UFC 117: Detailed analysis of Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen IPosted on July 5, 2012, 06:01 AM by Bryan Fontez
Here we go ladies and gentlemen. Potentially the biggest rematch and fight in the UFC’s history happening this Saturday. It’s easy to pick your favorite, but not always easy to understand the strategy and thought process that goes into a fight. I took the time out to re-watch and analyze the first bout between these two, and found some information you might find interesting. As a little bit of a treat to whet your appetite for this weekend, let’s take a look back with a round by round analysis of what each fighter did right or wrong, and make sense of what happened the first time these two met in the octagon.
Round 1 - Sonnen backs up his talk
Both fighters march directly to the center of the octagon to engage. Chael used exceptional head movement, timing and distance. Looking back it truly seemed like he did his homework on Anderson’s style of striking. He stayed out of his striking range, changed levels and took advantage of Silva’s hands being low. Strange display of either poor striking defense or simply overconfidence from Anderson Silva in this round.
Although the takedown attempts were telegraphed and not very strong in technique, Chael was able to bring the fight to the ground due to Silva’s lack of effort in defending the takedown, which allowed Chael to shine in his strongest area. Anderson did land a takedown momentarily but Chael was able to shrimp out, grab a hold of a guillotine, use it to escape and get back up.
By pinning the wrists and arms down with both his hands and knees, Chael was able to frustrate Silva and open up his defense, allowing Chael to unleash a barrage of strikes from the top on multiple occasions.
Nothing good to say about Silva in this round really, he was dominated in every position and had no answer. Poor head movement, low hands and a lack of effort is what made him lose this round.
Round over, Chael gets up quick and back to his corner, Silva gets up slowly, stays on his knees at first to catch his breath and recuperate before going back to his corner… WOW what a round! Possibly even a 10-8. Silva showed little effort for most of the round, some poor defense in general and seemed to pose little to no threat.
Round 2 - Anderson Silva struggles to keep the fight standing
Both fighters storm out ready to get it started again. Anderson looks upset and seems to have shifted his pace into high gear. He lands a hard leg kick that almost buckles Chael. Anderson poorly times an odd flying knee attempt, Chael grabs the leg, puts him on his back, and he’s back to work.
More of the same from Chael in this round. What’s interesting here is that although Chael was getting the better of the striking exchanges in the first round, he chose to bring the fight to ground much more quickly this time around. Not necessarily a bad strategy, but with so much success on the feet I would have been interested to see what he was capable of if he continued to strike with Silva. With that said, the takedown is also more than likely his first instinct whenever available. So the action is understandable.
Chael showcased a lot of creativity in this round, switching from hammer-fists to punches, body to head, back fists to front, using an elbow to the thigh as a diversion then following up with a hard right to the face, and in situations where Silva knew what was coming he would try to Ground and Pound in unpredictable ways to keep him guessing. When Silva held on and gave him few options, he utilized palm strikes to the ears and body slammed his head into the ground, which may be unconventional but are valid and perfectly legal techniques in forcing your opponent to break his grip.
Chael also showed his tenacity in covering the mouth of Silva in between strikes, a valid technique proving that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win and gain the advantage. (Although disrespectful in the minds of some).
Chael was able to land some serious bombs in this round by posturing up and avoiding Silva’s defense while creating distance temporarily. He was also able to land consecutive blows on numerous occasions at one point landing what I counted to be 12 shots before Anderson decided to do anything about it. Whether damage is being done or not is irrelevant. An elite fighter should never allow their opponent to hit them that many times in the face without defending or answering back.
Again not much good to say here about Silva. He landed a sneaky elbow from the bottom, landed some creative but weak monkey kicks (BJ Penn style), he went for some decent submission attempts including a triangle choke that Sonnen smartly turned out of and an armbar that was easily avoided. Anderson avoided some damage at times, but ultimately he was unable to escape from Chael’s solid wrestling base. Anderson posed little threat again and showed very little urgency to get up, strike back or to finish his opponent. Another round for Chael Sonnen in the books.
Round 3 - Sonnen continues to bulldoze Silva
Chael runs over to Anderson. Silva unloads on him, blistering right hook, right straight, left cross barely misses. Silva keeping his distance, bouncing around. Throws a spinning heel kick that’s diverted by Chael. Chael closing the distance throws a sloppy left hand that misses in order to setup a telegraphed takedown that he lands successfully. Silva does little to stop him. Again.
Anderson making unsuccessful attempts at the odd submission here and there. He looks for a kimura which Chael intelligently uses to take his back, showcasing his superior grappling yet again. Chael shows intelligence and strategy as he seems content with riding the back looking for strikes, as opposed to sinking the hooks in. Then again, why make it a Jiu-Jitsu fight when you’re dominating the scorecards and winning with your wrestling? He follows up landing countless knees to the thighs of Anderson.
Chael was relentless in his top control, he continuously put both his weight and consistent pressure on Silva, while he grinded him down with elbows and hands in the face. If you’ve ever rolled with someone putting elbows and hands on your neck and in your face… It’s extremely frustrating and uncomfortable. Not necessarily painful, but it will zap your will and focus eventually.
A barrage of strikes were landed by Chael on multiple occasions in this round. If Anderson had any intention of winning on the score cards, he needed to defend himself at all times and answer back before Chael could tally up his unanswered strikes into the double digits. At one pointed I counted Chael landing 33 consecutively unanswered right hands before Anderson decided to defend with his palm and roll to escape.
As Chael turned up the pace to fifth gear towards the end, Anderson did begin to look for the triangle/armbar a little more, but he simply wasn’t’ aggressive enough.
Most importantly! Anderson was beginning to get comfortable on the feet and landed a few shots early. With that kind of advantage at this point in the fight, he needs to do whatever it takes to keep it there. But in retrospect he allowed a very poor and telegraphed takedown attempt put him on the ground, where he hasn’t been able to do much. If Silva wants to accomplish anything against Chael he would need to stay off of his back.
Another round with Chael finishing strong.
Round 4: Sonnen has won the decision
Anderson came out swinging recklessly with haymakers and sloppy kicks. But when you’re as talented as he is, you can sometimes get away with that stuff and make it work. By this point Chael was fairly tired, he took a good shot that dropped him and for a moment it looked like Anderson could have potentially been well on his way to finishing this fight. Due to his aggression Anderson was able to turn the tables and obtained top control temporarily.
While on top, Anderson threw a few 12-6 elbows to the body, not sure if that’s legal.
Immediately Chael showcased his toughness, heart, endurance, unwillingness to lose and again his much superior grappling skills, with a huge reversal to regain top control, and yet again Anderson has no answer and does nothing to stop him. Chael continues where he left off, doing what he does best with everything he has left.
Anderson once again was content with simply holding on and not providing any threat or attempt to escape. Although at one point he tries to use his butterfly guard to reverse or shrug him off, but Chael is defending well, keeping his weight distributed evenly and maintaining a high guard staying away from any potential submissions.
After starting tired, Chael somehow continued a relentless pace in his striking while on top. Landing countless shots to the head and body again, none of them too heavy but definitely doing some minor damage and landing decently.
Chael makes his first big Jiu-Jitsu mistake in this fight and it’s clearly due to exhaustion. He sits back in low guard at a distance in an attempt to throw haymakers, free from Anderson’s hands stopping or defending him. He goes back into a higher guard, but make a mental note of this mistake, as it was the precursor to his eventual loss in the fifth round.
Chael getting really busy here, landing body-body-head-head-head-head, these are hard shots and Anderson’s doing nothing.
Silva was clearly beginning to get desperate, throwing a lot of elbows from the bottom and beginning to actively look for the triangle in sneaky fashion. The elbows are working though, because Chael is definitely bleeding more than before.
Another round scored for Chael, but surprisingly Silva was able to do more visible damage from the bottom.
Round 5 - And still, the undisputed UFC Middleweight champion of the world…
For the last time Anderson came out at a high pace to meet Chael. Both threw a few strikes, Chael landed on the back of the ear, but for the most part Anderson slipped and Chael took advantage, obtaining top position immediately. Anderson again with no chance defending the grappling of Chael, as he simply jumped into Silva’s guard and went to work.
More of the same here… Chael doing what he does best.
Anderson had his guard very easily passed TWICE in this round. Both times Chael established side control and both times he put himself back into half guard where Silva managed to hip escape and slip him back in to full guard.
Anderson tried harder in this round more than ever to escape and push Chael off, he also kept reaching for his own leg indicating that he was looking to pull it towards him and lock up a triangle.
Chael began to turn up the pace and throw what looked to be almost everything he had left, he kept a high pace from the top, but Anderson kept his cool and maintained his composure.
Just before the end Anderson held Chael’s arms down and close into his own chest, signifying the beginning stages and setup of a triangle and/or armbar.
There it is!! Remember that mental note I mentioned? Chael makes the same mistake again, content with sitting back low in Silva’s guard and swinging, not realizing or caring that Anderson is holding his right arm down at his waist. As a diversion Anderson allows Chael to throw a few unanswered strikes with his left hand taking Chael’s mind off the fact that he’s left his arm there carelessly, and BAM! He instantly throws the left leg over the shoulder across the back of the neck, pulls to sink it up and it’s over. Anderson Silva somehow barely wins by a miraculous finish. Never gets old!
I never fully realized how bad Anderson Silva’s wrestling, grappling and takedown defense was, until I re-watched and analyzed this fight. At times he looked like a high school kid unsure of what he was doing against a wrestler who’d been at this for years. He simply had no answer for pretty much every wrestling technique Chael imposed. As Dan Henderson and a few others have done in the past, Chael was able to do what he wanted with Anderson once he got his hands on him and bring the fight to the ground at will. In fact, if you want to talk Jiu-Jitsu, Anderson Silva who is a Black Belt under the Nogueira brothers had his guard passed easily on multiple occasions in this fight. Not to mention Chael avoided 4.5 rounds of black belt level submission attempts as well. With that said, Chael’s grappling skills in general demand a certain amount of respect.
This was a very poor showing by Anderson Silva in general, but like Chael he proved that he has no quit and can find a way to win. Silva did show some small flashes of skillful brilliance however, potentially putting himself in the position to finish Chael early in the fourth, making the odd submission attempt and sneaking in shots that did damage here and there. However on too many occasions was Silva content with getting hit in the face. Chael landed many of those strikes simply because Silva allowed him to do so and didn’t bother stopping him. On 3-4 separate occasions I counted unanswered blows in the double digits. With all due respect to the champion, that is no way to win a fight, and it is not in the work ethic of a true champion.
Chael won by doing exactly what he said he would do, he got into a fight with Anderson Silva. Not an MMA bout, but a fight. It’s obvious but at the same time very surprising how much homework Chael actually did leading up to his fight with Anderson. Even though he puts on this character we know as “Chael P. Sonnen” to hype the fight, underneath is a very intelligent fighter, who outclassed, out-strategized and out-worked his opponent in every way. Looking back, I take nothing from Anderson’s previous accomplishments and skills, but I’ve concluded that the only reason Anderson won, was because Chael made a small mistake due to exhaustion. Chael found more success both on the feet and the ground. At the end of the day, it was still Silva who pulled off the triangle, but had Chael cut down his pace and kept his head straight, he’d be defending his title right now.
It’ll be interesting to see what strategy each fighter employs this time around. Anderson couldn’t have improved his takedown defense drastically enough to stop Chael’s wrestling completely, then again I’m not entirely sure Chael can get away with employing the exact same strategy again either. At the end of the day, let’s just hope this fight produces a definitive winner without any of the controversy.
Enjoy the fight!
Photos taken courtesy of Ryan McKinnell for examiner.com