SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 148 main event between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen on Saturday in Las Vegas. Share your prediction in the comments below.
Like any rematch between two men have already spent nearly a half-hour sweating and bleeding on each other, this fight is all about adjustments. If Sonnen can take Silva down as easily as he did in the first fight, he’s got this. If Silva has gone back to the lab and figured out a solution for that particular problem, it will be a nightmare for Sonnen. Since we saw so very little in the first fight to suggest that Silva can stay upright, I have to think Sonnen will be able to plant him on his back again in the rematch. This time, I expect he’ll make the most of it. Sonnen by decision.
Family vacation at the lake this week, and all I do is sit in the sun and vacillate, my mind off in the Nevada desert. My son invites me for a swim, and I announce, “Silva is the greatest of all time!” My daughter asks for ice cream, and I declare, “Sonnen has the winning formula!” On and on goes the dithering, until my wife finally zeroes in on the essence: “How can someone pick against Anderson Silva, his 15 straight wins and nine title defenses?” My answer: You go by what you see … or have seen. Sonnen by takedowns, ground-and-pound and — taking a leap of faith that Chael has developed a little submission defense — on points. Sonnen by decision.
Sometimes playing the heel is just so much marketing, a way to goose pay-per-view buys, draw attention and set up the good-versus-evil dynamic that predates sport promotion by thousands of years. Sometimes playing the heel is a shrewd bit of mental warfare, that, prepositionally speaking, gets you under an opponent’s skin and inside his head, making emotional rather than rational come fight night. And sometimes playing the heel can backfire, not only imbuing your counterpart with motivation but distracting the “bad guy” himself who’s so busy with method acting he neglects his training. Says here Anderson Silva avenges his last (narrow) victory against Chael Sonnen and wins soundly in the rematch. He’s simply better on too many dimensions. The storyline will have a superhero ring to it, good trumping bad; afterwards the defeated villain may even admit the error in his ways. (“Anderson won my respect tonight,” you almost hear Sonnen already admitting to Joe Rogen.) All will be right with the world. We’ve seen this movie before. But we will also wonder what the fight would have looked like had Sonnen simply kept his mouth shut and gone about his job … Silva by decision.