Saturday will mark one of the most anticipated rematches in the history of the UFC for UFC 148. Long considered the best middleweight fighter on the planet, Anderson Silva (-280 on Bovada) will step into the cage with the stiffest challenge of his career. Standing across the Octagon from the champ will be the man that nearly defeated him at UFC 117 back in 2010, Chael Sonnen (+220).
In their first encounter, Sonnen put together an impressive 4.5 rounds. The American wrestler dominated the champion, continually taking Silva down and keeping him on his back for almost the entire fight. In addition to his success on the mat, Sonnen surprised many when he appeared to hurt Silva on a couple of occasions during the striking exchanges. Unfortunately for the challenger, his title aspirations came to an abrupt end when he suffered the eighth submission defeat of his career. He was subsequently suspended for a multitude of issues following the fight.
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Prior to their first meeting, Sonnen put together an impressive winning streak; defeating Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, and Nate Marquardt to rise to the top of the division. In similar fashion, Sonnen has picked up back-to-back wins over top ranked opponents Brian Stann and Michael Bisping leading up to this fight. Anderson Silva has also been to the cage twice since UFC 117, defeating Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, both by knockout.
The first fight was one for the ages, with Silva being pushed to the limit and battered in a manner never seen before. After the dust had settled, news broke from the champion’s camp that he was suffering from an injury during the fight, which was the reason for his less-than-stellar performance, which has left many, including oddsmakers, favoring Anderson in the rematch.
At UFC 148, Sonnen will again enter the cage as the betting underdog, but not nearly as big of one this time around compared to his UFC 117 odds of +325. Even with the champion suffering from an injury in their first clash, Sonnen’s dominant performance is hard to look past, especially when considering his solid payout potential.
Taking a look at past performances, the challenger’s success can hardly be considered a fluke as he dominated other talented fighters like Okami, Nate Marquardt, and Brian Stann in similar fashion. Additionally, consideration should be given to Anderson’s age, 37, and his general lack of activity with his last fight taking place roughly 11 months ago. Even if Anderson is healthy, at 37 he could be starting to slow down, and with his striking style based on timing and speed, if his age has caught up to him his performance will be impacted.
Sonnen has a known history of submission defense issues, suffering eight of his 11 defeats by tapout. In an attempt to address these issues he has brought in jiu-jitsu black belt and “The Ultimate Fighter” finalist Vinny Magalhaes to help him train.
Although Sonnen’s issues with submissions are a concern, Anderson too has a past history suggesting he has difficulty defending a wrestling-heavy attack. In addition to the evidence put on display at UFC 117, Silva lost the opening frame against Dan Henderson when his opponent was able to take him down and control him for the a large portion of the round. Going all the way back to 2007, Silva had similar issues with BJJ black belt Travis Lutter. Despite suffering from a bad weight cut and visible fatigue, Lutter was able to take the champ down several times. In each of these three scenarios Silva did emerge victorious, taking advantage of an exhausted opponent vulnerable to a submission. These scenarios are similar to the famed “puncher’s chance,” and although Silva has pulled it off three times it is hard to make an investment expecting it to happen a fourth time.
Sonnen has an excellent chin, and as long as his weight cut goes well he should have the conditioning to push Anderson from bell to bell. Suggesting that Silva is incapable of knocking his opponent out is foolhardy and I would never suggest that, but Sonnen’s pressure and power double-leg takedown is a perfect counter action to limit Silva’s opportunities and expose any physical issues that he may have.
At +220, Sonnen to defeat Silva and capture the middleweight strap is the bet to make. Normally I would suggest a prop bet option, but I think that the best course of action is to ride with the challenger to build on his past success. I expect this to be a much more competitive fight then their first meeting, but equally as entertaining. UFC 148 is going to be the MMA event of the summer and make sure to check out the rest of the main card predictions here Doc’s Sports.