UFC 117 Preview: The Main Card

Silva vs. Sonnen

Aug 3, 2010
Anderson Silva (right) file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com

Prepare your puny brains for a violence exhibition par-excellence come Saturday, as UFC 117 “Silva vs. Sonnen” airs live on pay-per-view from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Headlined by mercurial UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva defending his strap against the brutally acerbic Chael Sonnen, the main card is arguably the best slate of fistic entertainment you’ll get this month -- no small feat considering there are three other Zuffa-run cards in August.

Such supreme goodness requires some grown analysis and prognostication. As per usual I’m here to deliver the knowledge, so stand up, sit down and repeat while reading. What? I figure some of you could use a bit of exercise.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

After months of enduring Sonnen’s delusional and at times ignorant rants, it’s finally time to see if he can back up his verbal assault with a physical one against reigning UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Making that happen begins with takedowns. Then it gets awfully complicated.

Sonnen is capable of taking down any middleweight alive and Silva’s defensive wrestling has never been impregnable, so that’s certainly not the defining aspect of this fight. Everyone from Dan Henderson to Nate Marquardt managed to get Silva on the floor. They all lost too, primarily because they could not advance position.

Guard-passing has never been a part of Sonnen’s tool belt, and it’s the main reason why he has been submitted from the guard so many times before. To his credit, he’s absolutely fearless when it comes to posturing up in his opponent’s guard and dropping strikes. The tradeoff is that anyone with a competent guard game is going to tap Sonnen out sooner or later.

Not only does Silva have a decent offensive guard, his long frame allows him to quickly secure the body triangle and play a lockdown defensive guard. An oft-ignored aspect of Silva’s guard is that he has never been above waiting out a referee restart. That means Sonnen will be in an ongoing struggle to generate offense, and he has never been a dominant ground-and-pounder to begin with.

It bears noting that Sonnen hasn’t finished an opponent in nearly three years. A 25-minute fight always favors the fighter with more ways to end it. Besides the very real possibility that Sonnen will be too clueless to defend a submission from Silva’s guard, he still has to navigate the dangers of closing the pocket on “The Spider.”

One of the big reasons why Silva has so much success against takedown-minded opponents is that he makes them come to him. A natural counterpuncher with that rare combination of timing and knockout power, Silva excels at catching opponents as they try to get in on him. Since Sonnen has roughly a 0-percent chance of survival on the feet, he has no choice but to step inside Silva’s range and risk the consequences.

It’s a process that Sonnen will have to repeat several times to have any chance of winning, and that right there is what puts this fight beyond his reach. No one is going to ground-and-pound Silva for 25 minutes because that feat goes hand in hand with shutting down perhaps the most brilliant offensive fighter in all of MMA. Even when Silva goes off the rails and turns into Charlie Chaplin, he still does things 99 percent of fighters could never do on their best day.

Sonnen’s best day against Silva would be to win a round or two with uneventful top control before either getting starched or tapped. Undoubtedly the greatest testament to Sonnen’s pre-fight verbosity is the misguided notion amongst some that he has a real chance to win this fight. To put it simply: A focused Silva puts Sonnen away in less than 10 minutes, a playful one humiliates him for the full 25.
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