By: Scott Yager
Most people thought Anderson Silva would win. Most people had no clue who Chael Sonnen was until he started running his mouth like a pro wrestler a few weeks ago, assuring that this once boring match-up would get the attention it deserved. Almost everyone who thought Anderson Silva was going to win this fight at UFC 117 on Saturday thought that he would do so by killing Chael Sonnen, schooling him with his striking game like he has almost everyone and most likely knocking him out. Those people couldn’t have been more wrong.
Chael Sonnen, who recently made headlines for being called out on the Jim Rome show for negative comments he made about cyclist Lance Armstrong during a radio interview promoting his fight, came out to a sea of boos. The way Sonnen had been blasting Silva in his interviews lead some to believe that HE might actually serve as the fan favorite in the fight and the more reserved Brazilian would be the one to receive the negative reaction, especially following his lackluster performance in a win over Damien Maya in April. The crowd in Oakland cheered Silva however, and once Sonnen stepped into the Octagon it seemed like maybe his harsh words and creative banter might have actually made Silva into MORE of a hero.
Within a minute or two of the first round Sonnen showed that he was not going to run from Silva, and both on their feet and on the ground it was Sonnen who controlled the fight, tagging Silva at will and taking him down over and over again. This caused for USA chants to form, with the crowd slowly turning towards Sonnen, but never directly or by name. They were easing up to him, most likely assuming this would only last through the round and the fight would play out the way they expected in 5 minutes or less.
Again…these people would be wrong. A courageous Sonnen continued to put himself in positions that left him susceptible to Anderson’s deadly striking ability, risking his own chin in order to nail the champion a few times. This paid off because Sonnen began to fluster Silva, who often would take a few hits to the face at a time. Sonnen took him down again and used a methodical ground and pound while Anderson did his best to search for an arm, a leg or anything that might be able to give him a submission attempt.
The pummeling of Anderson Silva went on for four and half rounds, by far the longest that Anderson has been on the bad side of a beat down. Sonnen had won ALL four rounds at that point and was a half a round away from being crowned champion. This is until the submission attempts of the previous four rounds were suddenly validated when Anderson got Sonnen in a triangle arm-bar and he was forced to tap, albeit shadily. There was an awkward moment, since the tap was so subtle, where Sonnen tried to play it off and Anderson refused to break the hold. Upon a replay viewing though it was clear that Anderson had somehow managed to save himself from a clear-cut decision loss and keep his belt.
This fight could not have played out in more cinematic fashion. Sonnen has created a career for himself here, showing that he has what it takes to seriously contend, and in this case almost win, for titles, and that he is not only a controversial promo leading up to the fight. UFC does not have enough of these guys that can do both, especially ones who do it in such clear and pleasant English, so Sonnen should be a welcome member of the top level UFC guys who get big fights on a consistent basis.
The rest of the card was very enjoyable as well, as fan favorite Clay Guida got a win over Rafael Dos Anjos after breaking his jaw in the first round. He lasted all the way to the third about as Guida pressed his head up into the cage the discomfort was too much to handle and he tapped. A big win for Clay Guida who often has great fights that he comes out on the wrong end of.
Matt Hughes, a UFC Hall-of-Famer won in exotic fashion when he choked out Ricardo Almeida from an awkward sprawling position while Almeida was face down. Almeida went completely limp and the place went crazy. Matt Hughes, someone who has skated along on his reputation for the past years, never really showing signs of what he once was as a champion, finally gets his most exciting win since power-bombing Carlos Newton unconscious many years ago.
Two title contenders were also decided on this show as we now know Jon Fitch, who has more wins that almost anybody and almost never loses, will possibly get a chance to avenge his one loss to Georges St. Pierre. Fitch controlled Thiago Alves for all three rounds for their pretty boring number one contender’s match. He took him down over and over again and Alves did not look good at all in the three round fight that went to a unanimous decision. The pit-bull was tamed. GSP is back in Fitch’s sites. That is of course if St. Pierre can get by Fitch’s teammate Josh Koscheck in December. The real question is what will happen if Josh somehow beats GSP in December, setting up a title match with his training partner and friend, Jon Fitch, both of whom claim that they would never fight one another. Dana White, not surprisingly, has quite a bit to say about that.
Finally, Junior Dos Santos beat the crap out of Roy Nelson for three rounds of a war that never once went to the ground. Junior pummeled him all throughout the first round and then seemed to get a bit tired. He continued to tag Nelson throughout the fight but never really came close to finishing him after the third. Nelson looked tough but really had no way of beating Dos Santos, especially since going to the ground was prevented by great takedown defense by the Brazilian. Dos Santos will get the winner of Brock v. Cain in October and both those fights should be pretty damn awesome. Roy Nelson looked like a tough guy who needs to lose weight in this fight, a fan favorite who can remain at the top of the rankings if he wins his next fight, quite possibly against Shane Carwin.
UFC 117 really set up a lot of future fights for UFC, including a probable rematch of the exciting main event, quite possibly the best five found fight in a long time. UFC has strung together a nice little group of shows here that have not disappointed, with the Brock v. Carwin main event and Silva v. Sonnen fight’s totally living up to the buzz and sending people home happy. UFC 118 is headlined by BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar in what will be UFC’s first ever show in Boston.
There’s tons of stuff to talk about and soon enough I will be back with another edition of FIGHTIN’ WORDS with Bryan Alvarez!