Anderson Silva (right) file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.
In one of the most dramatic bouts in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Anderson Silva narrowly held his perch atop the sport after Chael Sonnen turned a crowd predisposed to hate him into a supportive frenzy, hitting Silva more times in one fight than the middleweight champion has been hit in his 11-fight UFC career. The bout, which appears to have exceeded all expectations from a business perspective, created a groundswell of calls for a rematch.
For the first time in Octagon history at UFC 117 on Aug. 7, a titleholder pulled off a fifth-round finish after dropping four rounds to the challenger. With Sonnen grinding shots in guard, Silva seized right wrist control and sprung a triangle/armbar after 23 minutes of nail-biting action to coax the tap, a finish quickly dubbed “The Immaculate Submission.” Silva, who had action film star Stephen Seagal in his corner, came into the final frame down 40-34, 40-35 and 40-36 on the judges’ scorecards. The performance earned him an additional $120,000 in the form of bonuses for Submission of the Night and Fight of the Night. Silva forced the UFC’s hand, as the sub bonus was firmly in the grip of Matt Hughes, who earlier put Ricardo Almeida away with a Dave Schultz-esque front headlock choke.
As impossible as it may have seemed, Sonnen fought as well as he talked. He came out for each round charging to the center to take away the lanky Brazilian's range. Sonnen out-struck Silva in the first, buckling his knees at one point with a punch combination, and grinded out the next three rounds after seizing opportunities to get Silva horizontal. From the top, Sonnen had Silva looking lethargic and largely unable to maneuver from the bottom. Sonnen kept busy, using strikes that, though they left Silva's face mark-free, prevented stand-ups and secured rounds. Silva appeared to be looking for a standup.
Sonnen landed a total of 289 strikes in the fight, more than the 208 shots Silva had absorbed in his entire UFC career, according to CompuStrike. The site determined the tally was the most for any UFC fight it has recorded. FightMetric tabbed Sonnen landing 320 times, the second most all-time strikes landed behind the 355 landed in the plodding 36-minute Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock fight at UFC 5. With the win, Silva extended to 12 his record for longest winning streak in UFC history and to seven his record for most title defenses. Silva said he injured his rib a week before the fight training with Satoshi Ishii and that doctors advised him against competing. As a result, Silva’s manager said he didn’t train the week before the fight and didn’t corner Mark Munoz on Aug. 1.
The main event conclusion begged for a rematch, but UFC brass and Silva's camp didn't seem 100 percent behind the idea. Dana White said it was an option. Silva’s jiu-jitsu coach, Ramon Lemos, told Tatame that Silva won’t be ready to return until February or March 2011. Sonnen began the push in the post-fight news conference, joking that a Silva comment in Portuguese translated into him agreeing to do “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show as a coach against Sonnen to build the rematch. Later in the week, Sonnen told ESPN’s “MMA Live” that he expects to fight before Silva’s return, but said the Brazilian’s return will be against him. Vitor Belfort, a perennial contender who’s sat on the shelf for a year, told MMAPrime.tv that he won’t wait for Silva to return to the cage.
It appears the numbers are there to justify a rematch. While not citing a precise number, White said the indicators of how the show would do were "insane" and that the event would do a "really big number.” The fight ignited the Internet; search terms related to the fight were top trending topics on Twitter as late as Sunday afternoon, mileage rarely seen for even the biggest UFC pay-per-views. The Wrestling Observer reported about early estimates around 1 million buys, the highest for any show headlined by Silva. Oddly, the Spike TV premiere of a “Countdown” hype special drew a low number, 409,000 viewers, but that rating is not always a strong correlation to big pay-per-view numbers. UFC 117 drew 12,971 fans to the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., the UFC's debut in the city, for a $1.56 million live gate.
Elsewhere on the card, two title contenders, Jon Fitch and Junior dos Santos, looked to secure title shots with dominant decision wins over Thiago Alves and Roy Nelson.
Alves lost more than just a title opportunity. He was fined 20 percent of his purse -- 10 percent to Fitch -- for coming in a half-pound overweight and declining to take the rest of the weight off because of the time it would take. Dana White urged post-fight that Alves move to middleweight. Alves told MMAJunkie.com he’s hiring nutritionist Mike Dolce to move in with him eight weeks out from fights to help him diet. He also said 185-pound fighters are too big for him.
Fitch was all over Alves in the fight, getting takedowns and tying up Alves’ arms on the mat to keep him down. Asked if he was prepared to face teammate Josh Koscheck if he defeats Georges St. Pierre in December, Fitch dodged by citing his focus on his upcoming wedding. The bachelor party was Friday in Las Vegas.
Dos Santos put 138 strikes on Nelson, according to FightMetric, landed all manner of uppercuts and body shots in sealing the win. Nelson won fans by surviving the barrage and on several occasions returning fire with stiff overhand rights. Nelson told ESPN’s “MMA Live” that he’ll be undergoing knee surgery and was interested in fighting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira next.
Also picking up wins at UFC 117 were Clay Guida (third-round injury submission over Rafael dos Anjos); Stefan Struve (round two knockout over Christian Morecraft); Rick Story (round two TKO over Dustin Hazelett); Phil Davis (unanimous decision over Rodney Wallace); Johny Hendricks (round two TKO over Charlie Brenneman); Tim Boetsch (unanimous decision over Todd Brown); and Dennis Hallman (unanimous decision over Ben Saunders).
Dos Anjos’ wife told Tatame.com that he underwent surgery on his jaw, which was broken in two places by a Guida punch in the first round and aggravated in the third when Guida pushed his shoulder into it while on top.
Struve secured the Knockout of the Night bonus for his come-from-behind knockout, the sole prelim to make air on the pay-per-view. Hazelett reportedly will drop to 155 pounds after his loss. Saunders announced on Facebook that the UFC cut him following his defeat, with the company urging him to improve his wrestling and jiu-jitsu.