Anderson’s Knee Didn’t Finish Sonnen — His Right Hand Did
STUDIO MMA, LAS VEGAS, NV — Much has been said about the kneed that Anderson Silva threw to a downed Chael Sonnen in the 2nd round of their title fight last night. Initially, many thought it was to the face and illegal. A slow motion replay shows that the knee clearly connected with Sonnen’s sternum, although it is possible that part of Anderson’s thigh caught Sonnen’s face as the challenger leaned forward to defend the blow. Either way, Sonnen’s head was not rocked backward by the strike, Yves Lavigne did not consider it illegal, and the replays satisfied most observers including Dana White.
But, it is not that knee that won the fight for Anderson Silva in his 10th straight title defense. It is the Spider’s right hand.
At the start of the 2nd round, the two men clinched against the cage. Chael worked hard for a takedown, but Anderson defended impressively. And, around the 4-minute mark, they finally pushed away from the cage and squared up. Anderson threw a hard right hand that seem to crack off of Sonnen’s nose at the 3:52. The strike is so fast that it is hard to see the connection. However, Sonnen’s head snapped back.
It seemed then, that Anderson recognized that he had hurt Chael. Silva assessed the situation and, hands down, backpedaled as Chael advanced toward him across the cage. This turned out to be a brilliant tactic by the champion, because Sonnen took the bait. And as the challenger closed in to throw a punch, Anderson countered with an absolutely blazing right hook that found Sonnen’s chin. This happens with exactly 3:46 on the clock. Sonnen responds by shaking his head to clear the cob webs. Anderson connected again moments later as Chael tried to fight through the damage.
Sonnen followed up with an aggressive takedown and trip attempt. But it was too late. The strike that undid the challenger had already occurred. At 3:33, before Sonnen threw the wild spinning back fist that caused him to stumble to the ground, he is clearly wobbled and gamely trying to hang on to his composure. It appears that the spinning back fist was not necessarily a pre-meditated tactical strike, but a hail-mary attack by an opponent who knew he was in trouble. Then, though he had time and room to get back to his feet, Chael remained on his butt, almost waiting for Anderson to throw that fateful knee strike.
At the post-fight press conference, a reporter asked Chael whether he regretted throwing the spinning back fist. Sonnen responded by saying,
I’m gonna have to watch the [replay]. I can’t really recall what happened. Someone told me after the fact [that I threw] a spinning back fist… I know I was on the ground. I know he kneed me, and we kinda went down hill from there.
These are not the words of a man who had all of his faculties during the final minute of the fight. An unphased Chael Sonnen — one of the greatest athletes in the world — does not wipe out awkwardly when throwing a strike. Nor does he sit on his butt helplessly when he has the option to stand up or scramble in order to defend. There may be only one explanation for this: Chael was hurt badly before the knee.
Anderson Silva wounded Chael Sonnen with standing right-hand punches. Then, on the ground, he finished the challenger with a heavy right-hand ground-and-pound. The knee was not nearly as significant as many believe it was.