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Thursday Throwdown: Let It All Out Edition

By on June 29, 2012

Anderson Silva finally discovered the cathartic power of telling someone where to stick it this past week, which wouldn’t seem to be a big deal until you realize that he put up with Chael Sonnen’s always-insulting, often-hilarious, and usually-delusional needling for over three years straight before finally cracking.

Don’t get me wrong, Silva isn’t perfect. Who can forget the way he disrespected Demian Maia at UFC 112, yelling at him (including reportedly attacking both Maia’s fighting style and economic background by saying, “Where’s your jiu-jitsu now, playboy?”) while toying with him for five long rounds? However, before and after that fight, Silva feigned respectful admiration for his opponent, dismissing any questions afterward that referred to his having any beef with Maia.

There have been rumblings about Silva feeling disrespected in the past and not liking it- he was reportedly upset with Vitor Belfort for challenging him for the middleweight title, for instance- but he had always kept it pretty classy outside of the cage, with his interviews bordering on boring. He certainly had never shown any inclination toward trash talking opponents. Until recently, the worst thing he had said about Sonnen was basically that Sonnen would get what’s coming to him on July 7.

Well, on Monday, Silva went into a lot more detail about what he’s planning to do to Sonnen.

“When the time is right, I am going to break his face and every one of his teeth in his mouth. Playtime is over; the jokes are over. I am going to beat his ass out of the UFC. He is never going to want to fight again after I am done with him. It doesn’t matter if I am on bottom, side or top. Chael is going to get his ass kicked like never before. What I do inside the Octagon is going to change the image of the sport. I am going to make sure his legs are broke and arms are broke. He will not be able to walk out by himself. I know he is listening- no more shit talking, it is on now. I’m going to make him pay and make him eat everything he said about myself and my country. I’m going to make sure he does not disrespect any other fighter. I’m going to beat him like his parents should have beat him to have manners.”

Sonnen, for his part, responded two days later in his typical fashion:

“He says he’s going to knock out my teeth and break my jaw and break my head and all this. He acts like I’ve never been to the orthodontist. I’ve fought 49 men, all professionals. He acts like I’ve never had a jaw set before. He acts like I’ve never had my head stapled shut in an emergency room before. Who gives a damn? He can do all those things. But one thing he didn’t say is that he’s going to beat me. One thing he didn’t say he’d break is my will. One thing he didn’t say he’d do is win this fight. We’ll be in the middle of a cage stupid; I’d expect you to do those things.”

Adding that this proves that he’s been right all along about Silva being “a jerk”, Sonnen did not seem intimidated by the rather specific threats coming from perhaps the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. Should he be?

Well, the three precedents we’ve seen give mixed messages. Silva was content to toy with Maia. With Belfort, he wore a silly mask at weigh-ins, then kicked him in the face and knocked him out so early on that it was hard to gauge his anger. And then, there was the first fight against Sonnen, in which Sonnen was the only one getting out any aggression for four and a half rounds. When Silva did prevail, it was not with a barrage of concussive blows, but a triangle choke.

One question that I will get into much more during my preview of UFC 148 is, “How much stock do you put into Silva’s rib injury during their first fight?” If you put a lot into it, you might expect this fight to look a lot different. If not, you may expect to see Sonnen take Silva down at ease again, to be possibly impeded only by his own submission defense.

I will tell you one thing: I wish this fight was happening in Brazil as planned. Can you imagine? I’ve literally never cared where a fight took place before, and the one time that I do, it gets moved. As much as I’m looking forward to this fight, it would be 100% better in Brazil.

Non-MMA Rant of the Week

This rant is a little late now, but I’ve been stewing on it for awhile: in almost all cases, it as absurd to measure an individual athlete’s career by how many team championships he was a part of.

I’ll be honest- I don’t like LeBron James. I think he’s a clown. An ass-clown, more specifically. I was hoping he would remain without an NBA title on his resume for one reason and one reason only: I know the mainstream sports press would be too stupid to know that it was not entirely his fault. He would be remembered first and foremost for not being a “winner”, all because his teams never won a title.

Instead, the opposite has happened. The Miami Heat (that’s right, the team) won the title, and what do the headlines read? “LeBron Wins!” “LeBron Finally Gets First Title” Even Bill Simmons, a sportswriter who I have the utmost respect for, fell for the trap: “LeBron Makes LeLeap”.

Even those who decided so graciously that maybe LeBron James didn’t win an NBA title by himself still wouldn’t expand the honor to the entire Heat roster, talking endlessly about the “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Big Three does not include Mike Miller, who scored over 20 points in Game 5 while sinking threes every time the Oklahoma City Thunder threatened to gain momentum. It does not include Shane Battier, who provided great defense and timely buckets throughout the series and entire playoffs. It does not include Mario Chalmers, who scored 25 in Game 4 and took over while LeBron was LeCramping on the sideline.

Championship teams are the result of many factors, including the ability of a GM to put together a solid team (the most important factor of all, actually), a coach to bring them together and have them play in the right system, and all of the players on the team doing their jobs at the right times. Without Chalmers’ play in Game 4 and Miller’s in Game 5, who knows what happens in that series?

Let’s not forget that other factors are just as important and often rely on everything but talent: limiting injuries (or having them occur earlier in the season instead of during the playoffs), the refs’ calls, and who you end up playing against, for instance. If you want to believe that Charles Barkley was less of a player because he toiled for half of his career on shitty Philadelphia 76ers teams and ran into Michael Jordan and the Bulls when he finally played on a good squad, I think that’s crazy. While you have the right to be crazy, don’t expect me to buy into your “never won the big one” logic.

Only a few players should have their team’s success or failures held in their favor or against them. If there are clear instances of a player outright choking on the big stage (not playing well and having his team eliminated anyway, like Kevin Durant in this year’s finals) or repeatedly stepping up in big moments (like Michael Jordan so many times), it’s completely worth factoring in to their legacy. Most times, this isn’t the case, though. Great players are great during the regular season, first round of the playoffs or NBA Finals; good players are good, okay players are…you get it. Putting a handful of games on a pedestal, especially when one individual’s efforts can mean so little in the process, is insane.

Of course, it’s also indicative of the way the sports media works these days, with many more hours of programming and pages of web content to fill, yet somehow much less to say. So much “analysis” comes down to people who either a) don’t know their sport as well as they claim or b) are intentionally dumbing it down for the viewer saying things like, “LeBron really fired on all cylinders tonight,” or “Oklahoma City really needs to limit the offensive rebounding of the Heat.” These types of sports “personalities” don’t even have the time or inclination to actually analyze the sports they are “experts” in…what are the chances that they start questioning long-held beliefs about what constitutes individual greatness?

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