Rivalries Never Die- Silva vs Sonnen
Rivalries create unbreakable bonds in history. We cannot mention one name without the other and the truth is, if you have never been paired with a rival then it is quite possible that you’ve never done anything well. Or even worse, maybe you’ve never fought for anything before.
A few historic rivalries come to mind: Pepsi vs Coke, PS3 vs Xbox 360, PC vs Mac, Batman vs Joker, Jerry vs Newman and those are just off of the top of my head.
I imagine if you looked at a population of men, you could begin separating them. The athletic from the average. The tough from the athletic. The intelligent ones from the tough ones and then eventually you’d be left with two men, the fighter and the martial artist. Their names would be Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva.
Since their first fight on August 7, 2010 at UFC 117, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen submitted performances that guaranteed that they would be rivals for the rest of their lives. Rivalries have a funny way of separating the entire world into two sides, and erasing the past.
Chael Sonnen suffered 7 different submission losses before he met Anderson Silva on that August night. Trevor Prangley, Forrest Griffin, Jeremy Horn (2), Renato Sobral, Paulo Filho, and Demian Maia.
Anderson Silva had 6 Middleweight title defenses before he met Chael Sonnen. Nate Marquardt, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, and once again, Demian Maia.
Did you see the names? Good. Now forget them because the only submission loss you ever need to know on Chael Sonnen’s record came through a triangle armbar by the champion Anderson Silva. The champion has the record for most title defense but those are all just “fights.” You only need to remember one.
Chael Sonnen earned his title shot by working his way up the ladder. It may have helped that Silva had already defeated all legitimate contenders. Sonnen, having defeated WEC champ Paulo Filho, still have never won a title due to Filho missing weight. Sonnen proclaimed to anyone who would listen that he wasn’t afraid of Silva, but no one really listened.
After four and a half rounds of a one-sided beat down on Anderson Silva at the hands of Chael Sonnen, the world was paying attention. In an instant the fight was over. A rough punch from Silva’s guard had rocked Sonnen just enough to make him lose a bit of focus and suddenly Sonnen was caught in a submission that forced a tap out with only a little over a minute left in the round.
Since then Chael has put in somewhat impressive performances, while Anderson Silva has almost regained his aura of invincibility. I say almost because Chael P. Sonnen will not shut up and neither will his fans.
The man did push the champion harder than anyone ever has, but now he proclaims himself to be the best fighter on the planet. Could it be possible? Since 2010, the response to every knockout Silva has earned has been “Chael Sonnen?”
The way that rivalries get so big is that you realize you are either for one side or the other. When the rivalry is between two people, it is quite possible to look at every person around you and label them as an “Anderson Silva” or a “Chael Sonnen.”
Between my cousin and I, the lines are clearly drawn. As a wrestler, I was jumping up and down through the whole fight until the end. I am a Chael P. Sonnen. My cousin, the boxer, never doubted Silva would win although it was clear Silva was in trouble. He is an Anderson Silva.
For the rest of us, whose lines are not so clear, here is an attempt to shed some light on what your identity should be this Saturday.
Chael Sonnen has an aggressive, rough, and durable style. Anderson Silva, on the other hand, is calm, cool, and smooth with his devastating attacks. Imagine a world-class drummer next to a famous pianist. They both have tremendous skill, but they certainly look different don’t they?
Chael is a realist when it comes to fighting. He does not “feel an opponent out.” As soon as the fight starts, he lets you know that you’re in a fight and he is not to be denied victory. One of my favorite quotes: “Send anybody you want. Don’t send anybody you want back.” Silva has great respect for his ability. He doesn’t abuse it, he believes it will work when the moment is right. Patience and focus are virtues for Silva.
Have you ever seen the girl you liked walk away with an undeserving jerk, and you just knew that if you got the chance, you could be so much better? If you’ve ever felt this way, then you might understand how Chael feels about watching Anderson walk away with his belt.
Have you ever been questioned at work about your decisions or how you carry about things? Did you think to yourself, “I know what I’m doing. I do not have to explain myself. They will see when I’m done.” If you’ve ever felt this way, then you might relate to Anderson Silva, who chose to reply to Chael’s trash talk with only his fists in the first fight.
Imagine you are with your friends and there is a large gap to jump across. Your friends say it is impossible and when it is their turn to jump, they barely push hard enough to get halfway. Out of fear. When it is your turn, you hit the other side hard but you made it. Only your grip slips and fall anyway. The rest of your friends are stuck at the bottom of the hole, but you’re going to climb back up because you knew the gap was possible and you certainly know that nothing has changed. If you know what this feels like, welcome to the mind of Chael Sonnen. The first man to fight Anderson Silva without fear, even after seeing what Anderson did to Forrest Griffin.
Have you ever been so good at something that world could not figure out how you did it? Do they look past your dominating performances and ask “Can’t you do more?” When you’re as good as Anderson Silva, there is always pressure to be better. What you do is never good enough, and even if Chael Sonnen is the second best middleweight in the world, just winning won’t be enough this time. It must be dominate. If you understand this pressure, now you know what it feels like to sit on Anderson Silva’s shoulders.
Anderson Silva has a desire to leave a legacy behind. That means he has to win and win a lot. People will remember him for his losses. For Anderson Silva, it is the bigger picture that matters. To take out opponent after opponent, over a lengthy title reign is the fighter version of the white picket fence. Chael Sonnen, on the other hand, wants to be the best and nothing more. The trophies, the recognition, and the history mean nothing to him. He will enter the cage on Saturday night with 11 losses already on his record. None of it matters. He is going to beat the best middleweight in the world and no amount of legacy from Silva will be able to take that victory away.
Another difference might be that Sonnen can play the role of a”hero,” while Anderson is really the “play-maker.” Anderson can make situations go his way on the regular basis. If he’s on your team, you look at him to keep the losses column on your record at zero. Chael, on the other hand, will not tear through every opponent. But if you need a Hail Mary and it’s the Super Bowl, give the ball to Chael Sonnen. Which would you rather have?
Chael always voices his opinion, often in the most disrespectful way. Words about Silva’s wife and country used to roll off the champion’s back, but this is no longer the case. After being the bigger man leading up to their first fight, it seems that Silva has revealed to the public that he is in fact thinking about Chael Sonnen. In many past interviews, Silva was barely aware of who Sonnen was, much less had a reply for him. Some people understand that when you’re the best, there are always critics. Anderson Silva is one of those people. But Anderson Silva is also one of those people who can be gotten to.
In an interview, Silva described his intentions to hurt Sonnen. He would force him to swallow his teeth. Sonnen would never again disrespect any Brazilian fighter. He promised to break every bone in Sonnen’s body and to change the perception of the sport in the public’s mind forever. Sometimes people get emotional when they have problems they know they can solve, but they must wait. Silva is in one of these familiar predicaments.
In the end, it all comes down to fate. Who will it be? Which side are you on? It is already too late for Sonnen and Silva. They have entered a bond stronger than marriage. Rivals. They will not part at death. Instead, their names will be paired for an eternity. In the most basic sense, Chael Sonnen is the cliche hero who knows he’s right even though no one will back him up. Anderson Silva knows he is right because that’s what everyone tells him. What will matter more when they are finally in the cage? We will find out this Saturday July 7, 2012 at 7 p.m. on Pay-Per-View.