It was almost two years ago now that Chael Sonnen did the unthinkable. He almost beat the best fighter in the world, possibly the greatest fighter of all time. Almost.
The unthinkable part was that this this was supposed to be a squash match. Sonnen was coming off of a string of impressive, though not awe inspireing victories. This was the man who had been lateral dropped and triangled from mount by Demian Maia. A man armbarred by Trevor Prangley. A man thrice bested by Jeremy Horn. And he was facing the greatest fighter alive, perhaps the greatest to ever live.
What ensued was anything but a squash match. In the first round, the wrestler from Oregon did what most would have bet immeasurable sums would not happen, when he dropped Silva, the greatest striker in the sport with punches. The he commenced an onslaught of wrestling and control that shocked the world. Over the first four rounds, Sonnen dominated Anderson, setting records for strikes landed and up on the score cards as high as 40-34.
At the begging of the fight, a Silva victory seemed inevitable. After Sonnen secured another takedown in the fifth frame, the only thing that seemed inevitable was a victory for the Oregonian. Then Silva gained dangerous wrist control, and threw up a hail mary triangle: and caught it. As Sonnen sought to escape the hold by stepping over and falling back, Anderson hyperextended his elbow on the trapped arm, causing Sonnen to tap in agony.
What was supposed to be a one sided display of skill from the Champion ended up being one of the greatest fights of all time; a dazzling display of tenacity and strength by Sonnen, and a showcase of the heart of a champion by Silva.
The rematch seemed a sure thing, but was quickly struck down by Sonnen's 16:1 T/E ratio, causing him to test positive for steroid use. And the money laundering conviction shortly thereafter didn't bode well for Sonnen's future in the UFC either.
After two big wins however, he finds himself right back in the spotlight, and right back in the cage with The Spider.
It is almost as hard to imagine a Sonnen victory now as it was then. After all, Sonnen is still a one dimensional wrestler who is hittable standing and has extremely poor submission defense for a fighter at the highest level of the sport. Silva is still the greatest fighter in the world. His brutal shutouts of Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami prove that.
The recipe for a Sonnen victory is simple though, take Anderson down and beat on him, until such time as the referee pulls him off or the final bell rings.
One of the greatest things about our sport is that, no matter how much we speculate, no matter how much we revisit the first fight, we shall never know who will win until the Octogon door closes this Saturday night.