The triangle choke: once it was the nemesis of anyone who didn't know jiu-jitsu, then it fell out of favor after everyone knew—due to necessity—how to defend it. But recently—particularly in high-profile fights—the triangle choke has been the decisive move.
Months ago it was Fedor Emelianenko who got caught, by Fabricio Werdum. In UFC 117, it was Chael Sonnen, an elite wrestler who controlled the invincible Anderson Silva for 4 1/2 rounds on the ground, who got careless and didn't respect the triangle's power. And Silva—a jiu-jitsu black belt but by no means known for his ground game—was the one who won the fight from the bottom, like Royce Gracie did against Dan Severn 16 years in UFC #4.
Following four other excellent fights, the Silva-Sonnon battle had all the earmarks of a classic. In the first round, the sentiment went from "Silva is going to kill him" quickly to "wow Sonnen really rocked him!" and over the course of the next several minutes, with Sonnon on top and Silva unable to reverse, the realization came that not only was Sonnen going to win the round, that it could be a 10-8 round and that Silva was in definite danger of losing the fight.
The next few rounds did little to dispel that notion. Silva got off a few decent punches and kicks in the first 30 seconds before Sonnon got it to the ground again, and won both rounds convincingly. In a likely 30-26 hole, Silva battled back early in the 4th, rocking Sonnen worse than he had previously, but once it went to the ground the tide turned and Sonnen, despite his bloodied face that leaked all over his opponent, won the fourth round, too.
Silva came out like gangbusters in the fifth round, catching Sonnen with hard shots. But he had tired a lot. Sonnen was gassed by now as well, but he saw the win in hand and adrenaline kept him going. The one minute mark was telling: Silva floored Sonnen, but hesitated before diving in for the kill. When Sonnen got up, and himself rocked Silva, who stumbled, he immediately secured the takedown.
Sonnen only needed to do what he had done all fight: completely control the ground game. Silva had shown no ability to reverse Sonnen, and had taken all of the punishment save a quick jab here or an elbow there. He'd had a few moments over the rounds where he improved his position, but Sonnen corrected, and many times Silva passed up opportunities for armbar attempts. So, inevitably, several minutes went by with Sonnen staying busy to avoid getting stood up, and keeping control of Silva. With just over two minutes to go—one minute to the biggest win of Sonnen's career and UFC history—Silva managed to slip a triangle choke onto Sonnen.
It didn't look pretty, or effective, at first, and perhaps that's why Sonnen didn't do what he needed to in order to escape. Soon he looked caught, though not severely. But then the referee was stopping the action, as both fighters continued to scramble. They were still tangled up, and neither had leverage to move as the referee continued to try to stop the fight. I'm sure it was the same wherever you saw the fight: the crowd immediately protested as it became clear the fight was stopped with Silva declared the winner.
What the replays showed was clear: Sonnen was not only caught, he was nearly out, and had tapped at least once. Perhaps he didn't realize it afterwards, and when Silva let up on the choke he started fighting again. Whatever the case, there was confusion but no controversy from Sonnen after the contest was over.
With the win Silva retains the UFC Middleweight title, and made the Brazil vs. America score a bit more even at 2-3. Junior Dos Santos defeated Roy Nelson in a one-sided match; Matt Hughes rocked Ricardo Almeida and immediately latched on an Anaconda choke from above, trapping Almeida's arm along with his neck, in the first round; hyperactive Clay Guida won a surprise victory over Rafael dos Anjos, who won the majority of the fight until a jaw injury (broken?) forced him to tap while jammed against the fence; and Jon Fitch was just tougher than Thiago Alves again in their rematch.