Chael Sonnen’s cheeky romp through the Forbidden City ended as all cartoon strips with morality tales do: with sudden comeuppance – in this case a choke to ye ol’ windpipe and intimations of a near death experience. Sounds familiar? Well it should because the plot is as old as classic fable.
The ultimate bottomline is that UFC 117 surprised the hell out of everyone. And its end, sudden and surreptitious, caught even Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg off guard. The explosive reaction that reverbrated worldwide was right up there with the storied endings of famous fights since the beginning of MMA. (Shades of Werdum vs Fedor or Lesnar vs Carwin anyone?)
On a different matter, UFC 117 was instructive of why Dana White should stay out of Anderson Silva’s head when it comes to stylistic elements of fighting – the near total refusal to engage with an opponent excepted of course*. But we digress.
The typologies of the two fighters couldn’t have been more divergent. Sonnen was tight and coiled as a metal spring while Silva was loose and free-flowing. Sonnen was all muscle and ready to hustle and while Silva probbed and dogged the challenger with a studiedly cerebral bent. Something was bound to give – and give it did two minutes before the final bell.
The first and second rounds saw Anderson Silva toying with Sonnen* – yes, sometimes with hands down and then grinding the majority of the rounds from the bottom and weathering Sonnen’s extended ground and pound marathons. Silva flippantly* dismissed two kicks in the first round by grabbing Sonnen’s leg and almost flipping him back like a pinball.
That was one side of the coin. The other one had Chael Sonnen, bereft of any fear of the vaunted legend of Anderson The Spiderman, breaching the wall of Anderson’s forbidden city and wrecking so much havoc and aggravation that about 2 minutes into the 5th round (with Silva down on all cards) announcer Mike Goldberg was openly wondering whether it would be too early “for Chael to start to celebrate.” Sonnen had rocked Silva with a left blow early in the first round and then proceeded to take him down at will, not to mention reversing ground positions to maintain ground and pound advantage. This grinding attack had probably not figured in Silva’s plans. Ah the indignity of it all! The cheek and the sacrilege! What do deities have to suffer before calling in the thunder and lightning?
Regardless of the way one looks at what happened last night, Sonnen went a long way towards establishing his octagonal creds and putting his money where his big mouth is. And like Shogun in the first match with Machida, he clearly earned the right for a rematch or did he?. Anderson’s broken rib explanation for a lackluster performance in all rounds leading will not hold water until he proves his old mettle. Rematch anyone? Whether the odds, in a rematch eventuality, will shift by much remains to be seen – but our feeling is that a lot of people will lose their shirts on this one – especially if the rematch is expedited while fans on both sides of the fence are still foaming at the mouth.)
With Silva trailing Sonnen in the first 4 rounds, round 5 was clearly a do or die affaire. Silva was about to go down like another legend named Fedor if he couldn’t pull something out of his ass. Given the way rounds 1 to 4 had turned out, Silva was probably gonna have to do it on the ground. His team knew it, and Silva knew it. Following round 4, a victory outcome for Silva was no longer a given. Odds-makers and bettors were beginning to chew their extremities off – but Silva’s corner saw the pieces of their emergent plan falling into place one by one even as Silva slipped and fell and Sonnen piled on in customary fashion. A valiant attempt to do a Lesnar-style arm triangle choke by Sonnen quickly came to nought. “The Sandman” had neither the strength nor heft to pull it off. The tactical fix was on. Silva and his team were about to play Sonnen like a cheap game of chess. And Sonnen, apparently dazed by the surreality of his fortune did not see the pieces of Silva’s strategy falling into place. Call it highway hypnosis or bambi-in-the-headlights daze, Sonnen was about to miss physical cues and other things in the periphery of his sensorium (Second line of point #3 below for example.)
“You can never count out a guy like Anderson Silva. There is a reason why he is champion. He has got to know he is in a desperate situation. Let’s see how much he’s got left – what kind of weapons he can pull out of his arsenal.” (Joe Rogan, UFC 117 Commentary with about two minutes and change remaining in the 5th round)
1. Piece one was a firm and full guard that had Sonnen locked way back in a position where he could not pound on Silva’s head. Silva’s right leg was in place. And so was his left.
2. Piece two was Silva’s firm grip on Sonnen’s right hand. Sonnen was reduced to trying to bitch-slap Silva with his only free hand, the left.
3. Piece three was execution of the first part of Silva’s strategy. And this involved hooking Sonnen’s neck with his right hand surreptitiosly pulling Sonnen towards him. No amorous designs intended here because Silva soon begins to hammer Sonnen with his right elbow. Sonnen ducks from the blows and in the process tucks his head into Silva’s chest.
4. Piece four was “The Anaconda Moment”: With Sonnen’s head down and his right hand conveniently tucked into his chest, Silva senses the split-second opportunity and strikes by swinging his left foot over Channen’s right shoulder and lodging it in his neck while his ankles lock in a leg triangle choke. To say that Sonnen was immobilized would the understatement of the fight. Another few seconds it would have been goodnight for the Sandman.
Ah, the nail-biting brinksmanship!
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UFC’s Chael Sonnen makes waves, fails drug test (Adam Watson, Page 2)
Chael Sonnen Tested Positive for Unnaturally High Testosterone Levels (Sports Illustrated)
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