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UFC 148 "SILVA VS. SONNEN II" PREVIEW: Penick's main card breakdown and fight predictions
Jul 7, 2012 - 1:15:03 PM
By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
A rematch almost two years in the making comes to Las Vegas on Saturday night, as Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will square off one more time in the main event of UFC 148. The night's main card has been ravaged over the last several months, with fights and fighters being taken off the event in order to patch up UFC 147 and UFC 149, two events whose injury issues hurt them even worse. Still, with Silva and Sonnen on top, this card remained a "must-buy" for all UFC fans regardless of what else was being offered. As always, let's take a look at what's on tap for the night's main card:
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen (UFC Middleweight Championship)
The first fight between these two was an epic battle that caught everyone off guard. Because of how unexpected it was at the time, it seems nearly impossible for this fight to live up to the drama that unfolded in that first matchup. Still, two years later, there are plenty of questions to be answered in this rematch.
Chael Sonnen is going to come out looking to do exactly what he did in August of 2010. He's going to try using the threat of the takedown to set up strikes, then actually take Sonnen down, and he'll look to work his ground and pound game (he may even be looking for submissions this go around, if his time with Vinny Magalhaes is any evidence).
His strategy worked well for four and a half rounds in the first fight, as he sat in Silva's guard for much of that time, landing punches and winning rounds. However, despite naysayers who want to claim it was just excuse-making on Silva's part, Silva was clearly hampered by a rib injury throughout the fight, which very well could have had a massively negative effect on his performance.
So the questions into this rematch revolve around whether or not what happened at UFC 117 was fluky, or if Sonnen's style is simply kryptonite for "The Spider." Silva has proven himself to be one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, and his run in the UFC is completely unparalleled. He's added two more incredible performances to his resume since the last Sonnen fight, and has a desire to inflict heavy amounts of bodily harm to a man who has done nothing but trash talk him since before their first fight.
I'm of the belief that we saw the best version of Chael Sonnen in that first fight, while Silva - for whatever reason you want to attribute it to - wasn't at his best. Silva knows exactly what's facing him this time around. He knows what's coming from Sonnen, and what his opponent wants to do for five rounds. He's still the best fighter in the world, and I think the adjustments will have been made this time around.
PREDICTION: Silva via TKO in the second round
Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin (Light Heavyweight)
Through six rounds between these two all we've found out is that they're a really even match for one another. Griffin's durability and striking game has contended with Ortiz's wrestling and ground and pound game, leading to two very similar fights with similarly close split decisions going to each fighter.
Their rematch in 2009 showed a bit more of a gap than the first fight, as Griffin clearly had the better of things down the stretch and completely out-classed Ortiz standing in the final round. Into this third bout, there are a few things at play.
First up is the fact that it's Ortiz's final career fight. He's being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon, and he is hell-bent on capturing one more win before he leaves. Coupled with a seeming lack of interest in fighting from Griffin over the last couple of years, the idea of Ortiz wanting this fight more and performing better than Griffin isn't a crazy one.
However, Griffin's made it clear this week that he's not going anywhere. Though he's been relatively quiet, he isn't happy with Ortiz's characterizations of him into the fight, and if he shows up as he did against Ortiz the last time out, or the way he did against Rich Franklin last February, this is his fight to win.
Ortiz's surprise win over Ryan Bader last summer was a nice moment, but his subsequent stoppage losses to Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira just continued to prove he's on his last legs in the sport. Despite Griffin's losses to Evans, Anderson Silva, and Shogun Rua in the four years since he captured the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, he's still the better fighter in 2012.
PREDICTION: Griffin via unanimous decision
Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote (Middleweight)
Le is one of the more entertaining strikers to watch in the sport, as his mixture of kickboxing, taekwondo, and sanshou leads to some inventive, unique, and unexpected attacks. Patrick Cote is a solid veteran returning to the UFC for the first time in almost two years, and he brings heavy hands and a great chin into the cage with him.
This is not a fight that's going to be seeing much time on the ground. Neither fighter is particularly focused on the ground, and they're certainly not afraid to strike with anyone. And that's where Le may run into some trouble.
He's sure to do damage to Cote in this fight. He's more than capable of landing his strikes early and often; however, to continue the assault through three rounds is going to be a tough task against a fighter who can also dish it out, and can take everything sent his way and continue moving forward. For as much as I enjoy watching Le fight, I can't favor him over that type of a stylistic matchup. Heavy hands, cardio, and an ability to take punishment give Cote the nod in this one.
PREDICTION: Cote via TKO in the third round
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia (Welterweight)
Maia is dropping to the welterweight division after a highly derided fight against Chris Weidman in January. The one time submission wizard hasn't finished a fight since submitting Chael Sonnen in February of 2009, and he's increasingly turned his attention to the striking game, which has been to his detriment.
He should have earned a decision against Mark Munoz last June, and it would have meant a four fight winning streak into his fight with Weidman, but even though he's still had some success, it just hasn't been very fun to watch him in some time.
Kim is certainly capable of having an entertaining fight, but he too has been known to employ a less than thrilling strategy in fights, meaning this fight could go one of two ways: we'll either have an exciting ground battle, or a less than exciting (not to mention sloppy) kickboxing fight.
I'm hopeful for the ground battle, because Maia's jiu jitsu game at welterweight could be even more powerful than it was at one time in the middleweight division. Alas, we're probably in for three rounds of striking from these two, and I favor Maia slightly in that area.
PREDICTION: Maia via unanimous decision
Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie (Featherweight)
This is Mendes' first fight since a loss to champ Jose Aldo in January, the first loss ever in the 27-year-old's career. McKenzie drops down despite a win in his last fight over Marcus LeVesseur, and is hoping a massive height difference will assist in being able to utilize his one trick: the guillotine choke.
However, Mendes is an all too skilled wrestler and striker to find himself caught in that position with McKenzie. He's shown a good mixture of striking skills to go along with his fantastic wrestling game, and that's a terrible combination for the TUF vet to go against.
Mendes is a massive favorite for a reason, and if he can't pull off the stoppage it's a guarantee he'll survive to take a decision. However, he's got the strength and skills to end this one early.
PREDICTION: Mendes via TKO in the second round
Ivan Menjivar vs. Mike Easton (Bantamweight)
This is a really interesting bantamweight matchup, and it came about due to the injury to Dominick Cruz that began a summer of injury news. Menjivar was initially scheduled to take on Renan Barao, who was then pulled up to face Urijah Faber when Cruz came up injured; that fight now takes place later this month at UFC 149, and Easton has stepped in for what should be the biggest test he's had to date.
Menjivar is a savvy veteran, and he's been simply fantastic in his three UFC appearances in the last year. After knocking Charlie Valencia out with a vicious elbow, he picked up a decision in a good performance against Nick Pace, then submitted John Albert in February in a fantastically entertaining four-minute fight.
Easton, meanwhile, has picked up two solid wins over Byron Bloodworth and Jared Papazian to extend his current winning streak to seven fights. However, Menjivar is a completely different beast than either of those names. He's fast, and he's got a really well-rounded game. It's a tough fight to call, because Easton's got the skill set to pull a win like this off, but it also may be a little too soon for a fight like this. We'll see one way or the other on Saturday night, but I think Menjivar continues his streak a little longer.
PREDICTION: Menjivar via unanimous decision
=====Preliminary Card Quick Picks=====
--Gleison Tibau over Khabib Nurmagomedov via decision
--Melvin Guillard over Fabricio Camoes via TKO in the first round
--Riki Fukuda over Constantinos Philippou via decision
--John Alessio over Shane Roller via decision
--Yoislandy Izquierdo over Rafaello Oliveira via TKO in the second round
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