What adjustments does Chael Sonnen need to make to come away victorious on July 7 at UFC 148 in his long-awaited rematch with Anderson Silva?
It's a tough question to answer, as Silva has such a loaded arsenal to work with. For all the adjustments that Sonnen makes, you can bet that Silva will already be one step ahead.
The best bet for Sonnen would probably just be to stick with what he knows and turn it into a dirty grappling match rather than a standup war.
Sonnen dominated for 4.5 rounds the last time he stepped into the cage with the legendary Brazilian, only to get caught in a triangle choke as time wound down in the final stanza.
Randy Couture, a former teammate of Sonnen's at TeamQuest, told MMA Fighting's Luke Thomas that the challenger will likely stick with the same game plan, with the exception of the tough luck ending.
"It's kind of odd," Couture told Thomas, as reported by Bloody Elbow. "Normally I would say that the onus is on the guy who won the first fight to anticipate the changes the loser is going to make and get the same outcome. "If you look at Anderson and Chael, Anderson won by triangle choke with two minutes left. He didn't really win the fight. He got his ass whooped - literally - for four-plus rounds," Couture continued, "but it's almost like he was the guy that won. He wants it to go the same minus the triangle."
In my view, Sonnen seems to lose confidence somewhere along the way when he steps into the cage. Perhaps it's due to poor conditioning or fatigue, but he seems to give fights away late in rounds.
As Couture hinted at, the triangle choke may be Sonnen's "kryptonite," as his last three losses were by way of the triangle or armbar.
Since Sonnen's style has so much to do with getting opponents to the mat and grinding them down with ground-and-pound, situations are going to come up where he's going to have to find a defense from getting submitted from the guard.
Sonnen is typically on top of his opponents. I'm not sure if he's too aggressive or just has a mental lapse, but it's clear that he has to make adjustments to at least not leave himself open to the triangle.
Since Sonnen absolutely dominated the first fight except for getting caught in the triangle at the end, I would agree with Couture's assessment that he doesn't need to change a thing except find a way to defend the triangle.
The biggest problem seems to be that Sonnen doesn't know what to do when he gets caught in it. He seems to just freeze up and panic, eventually tapping out before going to sleep.
There is a great video on YouTube, where Georges St-Pierre intricately details the best ways to defend the triangle. First, you want to turn your head to look away from your opponent to take some pressure off your neck.
Next you want to posture up, step to the side and place your knee on your opponent's chest. The final step involves grabbing the opponent's inner leg and shaking out of the position until all the pressure is off.
At the 3:00 mark of the video, St-Pierre provides a different technique to escape the triangle, where he essentially steps over the top of his opponent after spinning him over.
In Sonnen's first fight against Silva, he didn't utilize any of these techniques to escape the triangle.
What should Sonnen do differently this time around? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.