Sonnen revives Silva's competitive fire, middleweight division
It was quite evident Anderson Silva was bored.
We all recall his anti-climactic title bout against Patrick Cote at UFC 90, and his agonizing contest against Thales Leites six months later. And who could forget his UFC 112 “fight” against Demian Maia that left Dana White disgusted with his top talent?
Three fights that no one needs, let alone wants, to watch again. Ever. All because Silva was unmotivated, disinterested, and completely bored with the sport.
At the time, the division’s contenders were gone, already disposed of, leaving Silva without motivation to step in the cage. Missing was any inspiration to impress once the Octagon door closed. And fans watched on as the most talented fighter to ever compete in the UFC toyed with notably inferior competition, void of any real desire to inflict damage, content to cruise to a decision.
But we should have seen this coming.
The Brazilian so quickly tore through Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and the other middleweight elite during his first two years in the promotion that the weight class didn’t stand a chance. As quickly as the division became so exciting with Silva’s fights, it was torn to pieces due to his incredible talent.
Simply put, Silva was destroying contenders significantly faster than the UFC could produce them.
The promotion desperately needed something big to happen, and they looked to Nate Marquardt to earn a rematch with Silva with a win at UFC 109 over Chael Sonnen. Marquardt was as high as a 5:1 favorite to win the fight, but his upset loss ended up serving as a turning point in the division.
The victory gave Sonnen a small piece of the UFC spotlight. That was all he needed to launch a campaign against Silva that would transform him into a contender and resuscitate an ailing weight class.
Unfortunately for the brash middleweight, that campaign has not yet yielded him a championship belt, though he came within half a round of earning it at UFC 117 before falling into a submission. Now, he waits for a July 7 rematch at UFC 148 against Silva for his second opportunity at gold.
But regardless of whether or not Sonnen ever does become the 185 lb. champion, he has already accomplished something special. Something that isn’t symbolized by a title, paycheck, or trophy. Something that, love him or hate him, every fan should be thankful for.
He saved the division.
Though the middleweight class wasn’t on life support, without a brash contender like Sonnen, Silva’s struggle for motivation certainly would have continued, and we would all have to get used to the lifeless fighting style we saw from him between UFC 90 and UFC 112 at middleweight.
Instead, the division is alive and well, as Sonnen has served as the impetus of Silva’s rebirth as the most dominant fighter on Earth. By questioning the Brazilian star as a champion, fighter, and even as a person, Sonnen made him care. Silva cared about fighting again, cared about winning, and cared about proving Sonnen wrong.
The champion’s recent comments concerning Sonnen serve as proof that motivation is not lacking, at least for this fight.It definitely isn’t. Silva is acting like a fighter who wants blood and broken bones. He wants to grind Sonnen’s teeth and send him to a plastic surgeon. He wants to make Chael Sonnen disappear from the UFC.
Silva has never spoken about an opponent like this, because no opponent has ever inspired him, or angered him, the way Sonnen has. Regardless of the root emotion, Silva is motivated. He is violent. He is hungry.
But, perhaps most importantly, Anderson Silva isn’t bored anymore.