Anderson Silva looks to win his 16th consecutive bout when he takes on Chael… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
Anderson Silva is the Ultimate Fighting Championship's version of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the perfect mixed martial artist whose unbeaten run as middleweight champion since 2006 is testimony to the variety of his skills in the octagon.
In winning 15 consecutive fights, Silva (29-4) has delivered a defining kung fu kick to the jaw to defeat Vitor Belfort, withstood the best wrestling effort of Dan Henderson to win a submission, ripped former champion Rich Franklin twice with fight-ending knees and knocked out another ex-champion, Forrest Griffin.
Saturday night is Silva's greatest test, his rematch at MGM Grand in Las Vegas with brash challenger Chael Sonnen, who dominated Silva for four rounds in August 2010 in Oakland, before Silva pulled off a brilliant fifth-round submission by triangle armbar.
"I didn't train that well for that fight," Silva said this week. "I had a lot of problems in training with two badly bruised ribs. The doctor recommended the fight not go on. But I was like, 'The show must go on.'
"Even with everything wrong that night, he still couldn't beat me. Now, this will be the Anderson Silva he should've fought that first time."
Meanwhile, Sonnen (28-11-1) has ridiculed those in Silva's home country of Brazil, made a disparaging remark about the champion's wife and declared Silva is a "phony" who often handpicks softer opponents.
On Saturday, Sonnen vowed to "spend 25 minutes" — five full rounds — duplicating the best moments of his 2010 bout against Silva, when he repeatedly took down the champion, beat him in striking positions and out-wrestled Silva before finding himself in the inescapable fifth-round spot.
Since then, Sonnen has rallied with impressive victories over one of the UFC's top prospects, Brian Stann, and beaten a main-event veteran Michael Bisping. Sonnen said his rematch with Silva is summer's greatest sporting event, "bigger than the Olympics."
And Sonnen said his message to Silva is simple: "I'll talk to you from now on with my fists."
Silva weighed in Friday at 184 pounds, Sonnen at 185.
The Silva-Sonnen rematch is selling well. UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said the $6.5 million in live-gate sales ranks 20% higher than the prior UFC record sales for the 2006 rematch between then-light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Pay-per-view sales for Silva-Sonnen are trending greater than 1 million buys, Fertitta said, another possible record.
On Tuesday, Silva, with his fists clenched, pressed into Sonnen at a news conference before UFC President Dana White intervened.
"I'm ready for this fight, I've trained hard for this fight and my training will show," Silva said in a telephone interview Tuesday in which he spoke English, eschewing his usual interpreter-manager.
Silva said he has spent more time developing his kung fu style of fighting that he first explored after a discussion with action movie star Steven Seagal. The devastating facial kick to Belfort last year was one of those moves.
Certainly, the length of Silva's middleweight reign is astonishing. By comparison, there have been eight UFC heavyweight champions and seven light-heavyweight champions during Silva's title run.
Asked what he will do if he wins Saturday night, Silva laughed and said, "I'm going to Disneyland."