By: Mike Coughlin
The Legendary Silva v. Sonnen, part 2
It is easy to become numb to the greatness that is Anderson Silva. "He's the best ever" "No one can beat him" yada yada. Cliches spouted by half-informed sports writers (and by some very informed sports writers) get drummed into our heads so often that we take for granted how legendary has been Silva's run. And that greatness makes Chael Sonnen's approach to Saturday's fight truly legendary in its own right.
We all hear about how many wins in a row Silva has had: fourteen - which is five more than the second man on the list, Georges St. Pierre, who checks in with nine. But consider that Silva also holds the record for consecutive title defenses at nine. Anderson Silva has had as many consecutive title defenses as St. Pierre has had consecutive wins.
Our memories tend to blend together into one timeless mess, so it's sometimes difficult to appreciate how long Silva has held the belt. It's been a long, long time. By MMA standards, almost impossibly long.
Since Silva won the title:
children born that day are now in first grade;
there have been four lightweight, four welterweight, seven light heavyweight (!), and eight heavyweight champions (!!);
there have been more Presidents of the United States than there have been middleweight champions;
the iPad was invented - scratch that, the iPhone was invented;
more actors have played Spider-Man than fighters have worn the middleweight belt;
heck, Jon Jones has more drinking and driving related arrests than there have been middleweight champions.
For many UFC fans, Silva is the only middleweight champion they have ever known. If Silva is great, then every other fighter is merely good.
And Chael Sonnen has poked his finger in this man's chest over and over again and demanded a rematch. Is he insane? No doubt, of the 13 men who have fought Silva, Sonnen, far and away, did the best anyone has done against the Brazilian. For 23 minutes, he took Silva down at will, punched the champ more than 300 times, dropped him twice with punches in the first and fifth rounds respectively - and Silva still won, by triangle choke. As if his legacy was not grand enough, Silva also holds the record for the latest finish in a fight in UFC history. Never in the near eighteen years of the company, over the thousands of fights that have taken place, has a man lost 23 straight minutes of a fight and still won.
Sonnen's response since the August 2010 loss, in addition to defeating legitimate contenders Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, has been to literally insult Silva whenever opportunity has presented itself: to insult Silva's country, his wife, his legacy, his family, his friends - anyone and everything that Silva holds dear or could even think of holding dear.
Sonnen's approach comes across as slightly ... nuts. It's one thing to accept a fight with the champion; to tell yourself you want to test yourself against the best in the world. It's understandable to try and trash talk a bit, to hype a fight, build interest as it were. But to go out of your way to truly anger the man? Sonnen has given a man who is legally encouraged to hurt people an incentive to go out of his way to injure. Is Sonnen crazy?
Like a fox, maybe.
Sonnen just might know what he's doing. After all, until he lost, Sonnen wasn't just beating Silva, he was winning in such a decisive manner that it seemed to call into question all of Silva's previous successes. It wasn't just that Silva was losing, it's that he looked vulnerable to the point where he seemed incapable. And as Sonnen heads into the cage on Saturday, he knows that all he has to do is make a minor adjustment (don't get tapped for another two minutes), while Silva needs to make major overhauls (don't get taken down like you're pulling guard for 23 minutes). If any man could ever have a mental edge over the greatest fighter who has ever lived, this would be that situation.
Poking the bull isn't always wisest, but when you're fighting a man who's success has always been based upon brilliant precision, maybe making him see red is a good thing. Maybe it's the only chance. Because over all these years nothing else has worked.
And to look Silva in the eye, tell him exactly what you're going to do, to go out there and do it, to slap him the face while you take his belt? To beat Anderson Silva? There is only one word the world would use to describe that.
Mike Coughlin is the host of Five Star Radio. This week's show is FREE and is available by clicking the link below. Mike is a legend only in his own mind.