UFC 117 ‘Silva vs. Sonnen’ Analysis: The Main Card

By Tim Leidecker Aug 10, 2010
Junior dos Santos file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com

UFC 117 was a good event that turned into a great show. On the back of a fantastic main event, it will probably be one of the promotion’s top three pay-per-views of 2010.

Silva versus Sonnen had everything an MMA fan could ask for: a stellar buildup, an intriguing clash of styles, a nearly flawless game plan by a heavy underdog and of course the tremendous fifth-round comeback by the champion.

Keep on reading for a closer look at the five main card bouts as well as what the future could have in store for the 10 participants.

Junior dos Santos def. Roy Nelson -- Decision (Unanimous)

What happened: Junior “Cigano” was pushed the distance for the first time in his 13-fight career. Few experts thought Nelson was capable of hanging with the knockout king of the UFC’s heavyweight division, but “Big Country” showed a heart at least as big as his gut. He took everything the 25-year-old Nogueira student threw at him and then some more. Cigano unloaded in his familiar style in the first round, dropping Nelson at the three-minute mark and also nailing him with some crisp combinations against the fence. More punishment followed in rounds two and three as dos Santos picked his shots. Nelson was gassed badly in the third and received the beating of his career, but you have to applaud his chin and heart. Cigano is a worthy challenger for the heavyweight title.

Forecast for dos Santos: Cigano will face the winner of the Oct. 23 heavyweight championship match between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. That fight could take place as early as February, meaning the Brazilian will have more than half a year to prepare for his title shot.

Forecast for Nelson: The big-bellied BJJ black belt has expressed his desire to fight on the November card in Germany several times, as he wants to try out such gastronomic specialties as bratwurst, pickled pork knuckles and sauerkraut. His inclusion would make sense: The show will be a Spike TV card, and Spike likes “Ultimate Fighter” winners and participants. Inside the Octagon, Mike Russow, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic or even Shane Carwin could be on the menu for him.

Matt Hughes def. Ricardo Almeida -- Technical Submission (Modified Anaconda Choke) 3:15 R1

What happened: With Hughes holding wins over Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt Matt Serra as well as his coach Renzo Gracie, Almeida was out for revenge in his sophomore appearance at 170 pounds. The “Big Dog” came into the fight as the favorite after handing Matt Brown his first submission loss inside the UFC in March. However, Hughes caught Almeida with a big left hook that dropped him and finished the fight with a powerful front headlock choke. The question needs to be asked what Almeida, an elite-level jiu-jitsu black belt, was doing boxing with Hughes. In his defense, though, he was winning the standup before Hughes clocked him.

Forecast for Hughes: Hughes showed he is still relevant in a 170-pound weight division that is evolving at a breakneck pace. The 36-year-old has stated that he wants to take the remainder of 2010 off to return to the Octagon in early 2011. Interesting matchups for him include Diego Sanchez, Dennis Hallman (who has beaten Hughes twice) or even a rubber match against B.J. Penn.

Forecast for Almeida: Hughes became the first fighter to submit Almeida in his 10-year MMA career. As a BJJ black belt who has always put an emphasis on developing and improving his game, Almeida could take some time off to revaluate. Interesting opponents for his next fight include compatriot Paulo Thiago, veteran Mike Pyle and Chris Lytle, who is facing Almeida’s friend Matt Serra next.

Clay Guida def. Rafael dos Anjos -- Submission (Jaw Injury) 1:51 R3

File Photo

Guida is 2-1 since joining Jackson.
What happened: Gracie Fusion’s dos Anjos showed vastly improved muay Thai skills courtesy of Sityodtong’s Kru Toy, who visited Rio de Janeiro to help prepare the young Brazilian for this fight. Dos Anjos again revealed Guida’s lack of reach, as he tore him up on the feet and mixed his boxing and wrestling well. In one of those exchanges, however, Guida did catch the Roberto “Gordo” Correa pupil and apparently injured his jaw. While dos Anjos was able to mask the injury effectively in the second round, he could not hide it on the ground in the third. Probably well ahead on points, the 25-year-old tried to survive the round, but he had to submit when Guida took him down and pressed his shoulder against his chin. Very unfortunate result for dos Anjos.

Forecast for Guida: Guida has now won his second fight in a row and improved to 2-1 since joining Greg Jackson’s camp. Bouts against Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire, George Sotiropoulos or Dennis Siver would make sense.

Forecast for dos Anjos: Despite the loss, the young Rio de Janeiro native is a rising star in the UFC’s lightweight division. If he can bring his wrestling up to the level of his excellent ground game and superb standup, he will be one of the most complete fighters in the division. Once he has healed the reportedly broken jaw, he should be back in the Octagon against the likes of Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino or Joe Lauzon.

Jon Fitch def. Thiago Alves -- Decision (Unanimous)

What happened: Fitch once again demonstrated why he is the most well-rounded fighter in the division not named Georges St. Pierre. He handled fellow former title contender Thiago Alves in all distances for 15 minutes. In general, Fitch stuck to his game plan, which was sticking to the Brazilian like glue, thus giving him no room to develop much of an offense. The 32-year-old American Kickboxing Academy standout showed his whole arsenal, including takedowns, suplexes, a stifling top game, knees from the Thai clinch and even a couple of very nice combinations during the brief standup portions of the fight. The long layoff and once again arduous weight cut clearly affected the performance of Alves, who was unable to deal with Fitch’s power in the clinch or his grappling prowess.

Forecast for Fitch: His 13th win in the Octagon was supposed to have earned Fitch another shot at the welterweight title. UFC President Dana White has since questioned his No. 1 contender status, however, citing Martin Kampmann and Jake Shields as other possible opponents for a summer 2011 meeting with the winner of Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck. The easiest solution for everybody involved would be for Fitch to move up a weight class and challenge Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. While he does not possess the pure wrestling credentials of a Chael Sonnen, his supreme understanding of the ground game would add a highly intriguing extra dimension to a fight against the Brazilian.

Forecast for Alves: White has prescribed a move to middleweight for Alves, who missed weight at 170 pounds for the second time. At 185 pounds, Alves-Bisping, Alves-Belcher or Alves-Leben would be fun fights.

Anderson Silva def. Chael Sonnen -- Submission (Triangle Armbar) 3:10 R5

What happened: Sonnen stumbled at the one-yard line by letting himself be triangle choked with less than two minutes to go in the fifth and final round. He had fallen prey to the same submission in fights against Forrest Griffin in 2003, Renato Sobral in 2005 and Demian Maia in 2009. In the first four rounds, he took the champion down at will and worked some good ground-and-pound, particularly in the third. Sonnen surprised a lot of people by landing a couple of good punches on the feet in the opening round as well. In a fight that was reminiscent of the battles between Brazilian and American fighters from the 1990s, the only offense Silva got going was a second-round kimura attempt and a sharp elbow from the bottom in the fourth.

Forecast for Silva: There are three credible challengers for Anderson at 185 pounds: Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen in a rematch. A superfight against Georges St. Pierre appears to be pretty much off the table, as is another excursion into the 205-pound weight division. With the Belfort fight likely saved for the return of UFC Brazil next year, Okami, who was spurned for most of his UFC run due to his conservative style, seems to be in the driver’s seat to be the next opponent for the champion. That is unless Jon Fitch wants to test himself against “The Spider.”

Forecast for Sonnen: Since the Sonnen vs. Black House feud was white hot ahead of the fight with Anderson, the 33-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler might want to return to the light heavyweight division to face Silva’s teammate, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. At middleweight only a rematch with Demian Maia makes much sense for him, barring a possible but unlikely immediate rematch with Silva.

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