Another exciting night of fights for the UFC as their 117 card featuring the middleweight (185lbs.) championship fight between Anderson 'The Spider' Silva and Chael Sonnen, delivered in more ways than one. Between a last minute surprise ending in the main event, a new "Gracie Hunter" and the fickleness of UFC fans, the card definitely ended up being a tale of many twists and turns.
The show started and ended with a bang, which is much to President Dana White's pleasure as the big boys, literally, heavyweight contenders Roy 'Big Country' Nelson and Junior Dos Santos, began the night with a display of power, skill and pure heart. While Dos Santos ended up pounding out a unanimous decision victory all over Nelson's face and body, 'Big Country' showed that while his body may look soft, he's anything but.
However, it was the way the night ended that captured the essence of the evening. Chael Sonnen, a huge underdog who many felt talked his way into a title fight, I was not one of them, not only talked the talk, but he walked it as well. Doing exactly what he said he would and executing his game plan to almost near perfection, he dominated the champion Silva in a way UFC fans had never seen before previously in 11 fights.
Silva, who had much to prove after his lackluster title defense four months ago against Demian Maia, proved it beyond question; albeit because of Chael Sonnen. Sonnen used his wrestling prowess to continuously take down Silva for four and a half rounds, control him on the ground and pound him unmercifully. Silva to his credit never wavered and showed the heart of a champion as he survived every onslaught round after round and came out swinging at the beginning of each round.
Funny thing though, it was Sonnen who was beating Silva to the punch as he dropped the champion more than once with his strikes as well. It was all but a done deal, as Sonnen was on his way to winning a dominating unanimous decision and fulfilling his dream of becoming a world champion.
Wait a minute, or two as that is exactly how much time was left in the fight, two minutes. Silva, who had been unsuccessful in even attempting a submission off his back all night, quick as a Spider (pun intended) threw his left leg over Sonnen's back and caught him in a triangle choke (pictured above). Squeezing in desperation as he knew this would be his one, last and only chance, Silva grimaced as Sonnen did his best to wrangle himself free. Alas, he could not and while I know it wasn't his intent, lack of blood and oxygen to the brain instinctively told him he had to tap, which he did.
For a brief moment there was a question of whether there was a tap or not, however it was just Sonnen's reality and disbelief in knowing his dream had just slipped from his hands with only two minutes to go. For 23 minutes he was flawless in his approach, but Silva showed why he is a champion. Not because of the way he's dominated his competition up until last night, but because of the way he competed when he was the one being dominated. A truly great fight!
Earlier on the card, former welterweight (170 lbs.) champion and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, showed he's far from done as he not only defeated the favored Ricardo 'Big Dog' Almeida, but he did so in surprising fashion. Two minutes into the first round, where Almeida, the Jiu-Jitsu Master and submission grappling wizard, was looking crisp in his boxing against Hughes, got complacent and caught with a counter left from Hughes that dropped him.
Hughes immediately went to follow-up and in the scramble caught Almeida's neck in a north-south position in a variation of a guillotine/D'arce choke. Almeida got to his knees and I figured Almeida's been in this position before, no problem; especially since Hughes was sprawled out, thus he had no leverage to pull and squeeze.
Almeida and I were both wrong as Hughes, who's always been known for freakish farm boy strength at his size, literally put Almeida to sleep, prompting the referee to stop the fight. I think it's safe to say that Hughes, who has now defeated a lineage of Gracie fighters including Royce, Renzo, Matt Serra (although I dispute that one) and Almeida, has now inherited the title of 'Gracie Hunter' from the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba.
Finally, a word on the fickleness of UFC fans. Of course, this is not intended toward the hardcore MMA fans, but the casual fans that just get under my skin and are as fair weather as a sunny sky. At the weigh-ins Friday and at the beginning of the fight last night they booed Chael Sonnen loudly and cheered Anderson Silva proudly. They let it be known whom they were behind, or so I thought.
As the fight began the arena in unison started a chant of Silva, Silva..., yet as it progressed and they saw how Sonnen was dominating Silva, that quickly changed to USA, USA.... It was as though I was watching Rocky IV and Rocky was fighting Ivan Drago in Russia.
These are the same fans that start to boo every time there's a standing clinch or grappling on the ground, all part of the sport and fight mind you, yet begin to ooh and aah as soon as an elbow or submission comes flying out of it. I can't stand it and it gets me angry, but I should understand since I've often listened to Michael Jackson sing, "tell 'em that it's human nature; why, why do they do me this way?"