Mailbag: Silva-Sonnen the best fight ever?
You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI
Anderson Silva’s late submission victory over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 is the greatest fight in UFC history, in my opinion. The opinion of mixed martial arts fans is all over the map.
Yahoo! Sports readers have their say in this week’s edition of the MMA mailbag, which we’ve changed from a weekly feature to an occasional one.
Anderson Silva may have submitted Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 on Saturday and gotten another win, but that fight was nothing to be proud of for Anderson. I’m an Anderson fan, and I’d bet money he’s disgusted with his performance. He’d been acting like Sonnen had got into his head for months now and clearly seemed unwilling to reveal his true feelings against Sonnen during the pre-fight buildup for fear of being humiliated if he actually lost. It almost seems like he knows he only has a few fights left and he’s trying to “not get knocked out” rather than take any chances. I’m not sure if he’s getting old or just doesn’t have his heart in it anymore, but it might be time for him to retire before he gets hurt. I realize Sonnen was a poor style matchup and fought a great fight, but no one expected Anderson to be humiliated like that for 4½ rounds. Getting dominated for an entire fight and barely pulling it out with a single (lucky?) move at the end does not prove you’re the better fighter, it usually proves the opposite – that the worse fighter (that night) got lucky. Silva’s best days are over and Saturday’s “win” was hardly a victory (please stop believing all of Dana White’s propaganda). I just hope he can see the writing on the wall before it’s too late.
I couldn’t disagree more, Randy. It would have been easy for Silva to throw in the towel, figure he’d been beaten and try to come back on another night. He overcame adversity. He was facing an opponent with the perfect style to defeat him and that opponent went out and fought the fight of his life. The fact that Silva managed to keep his composure considering the duress he was under and then pull off a submission like he did speaks to his greatness as a fighter. He wasn’t on top of his game for much of the fight, but he still showed heart and courage and found a way to win. To me, that speaks volumes about him as a fighter.
Anderson Silva was exposed. Dan Henderson drew a rough sketch of how to beat Silva in his bout with Silva at UFC 82. Chael Sonnen, on the other hand, created a blueprint of how to do so. Honestly, I feel that if Sonnen doesn’t get the immediate rematch (which he deserves), then it will only be a matter of time before another wrestler comes along and beats him. I was just shocked when Silva made excuses for his performance. I mean, rib injury? Family problems? What? I’ve never heard a fighter bring stuff like that up. Chael may not have won this fight, but he created the beginning of the end of the Anderson Silva middleweight era. Everyone, even Silva, knows it.
John, first let me say that in person, Silva’s comments about his injury didn’t come off as making an excuse. He mentioned it as part of a longer answer and I didn’t think he dwelled on it as the reason he didn’t perform. I think you’re right that the Henderson-Sonnen blueprint is the way to beat Silva, but it’s one thing to write it and it’s another thing to execute it. Sonnen executed it perfectly for 23 minutes and still didn’t win. If this is the beginning of the end of Silva, it’s more because of the punishment he took in the bout and the fact that he’s 35 years old. It’s not like other fighters weren’t aware of the Henderson-Sonnen blueprint earlier.
UFC 117 was my first pay-per-view purchase and I made it mostly with the hope of seeing Silva take a pounding. I wasn’t disappointed for the first 4½ rounds. I’m now left with the feeling he dogged it for the first four rounds after the criticism he took following his antics in the last fight, seeing how easily the submission came.
There was far too much risk for him to have dogged it, Neal. It would have been very easy for one of those Sonnen elbows from the top to have busted his cheekbone or opened a gash above his eye that would have forced the referee to stop the fight. The loss to Silva was the 11th of Sonnen’s career, eight of which have now been by submission. He’s been forced to tap to a triangle choke by Forrest Griffin, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Demian Maia and now Silva. Sonnen made one error against Silva and Silva showed his championship mettle by quickly capitalizing on it.
I totally disagree with the hype that the Silva-Sonnen fight was the greatest UFC fight ever. The fight was fantastic and I was on the edge of my seat as a Silva fan. As a Rocky! story goes or a movie fight with a twist at the end, it was highly compelling. Many people call the first Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight the UFC’s best ever, but to me, it’s just the most notable for its role of helping to save the company. In my opinion, the best UFC fight ever was the Diego Sanchez-Karo Parisyan bout in 2006. That was a back-and-forth slugfest with some fantastic ground work, takedowns and two guys putting it all out there. It still takes the cake as the best ever.
Long Island, N.Y.
Jon, I was at the Sanchez-Parisyan fight, as well, and it is one of my favorite MMA fights ever. Having said that, it didn’t hold a candle to Silva-Sonnen. It’s a personal opinion and, of course, there is no right answer. But in this fight, you had a long shot challenger who had talked an unbelievable amount of smack for more than six months going out and for 96 percent of the fight, doing what he’d say he’d do. Then, suddenly, you had the man widely regarded as the best in the world pull off a highly improbable submission to get the win and retain the title. To me, that makes it the best ever, though I respect other opinions and viewpoints on it.
Where do you think Anderson Silva is headed following his shocking win at UFC 117? Assuming he can beat Vitor Belfort and can get past Sonnen in a rematch, is there much left for him at middleweight? Personally, I’d like to see him continue to work up the light heavyweight ladder. Do you see a Silva vs. Jon “Bones” Jones fight as a possibility for the (distant) future?
I wouldn’t expect him to fight more than those two bouts at middleweight, Andy. He said he wants to fight the rest of his career there, but the big-money fights are going to lie at light heavyweight if and when he gets past Belfort and Sonnen.
A rematch between Silva and Sonnen should be made immediately, especially since Sonnen thoroughly dominated the fight. Silva claims he fought with injured ribs and Sonnen made a few mistakes that Silva worked off to pull the victory, but the only way we will find out if Sonnen’s performance was a fluke will be in the ring. Silva persevered like a true champion and Sonnen laid his heart out pushing forward like a true challenger who was hungry for the belt. I hope Dana White makes an immediate rematch between the two.
Niku T’arhechu T’arhesi
I agree completely, Niku. I had no problem when Belfort was supposed to get the title shot at UFC 112, before he had to withdraw because he needed shoulder surgery. Now, though, things have changed, given Sonnen’s performance. In Sonnen, you have a man who dominated Silva like no other and who came within an eyelash of winning the title. In Belfort, you have a man who has never fought at middleweight in the UFC, has only fought two of his 27 career fights at middleweight and hasn’t made 185 pounds since Jan. 24, 2009. To me, it’s an easy choice. Sonnen gets the rematch and then Belfort gets the winner.
I was going to let you have it for the things you and others said about Anderson Silva, but I will do as he did and take the high road. Personally, nothing needs to be said after Saturday’s fight. Anderson said it best. He said it with his words and with his actions. The guy doesn’t believe in losing. Sonnen forgot one thing about Silva that cost him the championship. The one thing he made fun of. Anderson has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. People forget that. I understand how you forget that part of his game because he is such an excellent striker. Anderson Silva is pound for pound the best MMA fighter in the world. He proved that Saturday.
When Silva has fought and lived up to his potential, I have showered him with praise. But I won’t apologize for dogging him for his act at UFC 112, because it was ridiculous and he deserved to be called out on it. I agree with you, though, that Silva now clearly deserves to be ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound.
Dana White and Sonnen both criticized Silva for dancing around the last couple of rounds in the Damian Maia fight! Sonnen said he was dancing like Michael Jackson. If Sonnen had danced a little, he would be champion today. I bet you the next time Sonnen has a guaranteed win going into the last round, he will emulate Silva with the Michael Jackson fade away moonwalk moves.
You’re right, it would have been the easy way to the win. But I commend him for trying to finish the fight. Fans complain about Jon Fitch being boring (see below) and so when a fighter attempts to finish, he deserves to be commended.
Do you believe that Jon Fitch deserves another shot at the welterweight title? Champion Georges St. Pierre hasn’t been very crowd-pleasing in his last few fights, but Fitch’s fights are almost all snoozefests. He takes his opponents down and keeps them down with almost no action. I realize he’s facing top caliber opponents, but he’s not an MMA fighter, he’s a wrestler with enough standup to suffice until he can wrestle his opponent to the ground. He doesn’t seem to have any submission skills, or doesn’t care to use them, and he gets booed frequently for his cage performances. In the sport vs. entertainment debate, do you think that fighters have an obligation to put on crowd-pleasing displays if they want to advance?
It’s no revelation that Fitch is among the least-exciting fighters in the UFC, but he does deserve the shot. His record is incredible: He’s won five in a row and 21 of his last 22, most against high-level opposition. Having said that, he’s going to suffer in his paycheck, because he is not giving fans a reason to want to see him. Grinding out those methodical wins is ultimately going to make his paycheck smaller.