Five words have had the MMA world buzzing over the past week: “Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck.”
MMA Insider Alex Donno breaks down the impact of Sonnen’s WWE Style Promo that still has the MMA World buzzing, plus a breakdown of Bellator 54.
After impressively beating Brian Stann by second round submission at UFC 136, those were the first five words that left Chael Sonnen’s mouth, after he grabbed the microphone from Joe Rogan. Bizarre, brilliant, entertaining, unnecessary, over-the-top, disrespectful; those are just a few of the many adjectives being used to describe Sonnen’s polarizing post fight interview. Sonnen used that platform to challenge middleweight champion Anderson Silva to a rematch on Super Bowl weekend. But he didn’t propose just any old title fight. He challenged Silva to what basically amounts to a WWE style “loser leaves town” match. If he wins, Sonnen wants Silva to leave the UFC’s middleweight division. But if he loses, Sonnen says he will leave the UFC forever. Those stipulations seem unbalanced, but Sonnen says Silva is a coward, so he has to “play by the coward’s rules,” and offer him a fight he thinks Silva will accept. Silva happened to be sitting in the front row at the Toyota Center during Sonnen’s pro wrestling style rant, and he appeared at least mildly amused by it. UFC President Dana White claims that Anderson legitimately hates Chael, but even so, it’s hard not to be tickled by his ramblings.
Whether you love Chael Sonnen or you hate him, a legitimate question worth asking is: is he good for the sport of MMA? Many fans appreciate Chael’s colorful personality and over the top style. Others prefer their favorite fighters to handle themselves with honor and respect at all times, upholding traditional martial arts values. Many non-MMA fans have watched the Youtube clip of his UFC 136 interview, and promptly bashed MMA for “trying to be the WWE.” Watch the clip below.
To truly formulate an opinion on Chael P. Sonnen, I believe one must first examine him within context. Last Saturday was not the first time he said something outlandish in an interview, nor will it be the last time. This is the same man who, after receiving backlash from the Brazilian media for poking fun at Brazilian fighters, said he will choose his venue more wisely next time, as he had no idea the internet exists in Brazil. And he had this to say about the value of Anderson Silva’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt: “He’s got a black belt under the Nogueira brothers. I think a black belt under the Nogueira brothers is like saying I got a free toy in my happy meal.” And after Anderson used his happy meal toy skills to submit Chael in the fifth round of their August 2010 fight, Chael seemed to totally disregard the loss, claiming to be the UFC’s “real middleweight champion.” Do you see a theme developing here? Chael isn’t a bad guy. He’s closer to a cartoon character than a bad guy. For a comprehensive list of Chael’s most memorable quotes, I recommend paying a visit to Chael Sonnen Said So. As someone who has seen and heard virtually every interview Sonnen has given in recent years, I’d best describe his personality as a clever inside joke. The fans who understand his humor and context are on the inside, while those who take him too seriously are merely on the outside looking in.
There are some fans that take every word that comes out of Chael Sonnen’s mouth to heart, and judge him accordingly. But if you truly examine his body of work, you might come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to take him seriously as a trash talker. But once we draw the conclusion that his outrageous quotes are less than sincere, and for entertainment purposes only, should we sit back and enjoy the Chael Sonnen quote machine, or should we bash him for putting on a manufactured, pro wrestling style persona? That’s an argument that seems impossible for either side to win.
But regardless of your opinions on the man himself, I’d venture to say that Chael Sonnen is the best thing that ever happened to Anderson Silva’s UFC career. Every great champion in combat sports needs a nemesis; a bitter rival that fans will remember for generations to come. Muhammed Ali had Joe Frazier, Manny Pacquiao has Juan Manuel Marquez (and maybe Floyd Mayweather Jr, if they ever fight), Chuck Liddell had Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Anderson Silva, whether you like it or not, has Chael Sonnen.
Anderson Silva made his UFC debut in 2006, and is a perfect 14-0 inside the Octagon. He’s pulled off highlight reel knockouts, fight ending submissions, and even had a few fights where his opponents were so overmatched, that he spent the better part of five rounds simply dancing around and toying with them. But only opponent ever made him struggle to find victory. You guessed it, that man was Chael Sonnen. In their UFC 117 bout in August 2010, Chael spent four and a half rounds taking Silva down at will, punishing him with ground and pound, and even battering him in their few standup exchanges. Midway through the fifth and final round, it seemed as though Sonnen was on his way to capturing a dominant unanimous decision victory. But the champion had one trick left up his sleeve. Sonnen got a bit careless in top control, and Silva was able to achieve wrist control and lock up a triangle choke submission. Chael tapped out with just 1:50 left in the fight. Despite being the consensus top pound for pound fighter in MMA, Anderson Silva is not the UFC’s top pay per view draw. Those honors belong to Georges St-Pierre, and Brock Lesnar is a close second. Many have theorized that Silva’s dominance has actually hurt his drawing power. The vast majority of his UFC opponents have been no match for him on paper, and prospective pay per view buyers are rarely willing to shell out $60 to watch what’s sure to be a one-sided fight. But a fight with Chael Sonnen offers drama, intrigue, and excitement. Most challengers who step in to the Octagon with Anderson Silva appear mentally beaten before the fight even starts. But Chael Sonnen seems to be unaffected by Silva’s aura. You can expect Sonnen to push the pace and bring the fight to Silva, like he did at UFC 117. Even if Chael doesn’t win the fight, he will bring out the best in Anderson Silva, and people will pay to see it.
Thanks to Chael Sonnen, Anderson Silva showed the world that he can overcome great adversity in a fight. But as Sonnen will tell you, there’s unfinished business between the two. After seeing Sonnen enjoying so much success in controlling the untouchable pound for pound champion, fans will be anxious to see if he can do that again. If he avoids making another careless, costly mistake, could Sonnen possibly pull it off next time? Or did he catch Silva on an off night? It’s been confirmed that Silva had been nursing a painful rib injury before he stepped into the cage with Sonnen. Might that have been why he didn’t look like himself in the fight? Hopefully, those questions will be answered on Super Bowl weekend. One thing’s for sure: years from now, when fans look back at Anderson Silva, they’ll remember his rivalry with Chael P. Sonnen.
With the UFC taking the next two weekends off, Bellator will dominate MMA’s national spotlight this weekend. Coming off a record low in television ratings last week, they’ll look to bounce back in a big way on Saturday night with Bellator 54.
Bellator 54 features the semifinal round of the Season 5 Middleweight tournament. 4 men remain in the tournament bracket, vying for a shot at middleweight champion Hector Lombard. The first semifinal matchup will pit the inspirational Bryan Baker against Brazilian grappler Vitor Vianna. Baker has one of the most touching stories in MMA right now. Throughout 2010, Baker was secretly battling chronic myelogenous leukemia. It didn’t stop him from continuing his MMA career, as he posted a 2-1 record while literally fighting for his life with cancer treatments. Bryan’s story didn’t go public until September 21st, 2010, when it was revealed that his leukemia had gone into remission. Bellator fans earned a whole new sense of respect for Baker, and his story become even more compelling on May 7th, 2011. That night, he knocked out UFC veteran Joe Riggs in the second round at Bellator 43. During his post fight interview, he called his girlfriend into the cage, and after an uplifting speech about defeating the odds, proposed to her on national television. As far as proposals go, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect one than that. And yes, she did accept.
In his fight with Vitor Vianna, Baker will be tested on many levels. Vianna is the head Jiu Jitsu instructor at Wanderlei Silva’s Wand Fight Time. He’s Wanderlei’s primary training partner, so one can imagine his striking game continues to sharpen. Baker hits hard in the standup, but his bread and butter lies with takedowns and top control. Vianna’s submission game will offer him a constant threat if and when the fight goes to the ground. With that considered, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Baker test his luck in the striking game for the majority of the fight.
In the other middleweight semifinal, unorthodox Russian striker Alexander Shlemenko meets American knockout artist Brian Rogers. Regardless of the outcome, this fight should be a lot of fun. On paper, you can expect an all out striking war. Shlemenko is always crowd pleasing, as he throws a variety of spinning kicks and elbows. His awkward rhythm and tough to predict style have proven effective in keeping his opponents guessing. As for Brian Rogers, he’s always coming forward and pushing the pace. He possesses some of the most powerful strikes in Bellator’s middleweight division, and has recorded 7 of his 8 pro victories by knockout.
The remainder of the Bellator 54 televised card features a pair of special attractions. Bantamweight champion Zack Makovsky will face Ryan Roberts in a non-title “super fight,” and Jacob Kirwan will take on Rene Nazare in a lightweight bout.
Bellator 54 will be televised live on MTV 2 and EPIX HD, beginning at 9:00pm EST.