(Kevin Marshall's opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.)
Nearly two years ago, Chael Sonnen came closer to defeating Anderson Silva than anyone in the last eight years (Silva lost to Yushin Okami in 2006 via disqualification from an illegal kick). Sonnen used his grappling expertise to keep Silva on the ground while punishing him with strikes, and was en route to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in history when Silva caught him with a triangle armbar in the second half of the final round. Silva later claimed a rib injury while a disappointed Sonnen went on the attack, immediately demanding a rematch and resorting to publicly baiting Silva with insults and outrageous claims.
That rematch, though, wouldn't come right away. The night of the fight, Sonnen was tested by the California State Athletic Commission and the results came back with a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio nearly seventeen times higher than normal. He was suspended while Silva recovered from the rib injury suffered during training for the fight and aggravated during the fight itself.
Next Saturday, we'll find out if whether Chael Sonnen's success was a fluke owing to that rib injury or a sign that there are chinks in the armor of the best pound for pound fighter in the world in one of the most anticipated fights in MMA history. That's not an exaggeration or hyperbole, even if "MMA history" comes with the qualifier that it's only been with us for less than a quarter-century.
Time, though, has not tempered fan anticipation, nor has it seemed to cool the animosity between the two fighters. The latest flare-up came during a press conference call late last week where Anderson Silva appeared to lose his cool
, going on an unusual (for him) verbal tirade against Sonnen. Responding to questions through translator Ed Soares, Silva went into an emotional tirade:
"It doesn't matter if I'm on the bottom, the side, the top, it doesn't matter. Chael Sonnen is gonna get his ass kicked like he has never gotten his ass kicked before. What I'm going to do inside the Octagon is something that is going to change the image of the sport. I'm going to beat his ass like he has never been beaten before. I'm going to make sure that every one of his teeth are broken, his arms are broke, his legs are broke, he is not going to be able to walk out of the Octagon by himself, I can guarantee that.
"I know that he is listening, so the game's over. No more s*** talking. It's on now. He doesn't deserve to be inside the Octagon. And when the time comes and the time is right, I'm going to break his face and break every one of his teeth in his mouth.
"...I'm just gonna make him pay and make him eat everything that he said, not only about myself but about our country, about everything. I'm gonna make him pay and make sure that he never disrespects any Brazilian--any fighter. Not only Brazilian; ANY fighter. I'm gonna beat him maybe the way his parents should have beat him to teach him some manners because he's disrespectful, he's a criminal, and I'm gonna beat him up like he's never been beat before. The game's over. He can say whatever he wants, but I'm not playing anymore. He's gonna be beat like he's never been beaten before.
"…There's going to be no difference. The first time we fought, he stepped out the loser, and he's going to step out losing again this time. The only difference is that this time he's going to have to go see a plastic surgeon after the fight."
And for the first time ever, Anderson Silva's championship becomes an afterthought. Even Dana White was in shock, commenting on the conference call that he's "never heard Anderson Silva talk like this." Silva ended up disappearing from the call unexpectedly, with Sonnen following suit when a reporter directed a question to him that went unanswered. White himself seemed to be in shock and ended the call less than thirty minutes into the scheduled hour, even though Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz (who also meet in the third leg of their trilogy on the same night) were still on the line.
It could have just been Silva playing mind games. Chael Sonnen has certainly been trying to do the same since their 2010 encounter. But Sonnen has been a bit more cartoonish in his descriptions and threats. His rants against Silva have sounded like professional wrestling; he's insulted Brazil as a whole, carried around his own version of the title, and even plagiarized a 1975 promo from professional wrestler "Superstar" Billy Graham during his post-fight interview at UFC on Fox 2.
What makes Anderson Silva's outrageous claims more interesting – perhaps "scarier" is a better word - is that many fans believe he can actually do it. It even gave me pause. We've seen Anderson Silva accomplish almost superhuman feats in the cage, from catching James Irvin's kick and responding with a single punch that floored him to landing a knockout punch on Forrest Griffin's chin while fading away. He's made chumps out of men that otherwise would be champions, and we just saw Chael Sonnen struggle and almost lose a close decision to Michael Bisping. When Silva says he can hurt Sonnen, it makes us think that he means it simply because he can hurt Chael. Bad.
But is the animosity real?
I'm not entirely convinced it's just ballyhoo. Silva is a bit of a showman who knows how to promote a fight, but he's also very temperamental. The last time we saw him lose it was in his title defense against Demian Maia, where he suddenly and seemingly without provocation began angrily taunting Maia and badgering him with slurs in Portugese and referring to him as "playboy." He could be doing the same thing Chael is doing; by that I mean just trying to drum up interest with outrageous statements, not Testosterone Replacement Therapy. Or, as was the case against Maia, he may have just finally lost his cool. If that is the case, it could be a problem. He got angry against Maia, and the frustration cost him rounds on judges' scorecards and could have cost him the fight. An angry Silva is not necessarily a dangerous or more effective Silva.
Regardless of whether or not it's intentional, it's only added more intrigue to an already intriguing match-up.
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