It was a long, winding road for Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva heading into their Bellator NYC on Saturday night. Sonnen and Silva have been feuding for over four months and became the most heated rivalry in the sport. But could they back up their talk inside the cage?
Sonnen did just that in defeating Silva by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27) in the main event of Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“All I can think of is goddam, I hate New York,” Sonne told Jimmy Smith in his post-fight interview.
This fight came down to Sonnen’s wrestling being superior to Silva’s stand-up. Throughout the fight, Sonnen took the former PRIDE middleweight champion down at will and Silva had no answer.
Silva (35-13-1) fought like someone who hadn’t fought in over four years as he looked gassed early on, had no answer for the takedown but he had two big moments in the fight in which he had Sonnen in trouble. In the first round, he clipped Sonnen with a straight right hand to wobble “The American Gangster” and then in the second round, “The Axe Murderer” landed a knee to the chin followed by a straight right. But to Sonnen’s credit he was able to overcome the trouble, went back to wrestling, threw ground and pound punches, elbows and looking for submissions to leave “The Big Apple” with his first victory since a first-round submission win over”Shogun” Rua back in Aug. 2013.
There was an ugly incident after the fight as Silva pushed Sonnen from behind as he appeared to be angry with how the fight went. On what was next, Sonnen (29-15-1) called Fedor Emelianenko, who lost earlier in the night by first-round knockout to Matt Mitrione.
“You’re gonna find out just like Wanderlei and Tito (Ortiz), you never piss off a gangster,” Sonnen exclaimed.
Here was our live coverage of Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva:
12:53: Round 3 to Sonnen (10-9, 30-27 Sonnen). Sonnen did exactly what he did in the first two rounds, take Silva to the mat. Sonnen was trying to look for a kimura, threw elbows and got mount to try and finish the fight. Silva was complaining after the bell sounded but he had no one to blame himself. Not fighting for over four years and not working on his takedown defense. Great performance by Sonnen.
12:45: Round 2 to Sonnen (10-9, 20-18 Sonnen). Much like the first round. Silva had a moment when he landed a flush knee to Sonnen’s chin followed by a right hand that wobbled Sonnen for a moment. Sonnen quickly rebounded to score a takedown but Silva had a guillotine choke but couldn’t do much with it. Sonnen got another takedown and held Silva there and poured elbows and punches. As long as Sonnen continues to do what he has been doing, Silva needs a stoppage.
12:39: Round 1 to Sonnen (10-9). Sonnen did exactly what everyone thought he would do, take the fight to mat, which he did in the first 15 seconds. Good ground and pound by Sonnen along with sharp elbows. To Silva’s credit, he got and clipped Sonnen with a straight right hand to drop the former UFC title challenger. Sonnen was able to get out of it and take Silva back down to the matto finish the round. Both fighters need to play to their strengths to win.
12:20: It is time for the main event of Bellator NYC, in light heavyweight action, Chael Sonnen takes on Wanderlei Silva. This is four years in the making. Silva and Sonnen don’t like each other and it’s going to come to a head. Can Sonnen back up his talk? Can Silva return from a nearly four year hiatus to defeat his arch enemy? We are about to find out.
Mitrione Knocks Out Fedor
11:52: Mitrione defeats Emelianenko by knockout at 1:14 of the first round. The end of the sequence is something out of a “Rocky” movie as Emelianenko and Mitrione hit each other at the same time and dropped each other to the mat. Mitrione just got up quicker, connected on short uppercuts and a right hand to knockout the MMA legend. It came down to who got to their feet first and it was the former NFL player. A great performance by Mitrione and the likelihood end of a legend.
11:45: Up next at Bellator NYC, in heavyweight action, former PRIDE heavyweight champion and the fighter many fight pundits feel is the greatest MMA fighter of all-time as Fedor Emelianenko (36-4) goes up against Matt Mitrione (11-5). Emelianenko is making his Bellator debut and his first time fighting in the United States since 2011. He’s 2-0 since he came out of retirement in 2015. Mitrione is 2-0 since he entered the promotion in 2016.
Primus Nets Belt
11:30: Primus defeats Chandler by TKO at 2:20 of the first round to capture the Bellator lightweight title. The fight ended under unusual circumstances. Primus kicked Chandler and the former champion’s ankle gave out on him. Primus went after Chandler’s leg by throwing continous leg kicks. Chandler fought valiantly but his ankle kept giving out on him. Referee Todd Anderson stopped the fight to check on Chandler and waved off the fight as he should have done to begin with. Primus said he would give Chandler a rematch and the former champion accepted. Whether you like it or not, Primus won the fight and the title. You don’t want to win it like that but he won and people have to accept it.
11:21: Coming up next at Bellator NYC, Michael Chandler defends the lightweight title against Brett Primus. Chandler (16-3) is a two-time Bellator champion who retained his title over former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson back in November. Primus (7-0) received the championship opportunity going 5-0 in the promotion. Can Primus jump into the lion’s den? He’s never faced anyone close to the calibur of Chandler.
Freeman chokes out Pico
11:08: Freeman defeats Pico by submission (d’arce choke) at 0:24 of the first round. Freeman landed a vicious right uppercut to drop Pico. He immediately went for the choke, got it and Pico tapped out while also going unconscious. Definitely an upset. Give Freeman credit. He went in there and derailed the Pico hype train. While it doesn’t mean that Pico is done and still isn’t the future of the sport but he needs to go down to 145 pounds. Freeman had the height and weight advantage which proved to be too much for Pico.
11:01: Coming up next at Bellator NYC, in lightweight action, Aaron Pico (0-0) makes his highly anticipated debut against Zach Freeman (8-2). Pico, 20, is a Golden Gloves Champion and one of the most decorated wrestlers in the world. Many have compared him to BJ Penn. Can he live to the hype? We find out next.
Lima Retains Welterweight Title Over Larkin
10:52: Lima retains the welterweight title over Larkin by unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47). First, I wonder what fight judge Chris Lee watched scoring the fight 50-45. Maybe he went and grabbed a pop and some popcorn. Pretty absurd. Agree with Rory MacDonald who is at the desk with Mike Goldberg and Josh Thomson saying the fight was underwhelming. It looked more like a sparring session instead of a championship fight. MacDonald and Lima will fight later this year.
10:49: Round 5 to Larkin (10-9, 48-47 Lima). The same as the fourth round. Pretty baffling Lima knowing the fight could be on the line and feel like he already had done enough to win the fight. Where was this Larkin the first three rounds of the fight? If Larkin loses the fight, he will know why.
10:42: Round 4 to Larkin (10-9, 39-37 Lima). This was Larkin’s best round of the fight. The 23-fight veteran showed more activity while it Lima took the round off for one reason or another which you should never do in a championship. Larkin needs a finish to be able to wrest the belt from the Brazilian.
10:38: Round 3 to Lima (10-9, 30-27). Lima is making this look easy. He decides when to strike and keeps Larkin on his heels and very tentative. Larkin needs to pick up the pace and do it quickly as he is down by a mile.
10:29: Round 2 to Lima (10-9, 20-18). This was the fight fans are expecting. A much more competitive round. Larkin took control of the early portion of the round with his striking but Lima turned it around in a blink of an eye with a thunderous left hook to drop Larkin. Lima tried to finish it off connecting on ground and pounf punches but Larkin was able to get back to his feet. Lima appears to be getting tired and Larkin needs to take advantage of it.
10:23: Round 1 to Lima (10-9). A round where Larkin and Lima were feeling each other out. Larkin appeared to be tentative to throw. Lima did the same but was able to connect on some vicious leg kicks to seal the round.
10:14: Kicking off Bellator NYC, for the welterweight title, Douglas Lima defends his belt against Lorenz Larkin. Lima (28-6) became a two-time champion when defeated Andrey Koreshkov back in November. Larkin (18-5) is makiing his promotional debut after a 5-5 stint in the UFC but went 4-1 when he dropped down to 170 pounds. This has been deemed to be by many fight experts as the presumed fight of the night. Both are heavy handed strikers and promises to deliver fireworks.
Bader Captures Gold
9:59: Bader defeats Davis by split decision (47-48, 49-46, 48-47) to capture the light heavyweight title. It was carbon copy of the first fight two-and-half years ago. Neither guy did too much damage but Bader landed the more significant damage causing swelling under Davis’ right eye and bloodied the left one as well. Davis didn’t go for any his bread and butter, the takedown. His standup isn’t at an elite level to where it would make Bader worry and it cost him his world title.
9:55: Round 5 to Bader (10-9, 48-47 Bader). Bader continued what he did in the fourth round and busted up Davis some more. Not only did he do more damage to Davis’ left eye, he also created a good size mouse under the right eye. Bader notched a takedown but Davis got right up. Now, we go to the judges decision.
9:50: Round 4 to Bader (10-9, 38-38). Bader keeps going to back he’s been doing in the fight, popping the left jab and keeping Davis at bay and causing blood to get under Davis’ eye. He landed the most significant strike of the round, a hard knee to the chin. A very close fight heading into the final round.
9:44: Round 3 to Davis (10-9, 29-28 Davis). Davis went back to being the more active fighter. He connected on the best sequence, a superman punch followed by a left hand. Bader scored a takedown with 15 seconds left in the round but Davis reversed and had side control as the horn sounded. Bader looks tentative and needs to start letting it go more often.
9:38: Round 2 to Bader (10-9, 19-19). Bader let his hands go a bit more than the opening sequence, popping the jab and landed a hard overhand right near the end of the round. Davis looked to trying win in highlight reel fashion. Davis needs to get a takedown as Bader will win a stand-up contest all fight long.
9:32: Round 1 to Davis (10-9). A good way for Davis to start out. He looks more confident. He stuffed a Bader takedown, popped the jab while Bader appeared to be more in the feeling out mode.
9:24: The headlining fight of the prelims is up next, for the Bellator light heavyweight title as Phil Davis defends against Ryan Bader. They fought back in Jan. 2015 with the challenger walking out with a controversial split decision. Davis won the belt back in November from Liam McGeary. Bader will be making his promotional debut will be fighting for a world title which he has never done.
9:21: Welcome to SN’s live coverage of Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva from Madison Square Garden. It will be a great night of action so stay locked in and catch the biggest MMA card of 2017.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Club Chicago” here. You can email him at email@example.com and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.