Exceptional fighters at their peak are rare in mixed martial arts. Legends such as Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Matt Hughes, Alexandre Franca Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko have graced fight fans with smashing success and thrilling performances. Near-perfected styles have given these fighters all the accolades they deserve.
Anderson Silva’s ascension to the top of many fans’ and pundits’ pound-for-pound list is well-earned as well. Adjusting to his opponents’ styles to viciously win via submission or knockout is a trademark of Silva’s stardom in the sport.
Or is it?
More recently, Anderson Silva’s toying of his challengers has led to frustration among MMA enthusiasts who look at his lackadaisical approach with disdain and disappointment. Gone are the highlight reel finishes we grew accustomed to in his wins against Rich Franklin (twice); Nate Marquardt; James Irvin; Forrest Griffin; Travis Lutter; Chris Leben; and Dan Henderson. A more arrogant, overly-confidant and seemingly uninterested middleweight champion took the reigns in his fights against Patrick Côté, Thales Leites and Demian Maia. Vociferous booing and public admonishment from UFC president Dana White followed Silva’s performances in that time frame. Was it frustration with the level of challengers? Was it boredom due to a sub-par skill set? Was Silva upset with UFC management? No one knows for sure.
Skill wise, Anderson Silva has at times struggled against top-level wrestlers who excel in the upper-body Greco-Roman style of wrestling. He was taken down by Henderson, Marquardt and Lutter, but persevered and came away with submission finishes. Fundamental switches from disadvantageous positions aided Silva to better positioning for his wins. It’s no surprise that Silva’s Team Black House drafted WEC veteran and current UFC middleweight fighter Mark Muñoz – a college wrestling standout – to assist them company with a better wrestling skill set. Silva will need every piece of advice necessary to counter challenger Chael Sonnen’s relentless wrestling.
It takes two fighters to promote a bout. In yesterday’s entry, I detailed how Sonnen has lured Silva and MMA fans with harsh trash talk. Indeed, many talking points have flown around the blogosphere and MMA media in anticipation of Saturday’s fight. Silva, on the other hand, has said little up to now about Sonnen and his title defense in Oakland.
Last night’s Countdown to UFC 117 that aired on Spike TV, however, brought about an agitated middleweight champion.
“Chael Sonnen has talked more trash than anybody I’ve ever faced,” he said. “He talks like a champion, but in the Octagon we’ll find out quickly if he can fight like one. All this trash talking is going to cause a fiasco in his mind.”
“He’s saying that I’m a fake and liar. Well you know what? When we’re inside the Octagon, he’s going to have to back up all these things he’s saying about me.”
If ever there was a time for Silva to unleash his full potential and convert his recent detractors, Saturday night presents the perfect opportunity.
Tomorrow, I’ll preview the welterweight rematch between Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves. Friday’s edition will include my picks for Saturdays fights. As always, reader feedback is encouraged and welcomed. Feel free to email me at Jaime.Martinez@gmail.com