All the pieces seemed to be falling together for a rematch of this month's epic UFC middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
Contender Vitor Belfort announced on his Twitter that he will return to action in November and he will not be fighting for the championship this year.
Then UFC president Dana White went on ESPN's SportsCenter yesterday morning and all but made it official saying, "I'm looking toward the Chael Sonnen rematch, yes," because "I think that's the fight the fans want to see."
This is glorious news to be sure. I'm not the biggest fan of immediate rematches, and lately, they seem to be more and more prevalent, but a Silva-Sonnen rematch makes sense from both a sporting and business standpoint.
There is no doubt that, unless we're in for four more months of absolutely incredible fights, the Silva-Sonnen fight will place within the top-3 for Fight of the Year. It was a fight that undoubtedly captured the imagination of everyone who watched and invoked a wide range of emotions in those people. It was epic, compelling and unbelievable all the way through as the challenger, a heavy underdog, dominated the contest before the champion's Hail Mary attempt came through. If that doesn't scream "REMATCH!" I don't know what does.
From a business perspective, this rematch has to have the UFC seeing dollar signs. Although no conclusive numbers are in yet, projections have the show doing better than your average Silva show and a rematch certainly would do very well with Sonnen having made himself into a star with his pre-fight talk, his performance in the fight itself and his reaction to what was a devastating loss.
Despite the, to use a pro-wrestling term, "clean finish" to the fight, both men will come into the rematch with a lot to prove.
Sonnen has to prove to himself and the fans that he didn't choke by getting caught in a triangle choke in the waning moments of a fight that was completely in the bag. He needs to prove he can get over the hump and take the step to the next level. One of Sonnen's famous lines in the build to the fight was that he didn't care if he got the best or worst Anderson Silva that night in Oakland, Calif. With Silva suffering a rib injury prior to the fight, he might've seen the closest thing to the worst Silva possible. With the rematch, Sonnen more than likely will face the best Silva. It's also another chance for him to fulfill the promise he made to his dying father that he would be world champion. These are strong motivating factors.
For Silva, it's about proving he still is the best in the world. The rib injury could be the main factor, but many analysts think the long-time champion might be slowing down. Nobody has even come remotely close to doing what Sonnen did to Silva. Before his fight with Sonnen, Silva was in 15 rounds of fighting that were scored (24 rounds total). Although official totals vary, it's safe to say Silva has only lost two rounds convincingly (the first round against both Travis Lutter and Dan Henderson). Against Sonnen, he clearly was down four rounds, no question about it, and the Compustrike numbers were startling: Sonnen landed 289 total strikes. In Silva's previous 11 fights, he was only hit 208 times total. Silva surely wants to reclaim that aura of invincibility he held before the fight and there's no better way to do that than by convincingly beating the man who pushed you to the limit.
The conditions are right for a rematch. Anticipation will only continue to percolate. This fight will be one of the biggest rematches in company history, right there in the mix with fights like Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir II, Randy Couture-Chuck Liddell II and Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz II. This fight would be the antithesis of this weekend's rematch between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn, a fight that has next to no buzz because the first fight wasn't overly captivating or riveting. The only thing it was was close.
A Silva-Sonnen rematch will highlight all that is great about MMA from all perspectives — sporting, business and promotional. That's why it makes sense.