The rematch of the century will take place this Saturday night (July 7, 2012) as UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva takes on Chael Sonnen for the second time in the main event of UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Silva has gone 14-0 in his illustrious and legendary UFC career with a record nine defenses of his UFC middleweight title. "The Spider" is already being called the greatest fighter in the history of the sport and he's looking to get that one dark spot off his record, the one man who never feared him or respected him.
Chael Sonnen was two minutes away from immortality before he blew it the last time against Silva. All he had to do was not get finished and the championship was his, but he couldn't. This time, the brash ex-realtor is back, having earned his rematch with a pair of top 10 victories and he wants to finish the job.
Will Silva shut Sonnen up with another incredible performance? Can Sonnen finish what he started back in 2010? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 31-4 overall, 14-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Oh boy, where do we even start? Anderson Silva got his start in the Chute Box camp, working his way over to Pride where he started strong, but actually got submitted a pair of times including one of the most amazing finishes in the history of the sport against Ryo Chonan.
Undeterred, Silva signed up with the UK's Cage Rage promotion where he leveled everyone in his path, becoming champion in his first bout and defending his title three times in impressive fashion. After a disqualification loss to Yushin Okami at Rumble on the Rock, Silva signed on with the UFC and began his historic run.
He massacred Chris Leben in his debut and was immediately granted a title shot against Rich Franklin, who he destroyed with knees to the body and face in the first round to become UFC middleweight champion.
He's never looked back since. Silva has defended his title a UFC record nine times and his current run in the promotion some of the most amazing performances in the history of the sport like his front kick of Vitor Belfort or his embarrassment of former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Only Chael Sonnen has made him look vulnerable, although Silva still pulled off a miracle submission at the end of the fifth round. Now he gets a chance to prove he can beat Sonnen again this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: For Anderson Silva, it's all about agility. He defends strikes and takedowns much differently than us mere mortals. It's almost like he's got a higher understanding of stand-up where his reflexes are so good he can see everything coming well before it happens and can get out of the way.
On the feet, he can't stand in one spot for too long and he can't drop his hands like he typically does. Chael Sonnen is not going to respect him. Silva has to be extremely light on his feet and prepared to dance or skirt out of the way the second Sonnen lowers his head and charges in.
Sonnen has a terrific chin, so Silva has to be pinpoint with his accuracy and can't afford to screw around with goofy attacks like leg punches or some of his other unorthodox strikes he's showcased in the past.
If and when Sonnen takes him down, Silva can't just work off his back and look for the submission. If he sees an opening, sure, but if not, then he needs to immediately try to get back to his feet whether it's with a sweep or cagewalking. Anything is better than being forced to carry Sonnen's bulk for an extended period of time.
Record: 27-11-1 overall, 5-4 in the UFC
Key Losses: Anderson Silva (UFC 117), Demian Maia (UFC 95)
How he got here: Chael Sonnen has had a long and storied history in mixed martial arts. He was an All-American at Oregon, was a national champion in Greco Roman wrestling and was an Olympic alternate. He didn't take the easy road into MMA either as his first professional fight was against Jason Miller where he ground out a decision with his wrestling.
The story of Sonnen's entire career has been his ability to use his wrestling to defeat opponents while coming up short occasionally to tough submission fighters. Jeremy Horn famously beat him on three separate occasions, twice by submission and once from a cut. Sonnen also fell short to the likes of Forrest Griffin and Renato Sobral in his pre-UFC days.
After dropping a tough loss to Paulo Filho for the WEC middleweight title, Sonnen rebounded to hand Bryan Baker his first career loss and then beat Filho in a rematch, although the champion had failed to make weight (and also saw invisible people).
Sonnen lost his first fight in the UFC to Demian Maia via, you guessed it, submission in the first round but he bounced back strongly with solid victories over top contenders Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt to earn a shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. In his title fight against "The Spider," Sonnen refused to back down and was minutes away from a dominant decision victory before Silva wrapped him up in a triangle choke and forced the tap.
The Oregonian tested positive for testosterone after the fight and dealt with suspension and other issues for a full year before finally getting a crack at Brian Stann at UFC 136. The mouthy ex-realtor stepped up and destroyed Stann, overpowering him with wrestling and actually scoring his first stoppage victory in the UFC with a second round arm triangle choke.
After an injury to Mark Munoz, Sonnen battled Michael Bisping for a title shot. The Brit put up a valiant effort but came up short, losing to Sonnen in a very close battle which earned Sonnen his chance at redemption against Silva.
How he gets it done: Chael Sonnen has a terrific ability of being aggressive with his striking because he knows his opponents are very concerned about the takedown. He's been able to outstrike just about everyone he's fought because of this. If his opponents get flustered and try to open up, he puts the fear into the back of their minds by diving in with his wrestling.
Sonnen has a terrific double leg, single leg and high crotch takedowns. He clearly possesses some of the best MMA wrestling on the planet and he throws a ton of strikes once he has his opponent on the ground. They may not be heavily damaging blows, but they accumulate and Sonnen never gets tired.
He will push the pace of this fight, pressing Anderson Silva in the striking, clinch and especially on the ground. If Silva gets a little too antsy in the stand-up and starts tagging him, Sonnen always has that terrific shot in his back pocket. Being able to control where the fight takes place is incredibly vital.
The second Silva gets too aggressive or makes a wrong step, the American wants to get in deep, bury his head in "The Spider's" chest and blast him into the canvas. That's the best way to neutralize someone's stand-up game and he knows it. Sonnen wants to repeat history, except this time not blow it with two minutes left.
If and when he puts Silva on his back, he's got to pass his guard and just start raining down punishment. That's how he wins. If he can pass Silva's guard, it will almost be impossible for the Brazilian to submit him.
Fight X-Factor: There are so many X-Factors for this fight, it's difficult to count them. How much of a factor was Silva's rib injury in the first fight? Did it destroy his ability to get up, defend takedowns or use head movement? If he's fully healthy, he could be a completely different fighter on Saturday night.
The other factor is all the extra work Chael Sonnen has been doing. For the first Silva fight, all he did was work at Team Quest with his coaches. This time, he brought in ringers to simulate Silva in the stand-up and elite world class BJJ guys to work with him on the ground. He's so much more prepared for what Silva can bring to the table this time it's not even funny.
Lastly, there's the emotion factor. Anderson Silva exploded with a wild outburst directed at Sonnen last week and at the press conference. What will happen if he can't keep his emotions in check during the fight? If he tries to humiliate Sonnen, he could wind up giving himself a disadvantage.
Bottom Line: This is the most anticipated rematch in UFC history. What makes it so great is that the first fight wasn't even close. Chael Sonnen dominated it and he dominated it hard until blowing it at the end. Jaws were on the floor for that first 23 minutes. Sonnen isn't going to catch the fans by surprise this time around, but the fight is going to be just as amazing whether Silva catches him early and finishes him in the first round like he promises or Sonnen pounds him into the canvas for 25 straight minutes without choking. This is the only man that ever made Silva look human in the Octagon and I can't wait to see it again.
Who will come out on top at UFC 148? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!