At UFC 117 Silva and Sonnen met for the first time and Silva successfully defended his UFC Middleweight championship for the seventh time by way of submission in the fifth round. Silva did not dominate, though. Sonnen was the first fighter in recent history to give the Spider a run for his belt. The judges had him winning all four rounds before the submission.

Sonnen used his lethal ground game to take down Silva and deliver punches from the top position throughout the fight but ultimately fell to a triangle choke; what most feel is Sonnen's Achilles heel.

This fight was significant because it was the first time since Silva's dominant UFC run began where he was tested, and ultimately led to the intense rivalry and hunger for a rematch. Adding to the drama, it was revealed after the fight that Sonnen tested positive for PEDs and had an elevated testosterone level. Also, Silva's manager claimed the Spider injured his ribs prior to the bout and was advised not to fight.