|ULTIMATE FIGHTER: THE EARLY DAYS|
This Saturday, Chael Sonnen hopes that opportunity breaks its dogged pattern of avoiding those who don't answer the first time, and knocks at his door once again.
One hundred seconds shy of a convincing- check that: undeniable and thorough ground and pound beating, Sonnen fell into an Anderson Silva triangle choke (and ultimately, armbar) and was done.
Silva, widely regarded as the best fighter in MMA history, almost saw his amazing win-streak (11) fall by the solid but inconsistent Sonnen.
For the first twenty three minutes of the fight, Sonnen evaded the seam-splitting accuracy of Silva's boxing attack, the sudden explosion of a knee from the clinch (where Sonnen frequently engaged Silva) and spending much of the fight on the mat, he postured out of Silva's jiu jitsu attack.
To put himself back in the position to beat Silva- a task unlikely to be done by a Sonnen submission with a grappling game not strong enough to justify opening up to Silva on the mat, and striking not powerful enough to knock out even the likes of Michael Bisping, never mind Silva - he must play it the same way as UFC 117: Solid, aggressive strike game holds Silva at bay just long enough and Sonnen powers a single or double leg and holds a somewhat-distanced ground and pound.
That, and that Silva's imperceptibly dangerous strikes (See: Forest Griffin, etc, etc, etc. fights) remains on vacation through the post-holiday weekend.
The outcome will do little to dethrone Silva from the consensus "Pound for Pound Best Fighter." It will, however, do even less to put Sonnen in consideration for the unofficial title.
Sonnen, who has eleven losses, will be a journeyman, no matter the title he holds or who he beats.
He is a ground and pounder; more, he is a wrestler, and though wrestlers have made a convincing argument that they bring a skill set and experience that best serves the game, the losses of Severin and Coleman and Randleman in the early days of the UFC to a slight Brazilian man named Royce and others hold a deeper truth in the minds of the UFC faithful.
The UFC was made on big wrestlers being locked or knocked out by those half their size. And though, a field of former wrestlers have topped the ranks of the UFC against the best, to give them (at last) the ultimate due- the best- would be a sacrilege.
This said, wrestlers must come to terms with Jiujitsu and when they do...
Sonnen's triangle submission of an impressive Brian Stann in his last fight suggests that he takes the BJJ game a bit more seriously than he had- a point of concern for Silva...
Silva has worked on his wrestling game with Mark Munoz. But Sonnen's having immersed himself in the study of BJJ, even if he could never think of rolling in a GI with Silva, might supersede that and be the key to the fight:
What will Munoz teach Silva about wrestling? What secrets are there to the double, the single or the wrestling scramble? Sonnen or most All American wrestlers can say to the untrained fighter on his feet "my double leg is coming...stop it."
Sonnen, on the other hand, with the same amount of practice at BJJ might manage to stay safe in Silva's half-guard and feel a bit sooner when things are going bad (Frankie Edgar's fight with BJ Penn suggests that the wrestler can do just that).
With a Sonnen win, the future of MMA might be sobering for those still in love with the UFC as they first met it: a game of secret holds and a single hero.
Keep in mind: Sonnen never placed higher than fifth in the NCAA Wrestling Tournament.
Coming into the ranks of MMA fighters are a steady stream of dominating multi-time champs- Ben Askren, Steve Mocco, Johnny Hendricks, Darrion Caldwell and on...
If Sonnen's ground and pound game proves enough to beat the "best of all-time", one can only imagine what those wrestlers who held the likes of Sonnen down all throughout college will do to the rest of the UFC.