Silva vs Sonnen 2 (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love MMA)
What do you swallow to catch a spider? A bird, according to the old nursery rhyme. Assuming, of course, that you'd originally swallowed that spider to catch a fly...although I don't know why, you'd swallow a fly. Perhaps you'll die. Man, kids nursery rhymes are messed up. And they say Grand Theft Auto is responsible for corrupting our youth? Last time I tore up the streets of Liberty City I didn't, to my best recollection, see any bat-shit mental old ladies swallowing successively bigger animals until the physical enormity of what they were consuming rendered them dead. Maybe that bit was a PS3 exclusive, but I digress.
Anderson Silva is MMA's resident spider and it appears that Chael Sonnen has caught him (and the rest of us); and without a single animal being harmed in the process. Let me explain...
I watch a lot of fights. I'd say there's a 99% chance I've seen more MMA fights than you. Yes, you. I've been following the sport since the 'NHB' days of the mid-late 90's; I saw Pride rise and fall, I saw the UFC fall and rise and everything from Russian bare-knuckle tournaments to Japanese tag-team MMA in between. MMA went from being a hobby, to an obsession, to a job, before settling on what I have just decided to call a 'jobsession'. I'm not bragging; it's not really anything to be proud about.
It got bad; there was a time earlier this year when I genuinely wanted to give up writing, talking about and even watching MMA for a while because the work I had to do was hampering my enjoyment of the sport. Watching events was something that I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do. With UFC's every weekend, UK MMA events to travel to, a wealth of international shows like Cage Warriors, Strikeforce, KSW and ONE FC to follow and all the more obscure stuff that I watched just to keep abreast of the up and coming prospects, I was hitting burn-out. It was affecting my home life, my social life and my sickeningly depraved sex life to boot. Do you know how difficult it is to get laid when you can only achieve arousal in an Octagon? Welcome to my world, fuckers.
What I'm getting at is that often I really struggle to get 'into' a fight these days; especially one which I know I'm only going to be watching on television. It's not that I don't enjoy the bouts themselves, I very much do...more that they're just that: a collection of fights. MMA became something I would do, rather than something I'd look forward to doing. I've always been more of a fan of the sport than the spectacle anyway, and I was raised to be a cynic. I know and accept that most pre-match beef is as manufactured as Sly Stallone's face or Josh Barnett's metabolic make-up. Then along came Chael Sonnen, dragging me kicking me and screaming out of my 'just another set of fights' mentality. The fire still burned.
Sonnen is, for my money, the best salesman in the game today. He is as close to perfection as is humanly possible when it comes to pre-fight shenanigans. "But what of the cynic you professed to be?", I hear you cry. "Can't you see that 'Chael Sonnen' is just a pro wrestling-inspired (or indeed, plagiarised) character, a well-rehearsed act designed to part the masses from their hard-earned cash?" Of course I can, and that's exactly why I love Sonnen, and why he's got me hook, line and sinker.
Chael's spiel is faker than fake. It's absurd. He knows it, we know it and he knows that we know it. Just like the pro wrestling most of us watched as kids; it's a con that we're all in on. Whether you grew up on the Flairs, Hogans and Warriors of the 80's, the Austins, Rocks and Undertakers of the 90's or the Chris Jerichos and John Cena's of the 00's, there was always a couple of guys who were good enough at what they did to make you suspend your disbelief, if only for a couple of hours.
And this is what brought me back from the brink; I started to see MMA fans, willingly or unwillingly, suspending their disbelief. It's been happening to some extent since before the first Silva/Sonnen clash, but it really kicked into gear in the aftermath of the UFC 148 media conference call late last week. After two years of insulting Silva, his team and his country, Sonnen got 'The Spider' to snap. What followed was a brutal tirade...threats of violence that were a stark departure from the norm for the soft-spoken middleweight champ. He was going to break Sonnen's teeth, break his arms and legs, beat him like his parents should have. MMA fans recoiled in shock, and almost to a man they verbalised the same sentiment: "Now he's done it, he's made him angry".
Chael had just won. He'd got Anderson and he'd got the rest of us. For two years he'd been trying to make Silva mad and for two years he got nothing. Two years of poking, prodding, taunting and teasing...and it all came to a head on that call. It wasn't just verbal; at Tuesday's press conference the champion had to be physically restrained. Some might say that an angry Silva is a more dangerous Silva. Others feel that Anderson's anger will make him reckless and open up more gaps for Sonnen to exploit. But that's just the fight, and that's not what we're here to talk about.
Sonnen achieved the culmination of over two year's hard work last week when he made the Spider crack. And we, the marks at his carnival sideshow, lapped it up. Sonnen's supporters are now revelling in Anderson's loss of control; Chael has his man right where he wants him. On the flipside, Silva's fans are now convinced that Sonnen has crossed the line and will be brutally crushed, gift-wrapped and sent packing to WWE inside of two rounds.
And it's all fake. Sonnen doesn't care if it's Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort or any other middleweight standing in front of him. Win or lose on Saturday, the carnival will start rolling again for his next opponent. Those one-liners he's so famous for? Matt Lindland will write more for him (true story). And nobody will care. Sure, people will say they do; they'll dismiss Chael as a 'WWE fraud', a 'roid head', a fighter who is all mouth and no trousers. But they'll still tune in to watch him get his ass kicked. They'll do it because Chael Sonnen is good enough to make you suspend your disbelief.
I'm not previewing UFC 148. I'm not reviewing it. I'm not doing a podcast on it. What I am doing is going to the pub with some mates, getting home just in time for the mad dash to hook the laptop up to the TV for the Facebook prelims and enjoying a night of fights. I'm going to forget that Anderson Silva is the favourite, and one of, if not the best fighter in the world. I'm going to bet £50 on the challenger to win. And whether it lasts a minute or twenty five minutes, I'm going to enjoy every last second of that fight.
And maybe, when the night is over and my friends have gone home, while I'm clearing away empty beer cans and half-eaten burgers, maybe I'll snap back to reality. Maybe I'll regret wasting £50 when I could have spent it on a week's food, or some new trainers or a three-month subscription to FillMyGape.com. Maybe I'll feel quietly embarrassed that I was taken for a ride, much like the ones The Ultimate Warrior and Jake 'The Snake' Roberts took me on as a kid. Maybe.
But before all that, even if it's just for one night...
...I believe in Chael Sonnen.
Published by Boogeyman - Wed, 4 Jul 2012 16:16