Everything was put into place wonderfully by Chael Sonnen after his UFC 136 dismantling of Brian Stann. Sonnen, channeling "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, challenged middleweight champion Anderson Silva to a loser leaves town match on Superbowl weekend. Sonnen, he said, would leave the UFC if he lost. If he succeeded in beating Silva, undefeated in the Octagon, the great champion would have to depart the middleweight division.
It's a promo still being talked about today. Whether the stipulations are met is irrelevant. What's important is an energized UFC fanbase. Sonnen has them primed and ready for a great fight. It would be madness to walk away from it. Enter Silva's manager Ed Soares on Brazil's SporTV:
Let's see what the big boss is going to do. My opinion is that he had his chance and tapped, he should go back to the end of the line. The same thing is true with Vitor Belfort. They're great fighters, but they had their chance. Sonnen would make a big fight, as would Dan Henderson and Georges St-Pierre, but we should recognize that Anderson only has around 4 fights left in his career. (translation by Bloody Elbow's Tom Mendes)
It's an amazing statement. Here's an opportunity for Silva to prove a point, to prove that Sonnen's four round smackdown of the sport's pound for pound best at UFC 117 was indeed just a fluke. Because Sonnen ran a demolition derby on the champ's face that night, eventually succumbing to a last second miracle submission.
Soares has helped lessen that blow to Silva's aura of invincibility by claiming the champion was slowed by an injured rib. Now's the time to prove it. The truth is, I think Sonnen has the Silva camp a little scared. He manhandled the champion in their last fight - and that was before taking a year to perfect his grappling game.
As we saw against Stann, the new Sonnen isn't afraid to add slick jiu jitsu into his grinding wrestling based strategies. The resulting grappling god made Stann look helpless. Would Silva fare differently?
There is no other fight for Anderson Silva right now. Sonnen is the best fight from a sporting perspective - he nearly beat the champion and made the top ten Stann look like an amateur.
There's no better fight from a business perspective - in the wake of Sonnen's promotional genius, it was the Sonnen-Silva squabble that led coverage in the USA TODAY the next Monday.
Sonnen made people stand up and take notice. Silva's consistent greatness made people care. Now it's time for UFC President Dana White to make this fight.