Matt Hughes is leaning toward Anderson Silva (31-4 MMA, 14-0 UFC) when the middleweight champ rematches Chael Sonnen (27-11-1 MMA, 6-4 UFC) at UFC 147, and he doesn't feel that way because Silva will presumably be healthier this time around.*
In fact, Hughes doesn't really buy into the idea that a rib injury made Silva perform poorly before he managed to pull out a come-from-behind submission at UFC 117. *
"Nobody goes out there 100 percent," Hughes said on the set of "UFC Tonight" on FUEL TV. "It just doesn't happen. So he might have been injured, but in the middle of a fight, you're not sitting there thinking about your rib. You're just not."
Hughes, who spoke to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) just before sitting at the analysts' desk on the UFC's official news show, thinks Silva will do better because he's already been in the cage with the motor-mouthed challenger.
"I don't think Chael can switch it up as much," Hughes (44-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC) said. "I don't think he can do much different, to be real honest. That's what he does, and that's what he's going to do again, probably. And Anderson will be more ready for it this time than he was last time, so we'll see Chael maybe getting hit a few more times this time."*
Sonnen shocked the MMA world by dominating Silva for four rounds and change when they first met in August 2010. Not only was Silva unable to land his devastating strikes, he repeatedly was taken down and pounded with punches. It was a lopsided fight until an exhausted Sonnen failed to defend a triangle choke/armbar in the final round of the title fight and submitted at the 3:10 mark of the fifth round.*
Afterward, Silva, who defended his title a seventh time that night, revealed that he'd competed against doctor's orders by fighting with a rib injury he sustained a week and a half prior.*
In looking at the pay-per-view rematch, which takes place June 23 at Joao Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (with what's expected to be a UFC-record crowd), most see the same clash of styles that was present in the first meeting. Silva is a masterful striker with dangerous submissions, and Sonnen is a world-class wrestler and ground-and-pound artist.*
Because Silva has been so adept at staying on his feet and, in theory, not himself when he first fought Sonnen, he is already a big favorite with oddsmakers.*
But that's not the X-factor that Hughes, a UFC Hall of Famer, bets on.
"I don't think Anderson being any healthier is going to help [Sonnen], he said. "I just think he's going to know what Chael is going to do, and he's going to be ready for it. I don't see how Chael could mix it up and be more effective than the last time."
Asked whether he'd voice his opinion on the TV show, Hughes cracked a smile.*
"I don't think I'm asked," he said. "I know what's going to get asked."