By: William Holmes
The UFC has not had a highly anticipated rematch such as Silva vs. Sonnen in a very long time, and nobody has ever given Anderson Silva as tough of as fight as Chael Sonnen did in 2010. With Georges St. Pierre injured and Brock Lesnar acting in the WWE, the UFC has been lacking in star power to draw PPV buys in 2012.
Saturday’s PPV will likely be the highest selling PPV for the UFC in 2012, and based on the matchups created by Joe Silva on the card, it will likely be the most entertaining.
Dong Hyun Kim (15-1-1) vs. Demian Maia (15-4); Welterweight
The UFC has plans to continue their expansion in to Asia and have recently announced a UFC on Fuel card in China. The South Korean Dong Hyun Kim will likely be one of the stars they heavily promote in Asia.
Over half of Kim’s victories have come by decision, but to have only one loss on your record after fighting for the UFC since 2008 is an impressive feat. He doesn’t win with thrilling knockouts, but he will grind an opponent over the course of three rounds and slowly wear them out. His judo skills are solid, and he has the hips to keep a fight standing.
He holds victories over T.J. Grant, Amir Sadollah, Nate Diaz, Matt Brown, and most recently Sean Pierson. He was viciously knocked out by Carlos Condit last year, but Condit has been on a tear recently and there is no shame in having your only loss be against Carlos Condit.
Demian Maia might be the best jiu-jitsu practitioner to ever compete in the UFC. MMA is more than just wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and if you can’t take your opponent to the ground you can’t use your jiu-jitsu, and you have to be able to strike to be considered elite in today’s MMA.
Maia is far from a dominant striker. His striking ability has improved since he first started fighting professionally, but it morphed from atrocious to below average.
This will also be Maia’s first cut to the welterweight division ever at the age of 34. He has lost two of his last three fights, and Anderson Silva was the first to show the blueprint on soundly beating Maia by simply keeping the fight standing. It was a game plan that both Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman were able to follow successfully.
Maia has gone 1-2 in his last three fights, and a drop in weight class past the age of 30 is usually a sign of desperation. If Maia is able to take the fight to the ground Kim will be in serious trouble, but Kim’s Judo background should allow him to keep the fight standing and escape with a decision victory.
Cung Le (7-2) vs. Patrick Cote (17-7); Middleweight
Cung Le is certainly one of the most exciting fighters competing in MMA today. He has a vast array of kicks that most fighters would never dare use. Cung Le however has little to zero gas tank, and his constant attack of high kicks, low kicks, spinning back kicks, and crescent kicks use more energy and tire him out by the second round.
All seven of Cung Le’s victories have come by KO or TKO, and both of his losses have come by KO or TKO. When Cung Le fights they don’t go to a decision. Cung Le fought most of his career in Strikeforce and really made his name known with an exciting TKO victory over the notorious Frank Shamrock. He went 1-1 with UFC veteran Scott Smith, and was viciously knocked out by Wanderlei Silva in November of 2011. Le and Silva put on a hell of a show in the first round, but as customary with Le, he began to tire in the second round and eventually succumbed to Silva.
Patrick Cote is a former UFC veteran who will be making his return to the UFC in two years. Since leaving the UFC he has gone 4-0 including a unanimous decision victory over UFC veteran Kalib Starnes. Cote fought Anderson Silva for the title in October of 2008 and lost by a TKO knee injury. He lost his next two fights in the UFC to Alan Belcher and Tom Lawlor before being cut.
Cote has power in his hands as 8 of his victories have come by KO or TKO, but his striking ability pales in comparison to Cung Le. Cote might have the better grappling ability of the two, but it is unlikely that he will be able to take advantage of that. Look for Cung Le to finish this fight early since Patrick Cote appears to be the type of opponent that Cung Le beats up easily.
Tito Ortiz (16-10-1) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-7); Light Heavyweight
The UFC might not still be here if it wasn’t for Tito Ortiz.
The Huntington Beach Bad Boy will rightly be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Saturday, and he plans on retiring after his fight with Forrest Griffin. It is probably a wise move, since he has gone 1-5 in his last six fights and is 37 years old.
Ortiz has had severe back issues that have plagued his career, and he no longer has the takedown ability that he used to have when he was feared for his brutal ground and pound. His stand up ability is still average at best. But he still have the in cage presence to pull off a surprise every now and then, such as his shocking 1st round guillotine choke submission over Ryan Bader in July of 2011.
Griffin and Ortiz have fought twice, once in 2006 that Ortiz won by split decision, and once in 2009 that Griffin won by split decision.
Forrest Griffin is far removed from his The Ultimate Fighter days and he has not fought in nearly a year. His last fight was a rematch against Mauricio Rua which he lost by KO in the first round. Since 2009 Griffin has only fought three times. He did defeat Rich Franklin in February of 2011, but with a record of 2-3 in his last five fights its probably safe to say Griffin is on the downslide for his career.
It will be an aged veteran who is ready to retire fighting against an inactive fighter who has not fought in a year. This fight may likely end up like the first two, a split decision. However, it would be fitting to see Ortiz’s hand raised one last time.
Anderson Silva (31-4) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-11-1); Middleweight Division
By far this is the most anticipated and intriguing MMA fight of 2012.
This also might be the beginning of the end for Anderson Silva. He’s 37 years old, and it also has been nearly a year since he last had a fight. His stand up ability is by far the best in MMA. Ask Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami, Vitor Belfort, and Forrest Griffin if you doubt it.
He also has an underrated ground game and his jiu-jitsu is top notch. If you have superior wrestling and are able to take him to the ground, his jiu-jitsu can still end a fight. He defeated wrestling standouts such as Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen by submission, and even defeated Travis Lutter by elbows to the head while Lutter was caught in a triangle.
Anderson Silva is 14-0 in the UFC. Simply incredible.
Chael Sonnen is no spring chicken either. He’s 35 and has been fighting in MMA professionally since 1997. He has vastly improved in MMA since he first started fighting, and he has some of the best wrestling in MMA and comes from one of the best MMA camps in the United States, Team Quest.
Sonnen is prone to make mental mistakes when he fights. Eight of his eleven losses have been by submission. Anderson Silva is the type of fighter you do not want to make a mental mistake against.
Sonnen has gone 5-1 in his last six fights in the UFC, including victories over Brian Stann, Michael Bisping, Nate Marqardt, and Yushin Okami. Sonnen will take you down and grind you out and there are very fighters in the middleweight division who have better ground and pound.
What makes this fight so intriguing is the fact that Sonnen was clearly beating Silva in 2010 before he submitted to a triangle armbar in the fifth round. Sonnen did test positive for steroids immediately after the fight, and one has to wonder if that had something to do with his victory.
Can Sonnen pull off the upset on Saturday? He has to fight the perfect fight in order to do so. Anderson Silva seems focused and appears to have genuine feelings of hatred for Sonnen.
But this is Sonnen’s chance to shine, and he looked so dominant through four and a half rounds the last time they fought that he has a legitimate chance at pulling off an upset.
Sonnen will pull off the upset on Saturday. Don’t be surprised when it happens.