competitor on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” has earned 11 of his 13 career victories by guillotine choke;
• In preliminary bouts, users have picked Gleison Tibau (73 percent) over Khabib Nurmagomedov, Melvin Guillard (89 percent) over Fabricio Camoes, Constantinos Philippou (84 percent) over Riki Fukuda, Shane Roller (68) percent over John Alessio and Rafaello Oliveira (79 percent) over Yoislandy Izquierdo.