Silva vs. Sonnen II: The Controversy and Why it Doesn’t Matter Anyways
UFC 148 was like going on the worst date ever with the most beautiful girl in the world. Yeah, she looks fantastic – but you have to endure hours of inane conversation, the food tastes bland, and your waiter is a Korean guy who injures himself seconds into the meal trying to throw Demian Maia. Then when you finally get her home, things are going great and you’re hooking up like a champ – for the first 5 minutes. Suddenly there’s an issue with grease, you’re grabbing clothing you shouldn’t be grabbing, and in desperation you try something you’ve never done before that spins you around and leaves you on your butt looking stupid.
Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Silva vs. Sonnen II arrived on a wave of hype and anticipation, but it departs in the wake of controversy galore. Yet despite that, the consensus amongst most MMA fans is “nothing to see here, case closed, Anderson is the man.” In a sport where referees are burnt in effigy and we love to stomp our feet and cry over every injustice, how can this be?
There’s a lot to pick apart here, and opinions are rapidly crystallizing on both sides. So this is my attempt to be fair to either side. I’m going to examine all the various controversies of UFC 148’s main event as straightforwardly as possible – and explain why (it seems) none of them actually matter.
So let’s dive in shall we, starting with the first bit of controversy from the day before.
The Shoulder Check of Doom!
What Happened: At the pre-fight weigh-ins, Anderson “chin checked” Chael with his shoulder during the face off at the end.
This is important because: Getting physical at the weigh-ins is wrong, yo! It can potentially affect the outcome of the fight. It sets a bad example. The commission should fine Anderson for getting so violent!
But it actually doesn’t matter because: Fans aren’t morons and know that world-class cage fighters aren’t hurt by the kind of shoulder check a mosquito could probably walk away from. All this did was give Sonnen fans ammunition to attack Silva as a classless fraud because he came face-to-face with the man who insulted his family and home nation in the press repeatedly and had the audacity to bump into him.
Greasegate, Round 2
What happened: After Silva entered the Octagon but before the first round, he took the Vaseline applied to his face by the cut men, and liberally rubbed over his arms and torso.
This is important because: It’s a straight shot of cheating, no chaser, right in front of the camera. GSP must be infuriated because he had to fight the commission tooth and claw not to have to take a BJ Penn-supervised shower before each fight, but Silva can literally slather himself in front of millions of PPV viewers with no consequences.
But it’s not important because: The referee wiped Anderson down with a towel before the fight! BUT JUST WIPING WITH A TOWEL DOESN’T GET RID OF VASELINE! Yes Mrs. Penn, however…
It’s also not important because: Anderson got killed that first round. If he was greasing himself intentionally (and it’s pretty hard to argue he wasn’t), it clearly didn’t work out too well for him, as he was dominated the whole round. So no advantage gained…no problem…right?
And it’s REALLY not important because: This isn’t the first time Anderson has done this, and nobody seemed to care before. If a stink gets raised now then the UFC, the commission, and even fans will seem like huge hypocrites for not calling him on it any of the other 15 times.
Chael-bows of DOOM!
What happened: While riding out in Silva’s half-guard, Sonnen threw an elbow to the back of Silva’s head. Silva complained to the ref about the illegal strike. Sonnen, in his compassion, decided to throw another for good measure.
This is important because: Elbows to the back of the head, along with 12-6 elbows and knees to the head on the ground, is one of those things that’s definitely illegal – depending on how you interpret the rules. There’s the “mohawk” interpretation, the “headphones” variation, and the “Vitor Belfort” exemption. All we know is it’s wrong, and something oughta be done, damnit!
But it’s not important because: Anderson Silva is the God of Violence and nothing you do to him matters. Yeah, Sonnen landed some borderline illegal elbows, but it’s Anderson Silva – if you land a punch on him it’s only because he allowed you to out of boredom. The back of his head must have been itchy. Nothing to see here.
Eye See What You Did There
What happened: No idea, but at some point in the latter half of the first, referee Yves Lavigne admonishes one of them (likely Sonnen) to “watch the fingers in the eye.” It’s a bad shot, so we don’t really see what was going on.
It’s important because: Eye poking is serious business. Just ask GSP what happens when you poke a world-class fighter in the eye. He gives up rounds to Jake Shields, that’s what happens.
But it’s not important because: Did you skip the part about Anderson Silva being an unstoppable lord of destruction? Unless it stops the fight, don’t expect fans to care too much about run of the mill fouls against ol’ Anderson.
Grab N’ Go Special
What happened: Early in the second round, Anderson grabbed a hold of Chael’s trunks while Sonnen was pressing him up against the fence. He didn’t really let go even as the two men separated and started throwing strikes, until Yves Lavigne admonished him.
It’s important because: This is, to my mind, the most egregious instance of Silva “cheating” to be found in the whole fight. Whether his shorts grab helped prevent a Chael Sonnen double-leg is arguable; whether it helped him land strikes shortly thereafter is equally so. The point is you can make either argument, which adds a taint to Anderson’s victory whether you like it or not.
But it’s not important because: The same reason none of the above fouls have Dana White, the media, or fans to riled up. The same reason we’re willing to overlook all this weirdness. The same reason (most) folks view this as a clean (and clear) win for Silva.
Chael Screwed Chael
What happened: With the two men at striking distance, Chael threw a very badly considered spinning back elbow that completely whiffed Silva, but planted Sonnen right on his bewildered butt. The end came shortly thereafter.
This is important because: This is the reason Chael Sonnen lost Saturday night. There are absolutely cases to be made about ALL the above complaints. There is. But the simple fact of the matter is at this point, Chael is standing in front of Anderson more or less okay, and on even ground. He was ahead on the cards, and holding his own striking. NOTHING that Silva did compelled him to bust out his Jon Jones impersonation at the worst possible moment.
That’s what most fans see, and they’re pretty much right on the money. Anderson had some downright questionable moments in this fight, and Chael is hardly a stranger to controversy either. But whatever happened, it (probably) didn’t contribute much to what actually ended the fight – Hurricane Chael.
Chael Sonnen is an elite fighter. In both fights, he acquitted himself better than most UFC opponents of Anderson ever managed to. All he did, really, was make two mistakes in two fights against Silva – but when you’re fighting the greatest of all time, two mistakes is two too many.