06-27-2012, 09:34 AM
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| | Sound and Fury: As Anderson Silva Rages, Chael Sonnen Faces a Critical Turning Point
Sound and Fury: As Anderson Silva Rages, Chael Sonnen Faces a Critical Turning Point - MMA Fighting
Jun 27, 2012 - Well, it finally happened. After two years of listening to Chael Sonnen call him everything except a pretty, pretty princess, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva finally broke his stoic silence. On Mondayís UFC 148 media call, he fired back with terrifyingly specific threats ("I'm gonna rip all his teeth out of his mouth") and brutally accurate character attacks (court records show that Sonnen is, in fact, a criminal, so thereís that). |
On Tuesday nightís episode of FUEL TVís UFC Tonight, Sonnen responded, calling the champ a "dirtbag" and a "dummy." So now weíve hit all our trash talk bases and, like reluctant boyfriends at a modern art museum, those of us in the MMA world are spinning around in circles and demanding to know: what does it all mean? Is Silva really and truly upset for the first time, and, if so, what took him so long? Is Sonnen glad to see heís provoked a reaction, or is even he starting to wonder if a pissed off Silva isnít more dangerous than a disinterested one?
Sonnen would have us believe he doesnít care, that he expects to take some memorable physical damage in the rematch. "I've fought 49 men," he said. "It's not like I've never been to the orthodontist before. It's not like I've ever had my jaw re-set. It's not like I've never had to have my scalp stapled shut in ER." And thatís probably true. You donít become a professional fighter if maintaining the original positioning of your nose is of vital importance to you. At the same time, this is Silva weíre talking about. This is the guy who has proven that he can and will deliver a drawn-out beating when he feels like it. Sonnen might not mind being hit in the face, but what of his fear of losing? What of his fear of being embarrassed for 25 full minutes in the biggest fight of his life?
Even though itís Silva whoís putting his belt on the line, itís Sonnen who has the most to lose here. Heís the one who spent the last couple years as a gleeful antagonist to the worldís top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter. Heís the one whoís already lost once. If he loses the rematch -- especially if he takes a beating in the process -- this sport might remember him as little more than an entertaining foil to a great champion. At best, heíll be the villain who helped an all-time great rediscover his ferocious sense of purpose. At worst, heíll be a temporary distraction, a court jester, a man who was willing to trade his credibility for the sake of cheap attention.
But again, thatís only if he loses. If he wins, itís a different story. Then heís the guy with a genius plan to become a star and the skills to stay that way. Itís the difference between getting your own chapter in the MMA history books rather than getting your own paragraph.
For Silva, the stakes arenít so high. His legacy is already established. Heís held the UFC middleweight strap for six years. Even if he loses now, at 37 years old, and retires immediately afterward, heíll still be remembered as one of the best fighters to ever bite down on a mouthpiece. Sure, heíd have to listen to Sonnen run his mouth some more, and that would be its own special brand of torture, but itís not the same as having the last two years of your life negated with a single loss. Thatís a different kind of pressure.
What we still donít know yet is how anger will affect the champ. The first time he fought Sonnen, he mostly just shrugged and shook his head at the challengerís antics. Then he went out and fought like a shadow of his usual self and needed a last-second submission to avoid a decision loss. For better or worse, this time he genuinely seems to want to hurt Sonnen rather than just beat him. Either that, or Sonnenís fame has taught Silva the value of some forceful pre-fight talk.
The champ has never needed it before. Heís been so good in the cage that it hardly mattered whether he could sell a fight in interviews and promo pieces. Whether heís deviating from that pattern now just for our benefit, or because heís finally tired of allowing this be a one-sided conversation where Sonnen grabs all the headlines, we should know soon enough. Maybe weíll also get to see if an enraged Silva is somehow even more dangerous than a calmly efficient one, and if Sonnen is as cavalier about parting ways with his teeth as he would have us believe.
There are many paths to freedom....not all are peaceful.
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