Ben Fowlkes
Thursday August 12th, 2010

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: There is no such thing as a lucky submission. Locking on a triangle choke or an armbar isn't like throwing up a half-court shot at the buzzer or launching a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not a lottery ticket.

Instead, it's more like a law degree. It just might save your hide when you're wrongly accused of murder, but only if you really know how to put it to good use.

I point this out now because, in the wake of Anderson Silva's comeback win via submission against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, some fans have called for an immediate rematch on the grounds that Silva got lucky. True, he was taking a beating for the first 23 minutes of the fight. And yes, he was hopelessly behind on each judge's scorecard heading into the final frame.

But then he won, plain and simple.

He saw the opening, locked on the triangle, transitioned to the armbar, and made Sonnen tap (in his own special way). He made the other guy say, "I quit ... sort of."

There's nothing lucky about that, except perhaps the fact that Sonnen, who refuses to learn from his own past mistakes in this regard, got careless in Silva's guard and gave him the opportunity to begin with.

The point is, we don't need a rematch because the ending of the fight was controversial or dubious in any way. It wasn't, even though Sonnen's attempt at the old quick tap to trick Silva into letting go prematurely almost sparked a riot among the more gullible fans at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.

No, the reason we need a rematch is because it was a great fight, because it would be genuinely interesting to see how things would turn out if they went at it again, and because there are still some lingering questions -- thanks to Silva's post-fight remarks.

You see, a least in part, Silva has himself to blame for the rematch talk. He's the one who, after looking surprisingly vulnerable for four-and-a-half rounds, took to the microphone and explained that he'd been troubled by a rib injury in this fight.

Not that he was making excuses, he insisted. He was just, you know, telling us why he couldn't perform at his best that night. That's more or less the textbook definition of an excuse, but apparently it doesn't count if you say, "Not to make excuses, but ..." before you launch into your excuse.

It's kind of like saying, "With all due respect." We know what's coming next, and it's not a respectful statement.

Of course, to the man making the excuse, it always feels like a reason. And there seems to be ample evidence that Silva's rib injury story is legit. He didn't fight like his usual self, and even Sonnen said he believed that something was wrong with the champ on fight night.

This all begs the question: What would happen if they fought again, sans injuries?

The trouble is, you can never guarantee that particular brand of level playing field. Everyone fights hurt, as fighters love to remind us. It's just a matter of how hurt.

The truth is, if you strap the gloves on and step in the cage on fight night, you've made an unspoken agreement with the fans and your opponent. The gist of that agreement is that you may be hurt, but you're not too hurt to fight. And if you're not too hurt to fight, you're also not too hurt to take whatever comes your way without making excuses for your own performance.

It's simple, really. If your ribs are bothering you so much, stay home. If they're not, shut up about them. Silva violated that contract, which is a big part of why fans want to see what he could do against Sonnen when he's healthy.

Then again, that's only part of the equation. The other part is that, whatever the reason, we've never seen Silva look so mortal in his UFC career. Not for such a long, uninterrupted stretch, anyway. Seeing Sonnen hold him down and pepper his face with strikes for the better part of a half-hour made us all wonder if maybe "The Spider" isn't quite as invincible as we thought.

That, or maybe Sonnen is a little better than we gave him credit for.

Maybe, even against a healthy Silva, his style could give the champion fits. Maybe he could even finally learn to keep his limbs out of the danger zone while in a black belt's full guard.

Maybe. But there's only one way to find out.

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