UFC 159 saw Chael Sonnen drop to a career 0-3 mark in UFC title fights after he suffered a first-round TKO loss at the hands of UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones. Seeing Sonnen on the bad end of a second straight beatdown has no doubt led many to question whether the 36-year-old veteran of 41 MMA fights still has what it takes to be a world-class competitor. And though it’s probably a good idea to ignore anything an athlete says after a crushing defeat, even Sonnen himself seemed resolved to the notion that his meteoric rise to MMA stardom had run its course.
But in reality, the only reason Sonnen’s fighting career should be over is if he wants it to be. Losing to the likes of Anderson Silva and Jones doesn’t make one a scrub; Sonnen still has the skills to put on great fights at both 185 and 205 pounds. And his humorous (and sometimes outlandish) promotional antics, which draw heavily from motifs commonly seen in professional wrestling, have seemingly broken new ground in terms of how far an MMA fighter can go to reach the fan base. Love him or hate him, the self-styled “American gangster” has made the MMA landscape a more interesting place these past few years.
So assuming it’s not quite time for Sonnen to hang ‘em up, where does he go from here? Another run at a UFC championship is unlikely, so the only way to keep Sonnen in the spotlight is to find someone with a big enough name to generate major attention. Perhaps someone who is on the back end of his own career, and is looking for a few more moments of glory before he rides off into the sunset. Maybe someone who already has a bit of a beef, and would jump at the opportunity to punch Sonnen in his always-running mouth.
Someone like Wanderlei Silva.
The story behind a Sonnen-Wanderlei throwdown is practically already written. In a highly publicized clip filmed during the build-up to Sonnen’s rematch with Anderson, Wanderlei had a few choice words for Sonnen regarding some of his disparaging remarks about Brazil. Sonnen was demure during the exchange, although he later went on to claim that he was more afraid of Axe Body Spray than “the Axe Murderer” and Wanderlei’s chin was “more suspect than Oscar Pistorius”. If these lines are any indicator, we could expect a vibrant display of pre-fight banter between two of the sport’s most popular figures.
And to top it all off, the fight might be pretty good, too. In another classic case of “striker vs grappler”, the outcome would likely be dependent on which man could impose his will and control where the fight takes place. Was Sonnen just being polite when Wanderlei gave his now infamous warning? Or was he just too afraid to respond? The Octagon is the only place we can learn the true answer.
Regardless of what his next career move turns out to be, the story of Chael P. Sonnen has been an entertaining one. But many in the MMA community are not quite ready for it to end. Chael Sonnen vs Wanderlei Silva could be a fun fight on all counts and the UFC should seriously consider making it happen.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports