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Silva survives Sonnen at UFC 117

Octagonside by Andreas Hale
Photos by Joe Cordova

It was the mixed martial arts version of Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope,” the Pittsburg Steelers “Immaculate Reception,” Kirk Gibson’s pinch hit walk-off 2-run homer and Robert Horry’s game winning 3-pointer against the Sacramento Kings. Anderson Silva had been dominated for 23 minutes by the trash talking Chael Sonnen who was walking the walk that he talked for months. Sonnen was ready to shock the world, but Silva wasn’t going to go out without a bang. Well behind on the scorecards, Silva cinched in the Hail Mary of all triangle chokes and sent the 12,971 fans at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA into a frenzy as he defended his UFC middleweight title by submitting Sonnen at 3:10 in the 5th and final round at UFC 117.

For months, Sonnen badgered Silva anytime a microphone was stuck in his face. He told anybody who would listen that he would own “The Spider” when they met at UFC 117. Despite nearly the entire MMA world calling him crazy, that is exactly what Sonnen did for 23 minutes.

It’s too bad that championship fights are 25 minutes.

Right out of the gate, Sonnen grounded the best pound for pound fighter in the world with his wrestling base and, much to everyone’s surprise, battered Silva with any part of his body he could hit him with. Each round saw Sonnen weave through Silva’s superior striking and take the champion down. From there, Sonnen clubbed the Brazilian with elbows, punches, claps to both ears, hammerfists and whatever he could muster up. Even when they stood in front of each other, Sonnen would sneak in punches and staggered Silva several times. At times it seemed that this wasn’t the Anderson Silva whose talents were considered other worldly.

It was a sound beating for the first four rounds. So dominant was Sonnen that the judges’ scorecards had him up 40-34, 40-35 and 40-36 heading into the last round. All he had to do was ride the last five minutes out and he would have done everything he said he was going to do. But it’s easier said than done.

Silva came into the 5th round on fire. He staggered Sonnen with an offensive whirlwind of punches and kicks. With the crowd expecting a brutal KO finish, Silva secured a takedown only to see Sonnen swiftly reverse the position and end up right back in Silva’s guard from top position. As the time ticked away, it appeared that Silva was comeback attempt was for naught. But seemingly out of nowhere, Silva hiked his legs up and wrapped a desperation triangle choke around Sonnen. The crowd gasped, Silva tightened the hold and Sonnen had no choice but to softly tap out to end the epic clash and usurp Sonnen’s potential upset of the decade.

The finish didn’t come without confusion as many didn’t notice Sonnen tapping until referee Josh Rosenthal leaped in and stopped the match. Sonnen continued to fight while Silva slid away and celebrated. The arena was baffled until a replay showed the tap out and the California fans exploded into cheers.

With the victory, Silva defended his title for a record seventh straight time. He remains undefeated (12-0) in the UFC and hasn’t been stopped since 2004. Sonnen falls to 25-11-1 but his effort against the best fighter in the world today will forever be remembered.

Fans will almost immediately ask for a rematch, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the UFC does after this epic clash.

Fitch Grinds Down The Pitbull

Jon Fitch positioned himself for another UFC welterweight title shot as he dominated Thiago Alves with his profound wrestling and ground control en route to a unanimous decision victory. Alves was looking to avenge his 2006 TKO loss to Fitch but the AKA fighter gave “The Pitbull” all he could handle. Alves promised a knockout, but it was all Fitch from opening bell to the final stanza.

Fitch wasted no time dragging Alves down to the mat in the first round. Although Alves found himself in a similar position against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100, Alves wouldn’t be able to bounce to his feet against Fitch. As the crowd booed the lack of action, Fitch showcased his subtle brilliance on the ground by controlling Alves and never giving the ATT fighter an opportunity to land a clean shot.

With the victory, Fitch will be watching St. Pierre’s welterweight title bout against teammate Josh Koscheck with a vested interest. Should GSP win, Fitch will get the rematch he has wanted since losing to St. Pierre back in 2008. But should Koscheck win, it will be interesting to see if Fitch challenges his teammate for the title.

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Guida Breaks Dos Anjos’ Jaw; Scores 3rd Round Submission

Clay Guida earned his second straight victory since losing to Kenny Florian last December as he pulled out a third round submission victory over jiujitsu specialist Rafael Dos Anjos. Guida set the finish up early by breaking Dos Anjos’ jaw in the first round with a straight right hand. Dos Anjos wouldn’t wilt away and took the fight to “The Carpenter” even though he couldn’t close his mouth. After an uneventful 2nd frame, Guida opened the third with a sustained attack. Midway through the round, Guida ripped Dos Anjos off the cage and sent him down to the mat with great force. Pinned between the cage and Guida’s shoulder, Dos Anjos could no longer take the pain and submitted a the 1:51 mark. With the win, Guida looks to once again become a factor in the crowded lighweight division.

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Hughes Chokes out Gracie Revenge Storyline

UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes shut down Ricardo Almedia’s idea of extracting revenge for Renzo Gracie when he put the Gracie Jiujitsu student to sleep with a modified anaconda choke in the second round. Not one known to be a dynamo on his feet, Hughes initially found himself getting picked apart by Almeida. Hughes failed at a couple of takedown attempts before landing a sweeping left hook that crashed into Almeida’s chin and sent the “Big Dog” on his backside. Smelling blood in the water, Hughes quickly pounced on Almeida and trapped his opponent in what resembled an anaconda choke. A few seconds later, Almeida’s body when limp and referee Josh Rosenthal called a halt to the bout at 3:15 in the first round. With the victory, one has to wonder if Hughes has one title run left at 170.

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Dos Santos Clubs Nelson

Junior Dos Santos became the next fighter in line for a crack at the UFC heavyweight title when he thumped a very game Roy Nelson for 15 minutes to score a unanimous decision victory in the opening bout of the pay per view portion of the fight. Dos Santos nearly got his 7th straight stoppage in the first round as he raked Nelson with uppercuts and thudding hooks that badly wobbled the former IFL champ. But Nelson would prove his heart was as big as his gut as he took everything JDS had to offer and kept coming forward. “Cigano” tried everything to get rid of Nelson but somehow the big-bellied heavyweight kept his senses intact despite the massive beatdown. “Big Country” tried to put his lauded jiujitsu to work but the Brazilian’s takedown defense was just too good on this night. The TUF Season 10 winner has nothing to be ashamed of as his resiliency earned legions of new fans and converted any doubter of his skill. Dos Santos will now wait to see what comes out of the UFC 121 heavyweight title tilt between Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar. Judges scored the bout 30-26 and 30-27 twice.

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“The Horror” Upends ‘McLovin”

Rick Story could have been charged with aggravated assault as the man who carries the nickname “The Horror” massacred Dustin Hazelett and TKO-ed the jiujitsu practitioner in the 2nd round. Story mugged “McLovin” from the opening bell and throttled Hazelett with a merciless attack to the body. Hazelett tried to suck Story into a grappling contest but “The Horror” was having absolutely none of it and slammed Hazelett anytime the jiujitsu black belt made a move towards a submission. Anytime that Hazelett and Story hit the ground, Story quickly considered the danger and popped up before Hazelett could put together submission attempts. Story ruthlessly pounded Hazelett’s midsection and beat the fight out of him in the first. Rather than punching himself out, Story’s cardio was on overdrive and the relentless attack picked up right into the beginning of the second round. Story again let his hands go and Hazelett met more than half the punches with his face before crumbling to the mat and having the flight promptly stopped at the 1:15 mark.

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Davis Cruises To Decision

Phil Davis proved again why he is one of the light heavyweight divisions fastest rising stars as he methodically broke down Rodney Wallace for 15 minutes to earn an easy unanimous decision victory. Davis – who took the fight on short notice after Stanislav Nedkov went down with an inury – made Wallace look like a glorified sparring partner as he muscled takedowns, looked for submission finishes and showcased his improved striking for three rounds. Wallace couldn’t muster up any offense and found himself in survival mode for the duration of the fight as Davis held the upper hand in every offensive category. When standing, Davis whacked Wallace with kicks to the body. When in the clinch, Wallace found himself being taken down with relative ease. When on his back, Davis passed guard like a hot knife through butter and attacked both of Wallace’s arms with kimuras and armbars. It was easy work for the four-time NCAA Division 1 champ, who looked more like a fighter trying new things he learned in camp rather than a fighter facing adversity in his young MMA career. With the win, “Mr. Wonderful” moves to 7-0 in his MMA career.

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Hendricks TKOs Brenneman

Johny Hendricks remained undefeated and scored a resounding 2nd round TKO victory over Charlie Brenneman in a battle of streaking welterweights. Brenneman – who was riding a seven fight-winning streak – took the fight to Hendricks in the first frame and scored a takedown and landed some hard shots on the ground. But the two-time NCAA division I national wrestling champion didn’t feel like keeping Brenneman around for much longer and blasted his opponent with a bevy of punches. Never one to give up, Brenneman popped up off the ground three times in under a 30 seconds but found himself on the wrong end of Hendricks’ assault. Time of stoppage was :40 in the second round.

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Boetsch Makes Successful Return

Tim Boetsch made a successful comeback to the UFC after being released last year and earned a unanimous decision victory over Todd Brown. “The Barbarian” started the fight off strong and rocked Brown with a vicious knee followed by a right uppercut that buckled Brown’s knees. Unable to get the finish, Boetsch apparently took the second round off and handed it to Brown. But the sluggish final stanza went the way of Boetsch as he scored two takedowns to capture the round and earn a 29-28 score from all three judges.

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Struve Earns Knockout Of The Night

Stefan Struve scored a monster come from behind TKO victory over Christian Morecraft in a fight he looked to be completely out of. It looked like it was going to be a long night for Stefan Struve after Morecraft pulverized “The Skyscraper” in the first round with a vicious ground and pound that left Struve with a smashed lip. But Struve wouldn’t be counted out and surprisingly came out swinging for the fences as the second round opened up. One would think that Struve was either desperate or had the common sense beaten out of him for playing into Morecraft’s hand. But Struve slipped in a beautiful left right combination that collapsed Morecraft and ignited the California fight fans. A few follow up punches for good measure forced referee Herb Dean to waive the fight off at :22 and give Struve the dramatic TKO victory.

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“Superman” Grounds “Killa B”

In the evening’s opening contest Dennis “Superman” Hallman grounded Ben Saunders to earn a unanimous decision victory. Hallman – who twice submitted UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes in under 30 seconds – completely shut down Saunders lauded stand up by taking the fight to the ground and keeping it there. “Killa B” had absolutely no answers for Hallman’s ground game and couldn’t stop any of the takedown attempts from “Superman.” Clearly behind on the scorecards, Saunders frantically tried to finish Hallman in the 3rd round and rocked the smaller Hallman with strikes and kicks. But Hallman dragged Saunders to the mat again and rode the fight out to earn scores of 29-28 (twice) and 30-27.

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