Their first bout was epic, complete with an ending even the best scriptwriter could not have crafted.
Chael Sonnen had trounced middleweight champion Anderson Silva in every facet of the game at UFC 117, and it looked like the middleweight title was going to leave the Octagon with someone else. Nothing Silva tried seemed to work against the American wrestler. Then came the fifth-round triangle choke that forced a stunning Sonnen tapout and kept “The Spider” on top of the 185-pound division.
In the nearly two years that have passed since, Sonnen has only increased the personal venom with which he has attacked Silva. The two men will meet again in the UFC 148 “Silva vs. Sonnen 2” headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 148 main event:
Daniel Cormier: I’ll pick Chael. He can almost incorporate the same game plan. In two years, Anderson shouldn’t be able to have developed his wrestling enough to prevent Chael from taking him down, so I’m picking Chael to win by decision.
Ian McCall: I can see Chael coming with the same thing, and I see Anderson adapting. That’s not to say that Chael can’t beat him; he’s probably one of the only people who can. It’s a tough one to call because you can never count Chael out, but I just don’t see Chael doing anything different.
Jamie Varner: I like Chael in this one. He’s such a dynamic wrestler and he did a really good job last time around, and I think his submission defense will be a little bit better next time around.
Rick Hawn: I’m going to have to go with Anderson again in this one. I think he’s too well-rounded and he’s going to be better than he was [in their] last fight.
Roy Nelson: It’s the same as last time: Chael all the way, as long as he learned how to defend a triangle or an armbar.
Benji Radach: Going with my boy Chael. Not sure the [Steven] Seagal front kick’s gonna work on a world-class double-leg and ground-and-pound. As long as Chael makes it his fight and doesn’t fight Anderson’s, things should turn out fine. Stoked to see the fight.
Keith Berry: Sonnen is my hero. I hope he wins by five-round beat down without the submission at the end.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: Chael is a good guy and very entertaining, but the problem is he has to go 25 minutes to win this fight. Anderson has proven time and time again that he can knock out or submit you at anytime. Anderson has more ways to win the fight. I believe Anderson is going to stop Chael within two rounds.
Joe Duarte: Four out of five dentists agree that Anderson is the No. 1 cause of tooth decay. “The Spider” TKOs Sonnen in the fourth.
Jason Dent: I’m going with Anderson to win once again. Chael caught him by surprise the first match, and I just don’t see it happening again. Anderson has too many tools for Chael to deal with. I respect Chael as a fighter, but I’m not a fan of his antics at all.
Johny Hendricks: I am going with Sonnen, not only because he is a wrestler but he showed that he could hold Silva down and we know he is good off his back. I think Sonnen will be able to pass his guard and start his ground-and-pound. Also, Sonnen was able to hurt Silva on his feet because he wasn’t scared to trade with him, so I think [it will be) a five-round decision, with Sonnen winning.
Javier Vazquez: Anderson seems a bit pissed off. This could help him or it could severely hurt him. I think Sonnen can possibly pull off the same game plan, but it’s gonna be tough, especially if Anderson comes in at 100 percent. I’m going to pick Anderson because he has the potential to finish the fight. I think Sonnen will have to win a five-round decision, and that will put him in danger for longer periods of time. Anderson wins by KO or TKO in the third round.
Robert Drysdale: Chael [wins].
Travis Lutter: Silva-Sonnen is very interesting. I am giving this one to Sonnen. I don’t think he will make the same mistake he made last time, and, with his wrestling, I don’t see Silva being able to stop the takedown.
Yves Edwards: I’m taking Chael in this fight. I know the whole “I was hurt in the last fight” coming from Anderson, but I think they both learned something from that. I say Chael has worked on his subs, finishes Anderson in the third or fourth and becomes the most entertaining champion with the mic ever.
Travis Wiuff: Chael dominates for 25 minutes and becomes the new middleweight champion of the world.
Gilbert Melendez: Sonnen is going to outhustle and outwrestle him. Sonnen wins a decision.
Mark Dellagrotte: I’ve got Anderson. I’ve had mixed emotions about taking that pick up until recently, when I heard how motivated and how hard Anderson’s training for this fight. With all due respect to Chael -- he’s a good friend of mine and a great guy -- if he comes to fight Anderson the same way he did last time, he could win the fight. He had him figured out that night. I think Chael had Anderson’s number that night. He had a good game plan, a good strategy, and did everything he needed to do to win that fight but got caught at the end. I think a lot has changed since then. I think he caught Anderson at a point where he didn’t feel really threatened and perhaps Anderson took that fight lightly or had a bad night. Either way, I know now through close mutual friends and Anderson’s management that he’s in unbelievable shape and is training hard. I think Chael may have opened a can of worms and perhaps got Anderson angry and even more dangerous. You take someone as dangerous as Anderson is and catch him on a bad night ... chances are that’s not going to happen again. On top of that, you piss him off and light a fire under his butt to start training very hard and [get him] motivated to shut you up, I think he actually created a more dangerous Anderson Silva than what he got that night. He got that one chance to win, and it didn’t happen. Lightning might not strike twice, but Anderson certainly will.
Nam Phan: Chael all the way.
John Gunderson: I’m going with Chael. I believe he has the athletic ability to get in his face and put Anderson on his back. Chael has very underrated striking and submission skills. Chael is in Anderson’s head and Anderson will fight angry, and Chael will take advantage with a third or fourth round submission, probably by side choke, maybe even by TKO.
Erik Paulson: Well, I think this will be a total recall of the last. Chael has fought regularly, so his timing and game plan is right on. Anderson hasn’t fought for some time. The question is how to handle a pressure-ridden fighter. Anderson’s question will be the distance and timing issue with time off. Anderson, to me, is a master on the distance game. Sonnen’s best game is close and on the ground. Conditioning is key, and willpower is at its best for this second quest. May the best game plan prevail. Can’t wait to watch. This is what makes a fight like this a big one and one to look forward to watch. This is why MMA is so exciting to watch. I’ll be in England, and the buzz here is so huge.
Jacob Volkmann: Sonnen by unanimous decision or Silva by KO in the first round. Sonnen better thank God for testosterone replacement therapy. I just want to know what his physical impairment was after college that permitted him to use TRT.
Kyle Kingsbury: I watched Uncle Chael whoop Anderson’s ass for 4.5 rounds in person, and I still don’t believe it happened. I have no idea how, but Silva wins again.
Pros Picking Sonnen: 13
Pros Picking Silva: 8
No Pick: 2
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