As the veteran voice of the octagon Bruce Buffer says, “It’s time” for what should prove to be the most monetarily successful card in UFC history.
This Saturday night the MGM Grand Garden Arena will play host to UFC 148, which features the intensely anticipated rematch between current middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva (31-4, 18 KO’s/6 Subs) and challenger Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen (27-11-1, 7 KO’s/4 Subs).
When it comes to successful pay-per-view cards, UFC 100 is the one all events have been measured against. But according to UFC president Dana White who was present for last week’s media call, the promotion expects 148 to surpass the 1.6 million buys 100 reached.
And judging from all of the hype leading up to this weekend’s main event, I have very little doubt White’s assumption will come to fruition.
Throughout this week the UFC has scheduled all types of events for fans and media alike. From pool parties with hallmark fighters and octagon girls to the Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay, the extras that accompany UFC 148 are sure to have MMA fans whipped into a frenzy by the time the two combatants battle for the title.
In their first fight oddsmakers had listed Silva as an overwhelming 5 to 1 betting favorite. This time around the current odds reflect a much more competitive fight is expected when compared to that price, but the champion is still the chalk at -270, with the take back on Sonnen a generous +230.
In the first fight Silva successfully defended his middleweight strap but in the process was fully dominated for more than 4½ rounds by Sonnen. From the opening bell it was obvious the challenger’s claim that, win or lose, the champion would know he was in a fight would become prophecy.
Many argue Silva was nursing an injury going into the fight while others say he overlooked Sonnen. Regardless, it was apparent the challenger had earned another shot. It’s been almost two years since that title fight took place and in that time the drama between fighters has grown to epic proportions.
Sonnen continuously referred to himself as the true UFC middle weight champion and used every opportunity to instigate a rematch by calling Silva out through various means. From criticizing the country of Brazil to accusing the title holder of ducking him, Sonnen even proceeded to insult Silva’s wife.
Through it all Silva remained silent and eventually agreed to grant a rematch that may ultimately be considered the biggest fight in UFC history. At the UFC press conference by way of a media call, it didn’t take long for Silva to inform everyone in attendance that this bout has become personal and he has no problem approaching it that way.
Bottom line: I am certain the fans have not become victims of any masterful marketing. Instead, these two men truly dislike and want to hurt each other. Though the stage has been set for this bout to be a promoters dream, the passion and fierceness displayed by both is as genuine as you can get.
For Sonnen, the recipe for victory is not a secret. His striking is much improved when compared to his early MMA career. The All-America wrestling standout at the University of Oregon and two time Greco-Roman national champion needs to once again take the fight to the ground.
Boxing coach Clayton Hires will surely have him prepared to press the attack and offer Silva different angles, but ultimately Sonnen’s offense while standing must be the precursor to shoot for a single or double-leg takedown.
Sonnen is considered the most superior wrestler in the sport and more importantly, his takedowns are nearly impossible to avoid. When Sonnen takes his opponents down on the mat, he possesses an incomparable ability to keep them there. The knock on him has been avoiding submissions. His last six losses have all come via arm-bar or triangle chokes.
The champion Silva needs to keep the fight standing. Although he’s trained by the Noguiera brothers making him highly skilled when a fight hits the mat, against Sonnen it’s not where he’ll want to be. Instead Silva needs to execute his accurate striking and Muay Thai skills that have been perfected training at Chute Box Academy and Black House over the years.
Unlike the initial meeting with Sonnen when Silva was only able to utilize his striking at the start of each round prior to being taken down, he’ll need to circle the cage and remain at a distance. He’ll only have a one-inch edge in height over Sonnen but it’s his almost four-inch reach advantage that has to be employed.
I disagree with Sonnen that Silva has yet to face quality opposition just because he’s disposed of most so easily. The bottom line is that the majority were beaten before the cage door was even closed as we saw with the likes of Damian Maia, Thales Leites, and Forrest Griffin, who all appeared hesitant to engage Silva.
With that said, there’s no doubt Sonnen will not fit that profile after embarking with a ton of confidence from their last tussle. We can also be certain both men will come into this bout in the best shape of their careers and as prepared as possible. In short, we’ll be treated to the so called A-Game of Sonnen and Silva.
Conditioning should not play a deciding factor but it definitely could when you take into account the title holder will enter the cage with a lot of emotion, something he hasn’t fought with many times throughout his career.
That gives Sonnen a significant edge because Silva’s enormous success in MMA has unquestionably been a result of his undeniable patience and focus. Now that he’s vowed to take the fight to Sonnen and issue a beating that will forever change the face of MMA, he just may find himself falling right into the challenger’s strengths.
If you remember, the last time Silva was able to take Sonnen down but was unable to keep him there so he may get into trouble if he doesn’t proceed with caution and chooses to be the aggressor. Obviously the champion is not 14-0 inside the UFC by accident so he’s very capable of overwhelming Sonnen with strikes and making the fight play out like he’s promised.
Though the betting line is much lower than the first time they met, I just can’t seem to justify it still being almost 3 to 1 in favor of Silva.
Sonnen will be able to keep his head and arms out of danger after some brushes with submission attempts. Sonnen by unanimous decision.
Check Twitter @vegasrunner on fight day for my live updates, pictures, and predictions from cage side at UFC 148.
This week in boxing
The WBA (Super), WBO, IBF, IBO, and Ring Magazine titles will be on the line as the longest reigning heavyweight champion for three of those four alphabet belts, Wladimir Klitschko, defends against Tony Thompson.
Bookmakers have set the betting line at Wlad -1700 and though I would never urge anyone to lay that type of price, to be perfectly honest I believe it should be even higher when compared to the “true odds” of Klitschko winning this bout.
This will be the second time Thompson gets a chance to beat Wladimir after losing to him by KO back in 2008. But after five straight wins, this fight will serve as another example of just how shallow the talent pool is in the heavyweight division at the moment.
Not taking anything away from Wladimir or his brother Vitali, who holds the WBC heavyweight strap, because they will go down in history as two of the greatest big men of all time, but lately it’s been close to impossible to park either in a competitive fight.
Besides UFC 148 and all of the events scheduled throughout this week, Tuff-N-Uff will be returning to the South Point Hotel and Casino this Friday for a night of MMA, food, drink and entertainment.
Always a great time and an opportunity to showcase some of the up and coming stars, I’ve been informed that the gourmet food trucks will be on hand again.
VR Record: 58-35
(62%) at Pregame.com
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @vegasrunner and at Pregame.com.