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Anderson Silva's Former Foes Talk About Fighting the Champ

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- Anderson Silva wasn't talking to English-speaking media after his UFC 148 open workout Thursday at the aptly named XS nightclub at the Encore hotel.

Oh, he gave the assembled plenty to discuss. Silva engaged in a prolonged workout with his entire entourage, ranging from serious sparring with the likes of Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante to playing around with kids. Actor Steven Seagal even got into the act, "sparring" with Cavalcante in what devolved into a slap fight which left the exalted sensei panting and wheezing for several minutes afterward.

There are plenty of whispers that Silva, the UFC middleweight champion and world's best pound-for-pound fighter, has been difficult behind the scenes all week, so it wasn't much of a surprise he didn't do media rounds after his workout.

But at times it seemed you couldn't take a step around the club without tripping over someone the champion has defeated in the course of his 15-fight winning streak. And as Silva prepares for his UFC 148 main event rematch Saturday night against Chael Sonnen, those fighters weren't afraid to offer their opinions.

"Fighting Anderson Silva is very complicated," said Patrick Cote, who lost to Silva via TKO in the third round of their UFC 90 bout when he tore his ACL. "Not just physically, but mentally. It's very, very complicated."

Cote, who faces Cung Le on Saturday night in his UFC return, said that the key to fighting Silva is simply to avoid being psyched out by the champion's unbeatable aura.

"It is very hard to hit him," Cote said. "But I remember that I showed him I wasn't scared of him. I took it to the center of the octagon. I never said i was winning the fight. I never said I won the first or second round. The only thing I know is that I had fun and I did great until the knee blew out. I think that's a key, a lot of fighters, they fought Anderson Silva, and they already lose before the fight even starts. You can see it in their face."

Forrest Griffin was one of the most infamous notches on Silva's belt. With Silva complaining to the UFC about the lack of contenders at 185 pounds, Dana White offered Silva a bout with Griffin, who was coming off his light heavyweight title loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 92.

Their UFC 101 bout in Philadelphia ended with Silva embarrassing Griffin, knocking him out with a short, backpedalling counter right hand. What Griffin took out of his bout with Silva was the memory of the torrent of abuse he took from fans in the fight's aftermath, going so far as to say he wishes the match never happened.

"If I could take the Anderson Silva fight back, I would fake a [expletive] injury and never do it," said Griffin, who meets Tito Ortiz in a trilogy fight on Saturday night. "But I never thought like that before. Before I was like 'So what if I'm hurt, I'll do it anyway.' But people are so harsh on you, they judge you. So it's like 'I'm not going to step up then, fine.' You can't let people dictate what you're going to do. But I do anyway."

Cote also took his share of criticism after the Silva fight, but if he carries it around the way Griffin does, he's not showing it. Cote said he's as interested as anyone else in Saturday night's main event and offered his analysis.

"I don't think you can beat Anderson Silva by skills," said Cote. "He's too good. You have to beat him by a good game plan, be smart like Chael Sonnen was the first time around, but it's gonna be a tough fight for him. "I think the first fight, when he fought Sonnen, he was a little bit surprised about the pace, about the aggressiveness of Sonnen. Silva looks pretty pissed now, that's not a good sign."

Which brings us to Sonnen. There are no secrets about the challenger's game plan on Saturday. He's made it to the brink of the title as a takedown and ground-and-pound artist, albeit one prone to leaving himself open to submission attempts. The old dog isn't about to learn new tricks now and on Thursday, he let everyone know it.

"I'm like an old baseball player, I'm walking to the mound, and I'm pointing to the spot where I'm going to put the ball." Sonnen said. "He got destroyed the first time, did everything he could to get out of this fight, he's gonna get destroyed again. I already know how this is gonna go. He's going to get stomped, then he's going to be all I wasn't ready, my rib, I already know how I go."

So Sonnen made it clear how he thinks the fight was going to go. Griffin refused to bite when asked how he thinks the main event will pan out. That leaves us with Cote, the Quebec City native who has worked as a French-language commentator for the UFC, as the level-headed one in picking the fight.

"I'm thinking Silva [wins] by the end of the third round. I'm just hoping, there's so expectations about this fight, I'm hoping its gonna be an awesome fight for the company and the fans."