What inspires the very best fighter in the world? What makes him tick? What hits a nerve, what makes him angry? The answer to all of those questions is almost certainly: Chael Sonnen.
Anderson Silva has never lost in the UFC, he is the greatest there has ever been. But this is far more than another title defence. This fight is to defend his name, to defend the sport of MMA, and to defend his people of Brazil.
Sonnen is playing the ultimate bad guy, the man who has disrespected a nation. But at the core of it all is the fact he put a four-round beating on Silva in their first fight. The end result was a dramatic submission loss, but can Silva play the Get Out of Jail (Chael) card twice in a row? Time to find out...
Anderson Silva v Chael Sonnen
Where the fight could be won or lost: How important is that August 2010 fight to you now and what exactly did we learn from it? The main thing we're referring to, of course, is Anderson Silva's undisclosed rib injury. Stylistically, don't be duped into thinking July 7 can't look exactly like the first time these two met. Sonnen's awkwardness disrupts Silva's rhythm, and he will get this fight to the ground at some point. Silva has dangerous submissions from his back, but if Sonnen stays out of them he'll score points. Can a healthy Silva though, (assuming he is) avoid the takedown better this time around?
Sonnen was in trouble on his feet in that first fight, most notably in the fourth round. If the rib injury was the biggest reason Silva couldn't stay upright, Sonnen is in trouble this time around. Stylistically, this fight favours Chael Sonnen. It does. He can take a shot, he doesn't hang out on the outside where Anderson Silva wants him and he will take this fight to the ground. Guaranteed. If Silva wins this fight, it's by submission again, which is very, very possible.
The pick: Anderson Silva - Submission
Tito Ortiz v Forrest Griffin
Where the fight could be won or lost: If Tito Ortiz doesn't fade, he's capable of surprising us one last time. But that's a big 'if.' Through this bad streak, Ortiz has actually come out of the gates fine, he just wears down quickly. He'll get takedowns on Forrest Griffin, but that's not as scary a proposition as it once was. Ortiz is good early but a lot of the explosiveness is gone from his attack and if he doesn't finish the fight, he'll struggle late.
Griffin has the skills to get back to his feet and when Ortiz slows down, he'll win over the judges with his volume of strikes. He has the tendency to stand in the pocket a second too long and get hit at the back end of flurries, but in this matchup that's not as big a concern. It's Tito's last fight, so who knows? Maybe the moment carries Ortiz and he looks spectacular late. That's good Hollywood stuff but realistically, he's gassing well before the well-conditioned Griffin does and that makes this a tough one to win.
The pick: Forrest Griffin - Unanimous decision