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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Anderson Silva closed out the latest chapter of his career on Saturday night with a decisive finish of his greatest public rival in Chael Sonnen. The admittedly charismatic Sonnen had built himself up to the UFC's casual fan base with 22-minutes of dominance and two years of crafted trash talk heading into UFC 148, but like every man who has tried to best "The Spider" in the UFC, he fell once more.
There were two very divided sides from the UFC's fanbase coming into this fight, especially when looking at how the first fight played out. Silva had a rib injury into that fight that absolutely hampered his performance, yet that talk was seen only as excuse making on the parts of Sonnen fans everywhere.
Coming into Saturday's event, one of the most intriguing things about the fight was seeing how it would play out with a completely healthy and clearly more than motivated Champion. With the way the first round started, though, it looked like it might not be any different at all.
Silva threw a wide looping strike to begin the frame, and was subsequently taken down immediately by a charging Sonnen. As Sonnen continued to hold control on top for the entire round, it looked like there might be a lot of similarities between the first and second fights. That would change quickly come round two, however.
There was a very real difference in the way Silva looked in the second as opposed to the first, so much so that what happened in the first round could even come into question. Considering the takedown defense that was shown by Silva in the first, did he simply allow himself to be taken down in the opening frame, giving Sonnen and his fans some sense of hope or confidence he'd look to take away in round two? Or was it simply an overzealous opening attack that got him taken down, leading to a change in strategy in the second frame?
Whatever the reason, Silva was a different fighter in the second round. Sonnen again rushed across the cage, but this time Silva was ready for him. He stopped the first takedown attempt, then worked a little in the clinch. Then he dropped his arms to his side just daring Sonnen to try to hit him. Sonnen took him up on that, rushing in with strikes that missed and getting tagged by a short strike.
Silva kept his arms at his sides, and as Sonnen continued attempting to attack, Silva just kept himself out of harms way. When Sonnen threw a comically bad spinning back fist, Silva just ducked under it and calmly watched him stumble to the mat.
From there the finish was elementary. He landed an absolutely vicious knee right to the midsection of his challenger, which caused him to buckle over in pain. Silva continued his attack as Sonnen could only cover up, and it got him the finish.
It was exactly the type of performance we've come to expect from Silva, and Sonnen deserves credit for making so many people believe the outcome would be anything different than what it was. However, this was the time where his schtick would no longer hold up in the cage. He's been able to get by with some outlandish talk in his interviews because he's backed it up in the cage. This loss, as decisive as it was, combined with the post-fight neutering of his character by Silva, essentially have ended the Chael P. Sonnen era in the UFC.
Instead, he becomes yet another footnote in the long and historic fight career of Anderson Silva. This was again Anderson Silva proving himself to be one of the most incredible fighters in the world, and doing so at the expense of a man who has drawn his ire for a long time. The feud ends with Silva snuffing out Sonnen's star, and while that may leave a void in the middleweight division, it was another necessary result for Silva as he continues to build upon his already established legacy.
For Sonnen, he has Silva to thank for his two year run in the public eye. It was hard work that earned him both title shots, but Silva represented a great foil to elevate both fights beyond simply run-of-the-mill title fights. They were both special events because of what Sonnen was able to do inside and out of the cage. But the persona and out of the cage schtick will end with this feud. Though he'll remain a very tough opponent for everyone else in the middleweight division, he'll never capture the imaginations of fight fans as he had before the fight, and that too is thanks to Anderson Silva.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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