"Rematch" is the buzzword around last night's epic middleweight title bout between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. Itwas a thriling affair that saw Silva incapable of repelling Sonnen's shot--though they were barely set up and entirely predictable in each round--as well as receiving damage the likes of which we've never seen on the pound-for-pound king. And then, after four-and-a-half rounds of total domination, Sonnen got wrapped up in the Noguiera disciple's triangle and tapped.
But does Sonnen truly deserve a rematch? He definitively lost. It was not a close decision. There was no fluke stoppage; he clearly tapped. Yet, many seem to think that the four rounds prior to the submission weigh more heavily than the other factors that are usually considered when booking an immediate rematch.
Silva's mentor, Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, effectively trademarked the hail-mary submission. Noguiera was on the receiving end of a pair of legendary thrashings (against Bob Sapp in 2002 and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic the following year) until he he found armbars in both instances. Neither man was granted a rematch against Minotauro. On the flipside, just this year we saw Scott Smith paired with Cung Le in a rematch of 2009's greatest comeback victory. In their first match, Le carved up Smith with a barrage of kicks throughout the fight until being knocked out in the waning moments of round three. There are so many opposing instances of rematches being made or not being made following "hail-mary victories" that it's difficult to cite precedence in making one's argument.
As I've mentioned, there are certain instances that demand an instant rematch. Just within the last year we find narrow, toss-up decisions being re-booked (Shogun-Machida, Penn-Edgar) as well as fluke stoppages (Bonnar-Soszynski by cut due to illegal headbutt, Danzig-Wiman by stoppage when Danzig was neither unconcious nor had tapped). But this time there is an undisputed victor: Anderson Silva.
There will be a lot of factors that go into the decision of whether or not to make Silva-Sonnen II both men's next fight. First and foremost in the minds of UFC brass is the business aspect; clamoring by fans and potential blockbuster receipts could make it impossible not to book. But there's also the aspect of Vitor Belfort waiting in the wings. White has wanted Belfort to challenge for the title for almost a year now, and has made one of his infamous "promises" that Belfort will receive the next shot. That "promise", however, was at a time when Silva seemed nigh invincible and the middleweight division was starved of compelling matchups.
In a sporting sense (which I think should be the most important factor) I believe Sonnen should move to the back of the line. He had his shot, gave it everything he had, and lost. Fortunately for Sonnen, it's a very short line in the middleweight division and he could find himself back in a title match within the span of one or two fights. As for Silva, he took more than a shot across the bow and responded with the resilience of a champion. It's time for his next challenge, and I can't wait to see how he responds going forward.
Who should Anderson Silva's next opponent be?
Vitor Belfort (135 votes)
Chael Sonnen (156 votes)
Georges St. Pierre (99 votes)
A Light-Heavyweight Contender (15 votes)
405 total votes