In the first fight, Sonnen dominated Silva for four-and-a-half rounds with wrestling and ground-and-pound before Silva scored an incredible last-minute submission to win the fight. It was a memorable title defense for the champion, but the most impressive aspect of the fight was Sonnen’s ability to control Silva on the ground. If the Oregon native has any hopes taking the belt from Silva the second time around, he must go back to what made him successful in the first fight.
Let us get right into the main event. I believe this will go down one of two ways. Either Chael Sonnen will do what Chael Sonnen does bet and throw Silva down and beat him up, and if that happens, I think he’ll win the decision, as I doubt he’ll get caught again. The other outcome is that Silva will destroy Sonnen in the first round. The man is a wizard in the ring and this is the first time we’ve seen him truly enraged at someone.
Chael Sonnen really is a nightmare match-up for Silva. It’s not just because he’s an elite wrestler, it’s because the way their styles match up. The champion’s wrestling skills haven’t improved throughout his career, but his strategic game has. Early in his career, Silva used to get taken down a lot more regularly. So, instead of developing his wrestling ability he’s developed his tactics to keep his fights where he wants them.
It comes down to a couple of key points: Silva will not lead the action. He will use his superior and diverse striking attack to keep the distance and force his opponents to engage or face being outpointed. If Silva gets too offensive he leaves himself open to the counter takedown. If his opponent initiates (and more often than not they are very tentative), Silva uses his vastly superior counter striking to destroy them. The Brazilian also utilizes the “closed guard” standing defense. This basically means he fights southpaw, keeping his left leg far back. This forces his opponents, especially those who fight orthodox, to shoot for a single instead of a double, and thus making the takedown attempt easier to sprawl and/or stuff.
The last point is exactly why Sonnen is a nightmare for Silva. For one, Chael fights in the southpaw stance, meaning he lines up evenly with Silva and doesn’t have to settle for a single. Also, Sonnen has one of the best power doubles in the game. Combine that with the fact that he will get in Silva’s face and throw hands, means that he opens up more opportunities for himself to get Anderson on his back. Once Chael has you down he will beat you, as evidence by the first match between the two.
Jack Slack of Bloody Elbow said it best:
“The reason that Chael Sonnen gave Silva a nightmare is that Sonnen has one of the best shots in the division, is a southpaw, and was willing to throw his left hand freely. Fear to commit against Silva has been what has cost grapplers the match in the past, but in truth he has never (at least in the UFC) knocked out a grappler. His knockouts come against men who offer him no threat on the ground or of the takedown, because he can open up his entire game and fight on the counter. Against strong takedown artists (or in Maia’s case, men who are happy to play guard), Silva is deprived of his remarkable boxing game, because his stance is forced to square up. Constant switching between the takedown and punches seems to be the key to catching Anderson squared up and with his hands down instead of in the shoulder roll position in which excels. Landing punches on Silva while he is expecting the takedown has been proven to take him out of his cautious mindset, and this in turn opened up takedowns for Chael Sonnen.”
Regardless of the outcome, I am pumped for this fight.
Can Silva stop Sonnen’s takedowns? Let us know what you think Fight Cove fans.