On Saturday night we’ll see the biggest rematch in MMA History. It will be 1 year and 11 months to the day since the original epic bout between middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva and top contender Chael Sonnen. On that night Chael Sonnen shocked the MMA world and almost defeated Silva only to succumb to a 5th round submission from the champion.
Whilst there has been many rivalries in the UFC’s history. Sonnen and Silva has overtaken nearly all of them thanks to a great first fight and a tense but sometime comical build up. There’s extremely valid arguments that they are the No.1 and No.2 fighters in the middleweight division. Thankfully with MMA you do get the opportunity to see these type of dream matches where the best in their respective divisions still get the opportunity to face each other. This personally is one I’m looking forward to massively and I hope it lives up to expectation when the middleweight championship is up for grabs.
Elsewhere on the card there are some intriguing match ups like; Demian Maia’s welterweight debut versus Dong Hyun Kim or the battle of youth vs. experience of Mike Easton vs. Ivan Menjivar in a bantamweight bout that could very well be a candidate for fight of the night. You also have the return of Patrick “The Predator” Cote to the UFC when he faces Cung Le in a fight that should have fireworks and be a prime candidate to have one of it’s competitors earn a knock out of the night bonus. You will also have the end of a trilogy and end of a career in the Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin fight. Tito Ortiz who will be inducted into the hall of fame prior to the fight will retire after this fight win or lose. He was at one point the yard stick at 205lbs and despite his recent slide will want to go out on a high against another former champion in Griffin.
With all that said let’s have a look at the fight card for UFC 148:
Main Card (ESPN):
Middleweight Title Fight: Anderson Silva (champion) vs. Chael Sonnen
Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz
Patrick Cote vs. Cung Le
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia
Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie
Mike Easton vs. Ivan Menjivar
Preliminary Card (UFC.tv):
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Gleison Tibau
Fabricio Camoes vs. Melvin Guillard
Riki Fukuda vs. Constantinos Philippou
John Alessio vs. Shane Roller
Preliminary Card (Facebook):
Yoislandy Izquierdo vs. Rafaello Oliveira
We’ll start with the main event of the evening.
Middleweight Title Fight: Anderson Silva (champion) vs. Chael Sonnen
If you take away all the talk about this fight it simply boils down to that classic matchup of striker vs. grappler. The first fight leaves us with a couple of question marks for the fight and answering these will be key to determining who will walk out of the Octagon victorious on Saturday night.
1. Was the Silva rib injury as serious as made out and how much did it effect the champ?
2. Has Silva’s takedown defence improved since the first fight?
3. Has Sonnen’s submission defence improved?
Three simple questions that in my opinion have a massive effect on how this fight could possibly go
As most MMA fans will admit, Anderson Silva is possibly the greatest striker ever in MMA. Whether it’s his technique or variety of attacks, Silva has destroyed top contenders and former champions alike with everything ranging from punches in the guard, a fall away jab, vicious muay thai knees in the clinch and the an extremely rare front kick knock out against Vitor Belfort. Add to that his submission victories over two Olympic calibre wrestlers in Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen himself and you have a guy that is dangerous where ever the fight may go. He is now 14-0 in the UFC and has had nine successful title defences in the UFC. Both statistics are records for fighters within the organisation.
Before the original Sonnen fight we’d never seen Silva get badly tagged by anyone; he was visibly rocked at least twice in the first fight and the question remains was it down to Sonnen’s boxing skills or was it down to Silva’s condition due to the rib injury that he allegedly had going into the fight. Anyone who’s had issues with their ribs can tell you how much pain it causes when trying to take part in athletic activity; yet alone being driven into a canvass with a near 210lb man on top of you reigning down punches to those injured ribs. The reason that rib injury is so key is that it may have hurt Silva’s speed and ability to move and strike whilst attempting to avoid the takedowns of Sonnen. I think it would have had a huge impact in the speed and movement areas personally and I expect Silva to be in much better shape during this fight.
However, Silva in my opinion is going to have just as much trouble stopping the takedowns of Sonnen as he did in the previous fight. Chael Sonnen has possibly the best MMA wrestling on the planet and I can’t think of an opponent that has ever stopped him from completing at least one takedown. He pretty much took Silva down at will in the first fight and went on to land a UFC record 320 strikes in the fight.
Sonnen put Silva in deep water like no-one had ever done before. He utterly dominated the champion and held position for four rounds. Impressively he bet him both on the feet and on the ground. Since his return to competition following a suspension for elevated testosterone levels in the original fight; Sonnen has shown improvements in his already excellent ground game. In the Brian Stann fight he was both aggressive on the feet and on the ground. He passed guard with ease and was victorious with a beautiful arm triangle choke. He of course that evening launched into the “Anderson Silva you absolutely suck” speech with Anderson in the front row of the crowd.
Offering Silva a rematch with the condition that Chael would retire if he lost but Silva would have to leave the division if he lost. Of course this never came to be and Sonnen moved on to a fight with Michael Bisping after Mark Munoz pulled out with an injury. Sonnen seemed to struggle a bit with Bisping after a difficult weight cut and won an extremely close decision to set up this rematch. Sonnen has decent boxing and an excellent chin. We’ve rarely seen him rocked and his recovery thanks to his excellent cardio should help him weather the storms that Silva can provide. Much like when he survived an elbow that had him badly rocked in the first fight.
Since then the verbal barbs have continued with Silva including his own retorts regarding breaking Chael’s face as well as the media call that included a threat from Anderson that Chael wouldn’t be walking out of the Octagon.
I’ve been thinking about this fight for months and I’ve changed my mind so often regarding it that I’m really not sure who’s going to come out of it victorious. I have to believe that Sonnen has worked on his Achilles heel in submission defence and think it will be much harder for Silva to win in that manner again. Sonnen however may have the control on the ground to possibly trouble the champ with submission attacks. Of course this is an angry Silva and the two times in memory he’s been angered by an opponent we’ve seen two vastly different performances. One against Demian Maia were he refused to engage and effectively ran away from striking in a later round. The other was against Vitor Belfort were he added to the highlight reel. It’s difficult to guess which Anderson is going to show up.
Recommendation: I personally believe Anderson Silva will win this fight however I do think this is much closer than the bookies have it and a bet on Chael Sonnen is not a bad idea with the value that can be had at 12/5 on Bet365.
Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz:
Both men are former 205lb champions and legends of the sport for various reasons. Ortiz for his then record title defence streak as well as some of the biggest rivalries in the history of MMA. He’s also a rare commodity in that all of his fights bar one have been in the UFC. Forrest has been involved in some landmark moments as well; namely the fight that changed it all for the UFC with Stephan Bonnar in the original TUF Finale. That fight Griffin went on to win and is attributed by Dana White as the most important bout in UFC history. Griffin went on to become the second TUF winner to claim a title in the UFC when he bet Quinton Rampage Jackson.
It’s a strange fight to call as they’ve fought twice and have had extremely close fights. Both fights went to decision and had the judges split on who’d won. Tito took the first fight and Forrest took the most recent bout back in 2009.
Both have different motivations going into the fight. Ortiz is looking to end a glittering career with a victory having won just 1 of his last 8 fights. Forrest has lost 3 of his last 5 fights. One thing that must be stressed with both men is that they’ve both fought top opponents in their division. They’ve never backed down to take easier opponents to pad their records which has to be respected.
Griffin has a reach and striking technique advantage in my opinion but does get involved in brawls much to his cost. It’s also yet to be seen how becoming a father may effect Griffin’s previously admired work ethic where he was always seemed to be in the gym regardless of an upcoming fight or not.
Ortiz has a definite wrestling advantage and with Griffin’s propensity for leg kicks this may give Tito an opportunity to get the fight to ground where he can be in his element with his ground and pound skills.
A loss will hurt Tito and he does seem to have stepped up his training by moving back to Big Bear whilst I think Griffin is in decline personally with his motivation on the wane.
Recommendation: This is a fight Forrest should win every time but I’ve no confidence in him right now. A play on a motivated Tito could be recommended him up at 5/2. My bet for this fight will be that the fight goes the distance at 8/13 on Paddy Power.
Patrick Cote vs. Cung Le: Whilst Cung Le is extremely entertaining to watch; he’s not that effective. He’s fighting a guy with a durable chin in Cote who’s withstood a hell of an amount of punishment in the past and has a good striking game in his own right too. If Le is to win this fight he’ll do it in the first round. That’s available at 6/1 if you’re a Le fan. After that he tends to slow massively and this makes him vulnerable. Me personally I think Cote should weather the early storm and either take a decision or a late stoppage. I’d recommend the play on Cote at 10/20 on Bwin or bets on the 2nd and 3rd round as when the fight will finish at 11/4 and 5/1 respectively on Paddy Power.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia: I love Demian Maia’s jiu jitsu skills but this is going to be Stun Gun Kim’s fight in my opinion. He’s got much better stand up and excellent control on the ground as witnessed in the Nate Diaz fight. Add to that Maia’s dropping down to 170lbs after having cardio issues at 185lbs and I can not see a reason to contemplate not taking Kim at 8/11 on Paddy Power. Stun Gun for a double chance KO/TKO or decision win at evens on Sky Bet is incredible value.
Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie: Cody McKenzie and his famous guillotine choke drop down to 145lbs and immediately meets a former title challenger in Chad Mendes. This is an utter mismatch and I would recommend Mendes all day long. McKenzie’s strongest offensive weapon is a move that Mendes would see daily with Team Alpha Male having some guillotine artists of their own. This is one for the acca with Mendes being 1/5 with Sky Bet. The double chance for Mendes with Sky Bet of a TKO/KO or decision at 10/20 is probably the right bet to take here.
FOTN: Forrest vs. Tito at 9/2 will probably be part of a goodbye bonus should that fight be competitive or Menjivar vs. Easton at 9/1.
SOTN: I think John Alessio may be worth a small play at 20/1. If you can get no submissions on the night it’s possibly worthwhile with this card.
KOTN: Cote at 9/1 for me but if Silva wins by KO he’s a shoe in for it.