Anderson Silva‘s fight headlined the card. The Brazilian middleweight was making his 10th title defense and his second against Chael Sonnen, but this title defense felt bigger.
Leading up to the fight, Sonnen slammed Silva in interviews, taking shots at his fighting ability, family and nationality. He was acting more like a WWE superstar than a professional fighter. Despite Silva’s characteristically mild manner, the comments visibly fueled him. The war of words made for as tense a weigh-in as the UFC has ever had. And the shoulder Silva drove into Sonnen’s chest didn’t do much to calm either side down.
Silva wore his emotions on his sleeves, but that wasn’t the strangest part about the fight. The trash talking added an interesting element to the rematch, but millions tuned in because there was actually a feeling that Silva, who came into the bout on a 14-fight win streak, might actually lose.
Sonnen had nearly dethroned Silva just two years earlier. Four and a half rounds into UFC 117, Sonnen had Silva beat with a dominant ground and pound attack. But Silva did what he does best. He found a way to win, locking Sonnen into an arm triangle with less than two minutes to go in the fight.
Two years later, after Sonnen tested positive for steroids and was forced to climb the middleweight ladder all over again, Dana White scheduled the rematch. And outside of the buildup and heightened tension, the fight had a familiar feel.
Sonnen took advantage of Silva’s emotional start to the fight, taking the champion to the ground and dominating the first round. Sonnen appeared primed to pick up where he left off against Silva, but this time, he was determined to finish.
But a fighter doesn’t go six years without losing just to concede the belt after a round, and Silva came out swinging in the second round. Silva stuffed not one, but two Sonnen take-down attempts, keeping the fight off the mat, where Sonnen had been dominant.
Silva had his edge back. He walked around the ring with his arms at his side, dodging Sonnen strikes without a care in the world. When Silva avoided Sonnen’s final attempt, a spinning back fist, the trash-talking contender was sent flying into the cage, and it didn’t take long for Silva to finish the fight.
The postfight scene was reminiscent of a fighter who was winning the title for the first time. Silva celebrated with tear-filled eyes, hugging his children and praising his opponent. And as the belt was once again wrapped around Silva’s waist, one couldn’t help but feel that no fighter in the history of the sport was as much of a champion as Silva.
He has succesfully defended his title ten times. Since signing on with the UFC in 2006, Silva has not lost a fight. He has won more consecutive fights (15) than any fighter in UFC history. And he has the longest UFC title reign of all time.
As impressive as all of that is, it doesn’t speak to how dominant a fighter Silva has been throughout his career. Rarely does a fighter step into the ring against Silva with a prayer of winning the fight. He has made a living off of embarassing his opponents, and he can win in so many ways.
UFC 148 was a challenge for Silva. He was called out and doubted, two uncommon occurences throughout his career. But the man they call the “Spider” once again rose to the occasion.
He’s not finished yet, but Silva has set the bar higher than any figher in the history of MMA. With a resume like Silva’s, it’s tough for any fighter to stack up against the Sau Paulo native.
Silva has been linked to rumors of potential fights against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and boxer Roy Jones Jr. There is no limit to what this man can do. And like UFC 148, and many fights before it, every time Silva is scheduled to fight, it’s must-watch television. He never fails to live up to the hype.
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