Preview of UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II

Good afternoon my muchachos, welcome back to Cardiac Attack Sports, you’re No. 1 source for my opinion on the world of sports.

Saturday is one of the UFC’s most anticipated rematches of all time, possibly surpassing some of the sport’s most awaited second bouts like Couture-Liddell II. The UFC’s most dominating champion of the last 10 years, Anderson Silva, takes on a trash-talking wrestler in Chael Sonnen. It’s Brazil vs. America in a bout between a pair of bitter rivals. It doesn’t get much better than that for a main event. Add that to the retirement fight of one of the UFC’s most successful fighters in Tito Ortiz, plus a bout featuring the San Shou legend Cung Le, and this should be one heck of a Saturday night.

All statistical information is courtesy of Fightmetric.com unless noted otherwise.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

Generally speaking, Silva has always dictated where his fights will take place. If he feels comfortable in his ability to submit an opponent, he’ll allow a takedown and work from the bottom. If he feels he can out-strike an opponent, he keeps the fight on its feet. However, that all came crashing down when Sonnen fought the Brazilian at UFC 117 in August of 2010.

Sonnen wanted the fight on the ground, got it there and kept it there. He out-landed Silva 89-29 on significant strikes, landed three takedowns and performed six guard passes as he out-wrestled Silva for 4 ½ rounds. Then he made a mistake, left his arm and head too close to Silva’s chest and got choked out with less than two minutes to spare. It was the closest Silva had come to a non-DQ defeat since Ryo Chonan’s flying heel hook victory back at Pride Shockwave 2004.

For Silva to win, he has to have worked on his takedown defense over the past few months. He could theoretically use his elite BJJ to land another sub, but it’s no sure bet against any high-caliber grappler in the UFC. His best bet is to keep the fight on its feet and use his UFC-record striking accuracy try and wear Sonnen out. He’s tough to hit as well, averaging just .91 strikes absorbed per minute, but it’s probably Silva’s best bet to win.

For Sonnen, this fight is all about backing up your mouth. You talked the talk and said you were the best fighter in the world, not it’s time to fight the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter to see if you can cash that check. His key to success is simple: takedown, takedown, takedown! Force Silva to relive his UFC 117 ordeal and wear him down. Silva has never been knocked out or TKO’d, so try and grind out a decision victory over 25 minutes. Don’t go for submissions, don’t try to trade with him. Keep doing what got you here and wrestle.

This fight has kept me up at night. I know, I’m a UFC geek but hey, this is what I do. The significance of Silva’s rib injury in their last fight could be minimal, but I feel it played enough of a role to reduce his core strength and, inevitable, his takedown defense. If he’s 100% for this fight, he should have less trouble in scrambles. However, Sonnen can do serious damage if he gets you on the ground just once, so it’ll be interesting who can win this war of attrition.

Expect this to go to distance with no loving embrace at the end. I have Silva eeking out a 48-47 decision by doing enough damage on his feet to prevent Sonnen from closing strong. Sonnen may well win two of the first three rounds, but I feel the passion Silva has displayed leading up to this fight is heartfelt, so he’ll do his best to inflict as much bodily harm as possible. But Sonnen is a tough SOB and won’t go down quietly.

Prediction: Silva by Decision

Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin

It’s finally come down to this. The original Ultimate Fighter in Griffin takes on one of the sport’s most dominating champions in Ortiz. This rubber match features two legends past their prime, but ready to rumble at a moment’s notice. Ortiz wants to exit the Octagon with not only a place in the UFC Hall of Fame, but a win to top off his stellar career. On the other hand, the author of three Fight of the Year selections wants to keep from getting knocked out for the fourth time in his last six fights.

Ortiz has been plagued with injuries for the better part of five years, but appears healthy and ready to give it one last go. He’s posted a 1-6-1 record since late 2006 with three TKO and three decision defeats. Nobody has ever questioned this guy’s heart, but many question his continued fight career. We the fans don’t want him ending up like Gary Goodridge (for those who don’t know the name, he was one of Pride FC’s toughest fighters who had some brutal wins and took some bloody losses before retiring in 2010. Now he is 46 years old and suffering from Dementia).

For Ortiz to make it a W to end his career, he’ll have to utilize his wrestling prowess and stay in dominant positions. Griffin can escape from his back, so the best recipe for victory is a conservative approach with plenty of Lay & Pray. Do some damage with strikes and go for a finish if he sees one, but don’t make any stupid mistakes and get reversed.

For Griffin, he needs to stuff Tito’s takedowns and try to get the former champion to gas out. He’s come on strong early in fights just to lose stamina midway through the second round, so weathering the early storm is a must. If he can get top position, use a similar strategy to Ortiz and work for dominant positions to score some points. Ortiz is a crafty veteran that has plenty of escapes.

If these two pieces of advice look similar, it’s because they are. I feel these two former Light Heavyweight champions are almost identical in skills at this stage of their careers. The main difference is that Griffin hasn’t had the amount miles on his body as Ortiz, and therefore should be able to execute his gameplan best and earn a decision win.

Prediction: Griffin by Decision

Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote

One of the best all-around strikers in the world today in Le faces off against a formidable kickboxer in the Canadian Cote, both coming off far different paths. Le is coming off a loss to aging legend Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139 while Cote has won four in a row after being cut by the UFC in late 2010. This is sure to be a candidate for both Knockout and Fight of the Night as Le has never won (or lost) a fight by any method other than KO/TKO and Cote has the knockout power to oblige the Taekwondo Black Belt.

Le has a number of factors working for and against him in this fight. For one, he knows Cote will be willing to trade with him, which naturally gives the world-class striker an advantage However, Le is also 40 years old and doesn’t have the Octagon experience of most fighters his age, having only fought nine times in MMA. Le’s best bet is to make this a kickboxing bout: keep the fight standing and unleash you’re whole bag of tricks in hopes of a first-round KO. At his age, the later the fight goes, the more danger he’s in of gassing out. It’s a risky approach, but it’ll also make for an epic bout.

Cote has a serious chip on his shoulder since being cut by the UFC just two bouts after fighting for the Middleweight title. The last time he fought a striker of Le’s caliber was that aforementioned title bout in which Anderson Silva landed 73 percent of his significant strikes while Cote failed on all three takedown attempts. He’ll have to change that if he want to beat Le, whose takedown defense isn’t as up-to-par as Silva’s. Cote has an advantage on the ground and can certainly steal a win with ground and pound, the recipe for success against a pure striker like Le.

However, I feel the level of competition that Le presents is simply too much for Cote. He’s one of those fighters who’s excellent on the smaller circuits (14-0 in non-UFC fights) but average in the big show (7-7 in UFC bouts). Expect Le to baffle him with his unorthodox striking game and take a KO victory in round 1 via highlight fashion.

Prediction: Le by KO

Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia

A classic matchup of Judo vs. BJJ pits the 4th Dan Black Belt Kim up against a 3rd degree Black Belt in Maia. Both fighters are excellent representatives of their respective disciplines and should give the fans a taste of the classic style vs. style bouts of yesteryear.

Kim gives his opponents a formidable combination of martial arts kicks and judo throws, a winning combination so far as his only legitimate defeat came against interim Welterweight champion Carlos Condit. “Stun Gun” also is fighting in Las Vegas, the home of each of his last six bouts, so he’s used to the surrounding and atmosphere of a bout in the city. Kim should use his Judo to his advantage, stuff any takedowns from Maia and utilize a few Judo throws, finishing up with strikes in dominant top positions.

However, Maia is no slough on the ground. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling champion has notched four Submission of the Night honors in his career, including a triangle choke win over Chael Sonnen. But he hasn’t won by submission since 2009, instead mostly winning and losing by decision. To defeat Kim, he’ll have to break that trend and take more risks on the ground. He can’t lie in his guard and wait for an opening, he has to create them or else end up beaten and bruised then the final bell sounds.

With Maia coming off a rough performance against Chris Weidman, I feel that Kim should win this fight if he sticks to a grapple-first gameplan and grinds out a decision or TKO. However, since Maia has only been finished once in his career, I feel inclined to give Kim the fight by decision.

Prediction: Kim via Decision

Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie

Poor Cody McKenzie: he was one of my favorite fighters on that season of TUF, but he’s in way over his head in this bout against Mendes. I’m not going to go into many details except to say his only chance is a “McKenzietine,” something Mendes, something an All-American wrestler who’s never been submitted probably won’t fall for. Mendes will get a takedown, take a dominant position and ground and pound McKenzie until the ref steps in. It’s an unfortunate mismatch that the UFC shouldn’t have put together.

To be fair, if McKenzie wins I’ll post a video apology online and send it to his twitter account. You have my word.

Prediction: Mendes by TKO

Ivan Menjivar vs. Mike Easton

In a bout between a pair of passionate brawlers, “The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar takes on a well-rounded mixed martial artist in Easton. Both men have solid BJJ backgrounds, but have utilized their striking most in the Octagon, averaging 3.52 and 4.66 significant strikes per minute in the UFC bouts.

Menjivar has two significant disadvantages in this fight. His reach is four inches shorter than Easton, despite being the same height, and he lands only 27 percent of his takedowns while Easton had defended all attempts in his UFC career.

Easton, a Taekwondo Black Belt, should use that reach advantage to his advantage and stay on the outside, peppering his short-armed opponent with strikes and waiting for the right moment to unload a knockout blow. All signs point to Easton taking this fight by knockout.

Prediction: Easton by KO

Now for the quick predictions on this event’s undercard:

Gleison Tibau vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Don’t try to pronounce their names, just enjoy this entertaining matchup. Tibau is a large lightweight with excellent BJJ skills while Nurmagomedov is an unbeaten Sambo expert and military hand-to-hand combat champion. While the Russian has some great credentials, he is very untested against high-caliber competition, while Tibau has made 15 trips inside the Octagon. Expect that experience to put the Brazilian over the edge via decision in an exciting ground battle.

Prediction: Tibau by Decision

Melvin Guillard vs. Fabricio Camões

A pair of veterans will grace the cage here as the hard-hitting Guillard takes on a 3rd degree BJJ and former Vale Tudo fighter in Camões. If there’s one thing Guillard hates, it’s submissions. Nine of his 10 career losses came via submission, including eight via some form of choke. Luckily for Camões, who lasted over 25 minutes against Anderson Silva in a bare-knuckle Vale Tudo match in 1997, five of his seven submission wins have come by choke. It’s just too hard to ignore, so I’m going with the Brazilian

Prediction: Camões by Submission   

Constantinos Philippou vs. Riki Fukuda

In a war between the decedents of two island nations, the well-rounded Philippou takes on former Japanese pro wrestler and DEEP Middleweight titlist Fukuda. This fight will come down to takedown defense, as Philippou posts a 79 percent defense while Fukuda attempts an average of three takedowns per 15 minutes. Eight of Fukuda’s last 10 wins came by decision, mostly due to his ground control and excellent top-side grappling. With Fukuda’s experience in both professional and amateur wrestling, I feel the Cyprus native will most likely succumb to a lay and pray bout, with Fukuda taking a decision win.

Prediction: Fukuda by Decision

John Alessio vs. Shane Roller

An elder statesman on the MMA scene despite being just 33 years of age, Alessio is taking on a former WEC star and D-1 wrestler in Roller. How elder is Alessio? He fought Pat Miletich for the UFC Lightweight (170lbs) title at UFC 26 in 2000. As for Roller, he starred at the MMA breeding ground for wrestlers in Oklahoma State, earning three All-American selections. Alessio has an impressive 75 percent takedown defense, while Roller only brings down 33 percent of his attempted shots. With that in mind, Alessio should be able to keep this fight standing. Also, Alessio has 10 wins via rear-naked choke, while most wrestlers are more than willing to give up their backs when on the ground. Expect Alessio to dictate the fight and sink in the hooks for a submission victory.

Prediction: Alessio by Submission

Rafaello Oliveira vs. Yoislandy Izquierdo

In what will certainly be an interesting fight, a BJJ Black Belt in Oliveira will take on a former Cuban military veteran turned defector in Izquierdo. The young Cuban is a high-level Karate and San Shou fighter with devastating strikes, but little submission defense at this stage in his career. He was dominating his last opponent in Reza Madadi before getting taken down and submitted. Therefore, expect the grappler to take down the striker in what may be a very short fight.

Prediction: Oliveira by Submission

Thanks for making it through all 2,500 words. If you actually read the whole article, give yourself a pat on the back and go buy an ice cream cone to reward yourself. I’m Lucas Kinser signing off for Cardiac Attack Sports. Be sure to follow me on twitter at @LucasKinser or find me on Facebook. Take care and enjoy Saturday’s action!