For a number of reasons, the July 7th Pay-Per-View should be titled UFC 148: Finally.
After nearly two years of waiting, UFC fans will be privy to the rematch of rematches that they’ve clamored for since the very second the original bout ended: UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will fight Chael P. Sonnen, again. In the co-main event with a more somber finality, the longest tenured and easily one of the most important fighters in UFC history, Tito Ortiz, will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and will face fellow former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin for the third time in Ortiz’s last cagefighting performance.
As momentous as these two mentioned events will be at UFC 148, something “finally” happened Monday that UFC aficionados have been expecting for a long, long time: Silva got mad at Sonnen. Real mad.
On a phone call about UFC 148 with members of the MMA media as well as the four stated competitors and UFC president Dana White, “The Spider” used his words. Never have the sweet subtleties of Portuguese ever been spoken with such vitriol as Silva’s translator/manager Ed Soares tried his best to keep up with the defending middleweight champion’s heated exclamations. It took almost three years of baiting, but it appears Sonnen has “finally” got under Silva’s skin with their confrontation less than two weeks away. The outbursts from the champion took everyone by surprise, including White, who less than a minute earlier gave Silva a pass for not being talkative over the entirety of his UFC career.
“People aren't showing up to hear this guy give speeches,” stated White. “You're showing up to watch what this guy does in the Octagon. And when he gets in there he's an artist. He does what others can't. You show up to watch this guy fight.”
Very true. Silva has fought and won all 14 of his Octagon appearances and has been the most formidable champion in company history since he won the belt in his second UFC bout against then champion Rich Franklin in October of 2006. Since submitting Sonnen in the fifth round of the recognized 2010 Fight of the Year at UFC 117, Silva spent last year demolishing top contenders Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami in one-sided title defenses. Previously, Silva has shown emotion in the cage and in particular in his usually intense weigh in staredowns, but he never uncorks in this way while answering press questions.
“First of all, Chael is a criminal,” said Silva to a stunned listening audience. “He's been convicted of crimes and he doesn't deserve to be inside the Octagon. When the time comes, the time is right, I'm going to break his face and break every one of his teeth in his mouth.”
Wow. In the lead-up to Silva and Sonnen’s first outing, Sonnen was burdened being the quote machine that fueled the hype train for the middleweight championship matchup. At least for one phone call, Sonnen wasn’t the only one spinning gold soundbites to whet the appetite of pay-per-view buying masses. It may not rhyme and it may not be as cleverly worded as some of Sonnen’s famous quotes, but the Brazilian’s fire was palpable as he described the dismantling of his adversary.
“Chael Sonnen's going to get his ass kicked like he's never gotten his ass kicked before,” asserted Silva. “What I'm going to do inside the Octagon is something that is going to change the image of the sport. I'm going to beat his ass like he's never been beaten before. I'm going to make sure every one of his teeth are broken, his arms are broken, his legs are broken, he's not going to be able to walk out of the Octagon by himself. I can guarantee that. I know that he's listening. The game is over. No more [expletive] talking. It's on now.”
The facilitator of this ferocity, the indomitable adversary, the silver-tongued, relentless wrestler who many believe haunts Silva’s UFC legacy is “The American Gangster” Sonnen. At 27-11 and hailing from the mean streets of West Linn, Oregon, Sonnen showed Silva’s fallibility by beating the champ for 20 plus straight minutes until succumbing to a triangle armbar in the waning moments of the final round. Many wanted an immediate title rematch, but Sonnen went back to work in the middleweight ranks by submitting Brian Stann at UFC 136 and beating Michael Bisping via unanimous decision at UFC on FOX in January. It’s clear that Sonnen is walking into this highly anticipated rematch with the same confidence that nearly won him the strap two years prior.
“All that happened was Anderson found himself in a fight for the first time,” affirmed Sonnen. “I think Anderson's a really good setup guy. He uses a lot of movements and motions to set guys up. But at the end of the day, his skills are amateur. If you walk into a fist fight with your hands down then that's amateur. I treated him like an amateur the first time and he's going to look like an amateur this time.”
Not to be outdone by his newly verbose rival, Sonnen waxed poetic about the facts of these fisticuffs to help emphasize the imperative that fight fans absolutely need to tune in on July 7th and watch these two in caged combat.
“I have to tell you, the stakes are pretty high in this one,” told Sonnen. “It's a big difference from what I did in college or in high school where I was trying to score points on the other guy or I had an opponent try to score points on me. I'm trying to hurt this guy and he's trying to do damage to me. The stakes are much greater. This is the biggest sporting event of the summer and for a reason. We've been talking about something for two years. Waiting for two guys to finally settle their business. There is no sport, there is no fight in the history of combat or in all of 2012 that has much weight and as much emotion, not just from the fans and the media, but from the athletes participating as this one. The stakes are completely different. I'm not playing around. He thinks it's funny to say he's going to break my face. Tell him I have two words for him ‘medium rare.’”
Before Sonnen meets Silva, another rematch of great importance will transpire to not only settle an entertaining trilogy between fan favorites, but to cap off an unparalleled UFC career. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has been a fixture in the world of mixed martial arts for 15 years. Ortiz’s career is more than wins/losses, more than titles held and defended, and amazingly more than his 26 fights inside the Octagon. In short, Ortiz was famous even when the sport wasn’t.
In the years prior to The Ultimate Fighter, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was a part of almost every famous rivalry, and every time he stepped into the Octagon it was memorable. Ortiz was a whirlwind taking on The Lions Den, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, and, of course, Chuck Liddell. For a time, Ortiz nearly had a monopoly on the intangible element that transformed two guys fighting in a cage to a sport. But what fans should remember most were the post-fight scenes of Ortiz straddling top of the cage yelling to a frenzied crowd “I love you”.
“I've been waiting for 15 years for this 15 minutes,” said Ortiz. “15 minutes of my life I'm going to have to give. I know who Forrest is, I know how he fights, and I know how he likes to fight. I'm going to try and absorb as much as I can over the next week and continue what I've been doing for the last eight weeks and continue on with a winning mentality. This fight means the world to me and it will show on July 7th how much this fight means to me. I'm not coming into this playing around, I'm not talking smack, I'm coming in to fight. I know Forrest is ready, I'm ready, so let's fight. As far as being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I'm very thankful for Dana and Lorenzo Fertitta for presenting this to me. It's a qualification of the dedication I've put into MMA and to the UFC that I've grown and become the person I am today and I'm thankful for it.”
Standing across the cage from Ortiz for the third time will be the original TUF winner, former 205 pound champion, and, surprisingly, a two-time New York Times bestselling author, Griffin. In two previous clashes with Ortiz, Griffin has gone to two split decisions and won the most recent at UFC 106. At nearly 33 years old, Griffin went 1 and 1 last year with a clear cut decision win over Franklin in February and a knockout loss to Mauricio Rua in their rematch in August. Griffin does not have the emotional baggage attached to this fight as Ortiz does, but, as a competitive stalwart of the light heavyweight division, Griffin is as eager as ever to get back on the winning track, especially against an antagonist like Ortiz.
“Obviously, we have some history,” said Griffin. “You can't over prepare for a fight like this. His last couple fights haven’t gone the way he's wanted them to and I'm coming off the same thing. My whole thing is to never lose two in a row.”
On July 7th at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada, fight fans will finally get a resolution to one of the most talked about fights in UFC history as Silva collides with Sonnen for the title for a second time. It’s a championship bout that didn’t need any help to hype, but that received an enormous push with a now frighteningly serious Silva and an always ready Sonnen. Also, one of the most prolific trailblazers in cagefighting will make his final Octagon appearance against a two-time foe who helped light the torch for the current generation of fighters as Ortiz takes on Griffin. In all honesty, this is the must-see MMA event of the year, you know it, and it's only a weekend away - finally.
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