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Chael Sonnen hints at change of opponent

When the UFC was left scrambling last week to find Jon Jones an opponent for the since-scrapped UFC 151 headliner the organization called on Chael Sonnen. However, after Jones turned the bout down he was paired with Vitor Belfort on September 22 rather than Sonnen despite the light heavyweight champion’s apparent willingness to face whomever the UFC booked him against on the date.

Sonnen was recently asked about the ordeal and admitted he was caught off guard by the UFC’s decision to opt for Belfort instead of him though not necessarily critical of the move.

“If there was any word to describe what happened in that 48-hour period, it would be surprised. Maybe even one step further of disbelief,” stated Sonnen in an interview with MMAJunkie, saying “disappointment” was not among the emotions attached to the situation.

Now, with the proverbial game of contendership roulette seemingly over, it appears as though Sonnen should be able to focus completely on the December clash with Forrest Griffin he announced a few weeks back. Of course, as MMA has proven as of late, things are rarely what they seem.

“There’s going to be some news coming out on me soon. We’ll see how things play out. Stay tuned,” revealed Sonnen, hinting at the possibility of a new opponent.

The 35-year old remained mum on the matter as far as specific adversaries, though it’s logical to assume the mystery challenger might be a light heavyweight ranked higher in the division than Griffin as a means of potentially legitimizing Sonnen’s claim to top contendership.


  • MCM says:

    I hope not, I really like the idea of Griffin as an intro to the LHW division. But maybe they’re gonna put him together with Machida, which I wouldn’t mind either. I’d like to see Chael string two wins together at least before they give him a title shot.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    I’m putting my money on Lyoto Machida. The two of them have talked trash to each other before, he’s not particularly big for a 205er, and he’s the #1 contender. Makes sense to me.

  • THEGUNNER says:

    I hope michida. Forrest isnt in a title run he just fights and runs out of the ring win or lose.vitor vs jbj better have a good co main event or im not ordering it. Why order ppv when th free ones are sometimes better and u can watch all the ppv highlights on fuel tv at ten after the event.jbj vs vitor & sonnen vs michidas worth my $ .

  • Richard Stabone says:

    Before this mess hit the fan a few days ago, Lyoto Machida was widely considered the most deserving #1 contender to Jones’ belt.

    Meanwhile, Chael Sonnen’s last two fights have included a controversial split decision victory over Bisping (who took the fight on less than 10 days’ notice), and a loss via 2nd round finish. In addition, he hasn’t competed at LHW in over 5 years, having lost his only LHW bout in the UFC via 2nd round finish. In other words he’s coming off a loss and ready to try a new division.

    So now there’s speculation these two guys are going to be paired up next? Heh…sure, why not. I guess nothing should surprise me at this point. Especially when Chael is involved.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    It’s also a good way to potentially give Sonnen immediate credibility as a 205-pound contender or give Machida another high-profile win so he doesn’t end up with a title-shot even though he’s only a single win removed from being choked out cold by the champ.

  • trupert says:

    Hmm, what is Rashad Evans doing these days? They talked about fighting before and might be a good transition for both, one going up in weight, the other dropping? If Griffin doesn’t fight Chael, does he fight Bonnar instead? And now that Gustafson is fighting Rua, who does Lil’Nog fight? (I’d use him to test R.Jimmo)

  • JBAR says:

    After Machida turned down the opportunity to face Jones on the Sept. card I could see the UFC forcing him to win another fight prior to getting a shot at the title.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    After the Bader fight Machida had mentioned wanting to fight again soon… guess he didn’t mean *this* soon.

    But yeah, chances are Machida will be fighting again before he gets a title shot, given all that’s happened.

    How long is Hendo supposed to be sidelined? Knee injuries can be tricky, but the MCL thing isn’t necessarily a long-term injury. I assume he’ll slide right back into a title shot upon his return, and could be on schedule to face the winner of Jones-Belfort.

    I’d like to see Lyoto fight Rashad again. Been a while since the stanky leg KO, and the winner of Machida-Evans could face the winner of Shogun-Gustafsson in a #1 contender bout, to face the winner of Jones/Belfort vs. Hendo (again, assuming Hendo recovers sooner than later).

    I’m not sold on Rashad moving to MW. I think way too much has been made of that. Seemed like Rashad was asked if he’d fight Anderson Silva and, as a fighter, his natural response was ‘hell yeah’ and then people ran with it. Maybe I’m wrong and he will in fact move down, but the MW contender picture is already pretty jammeed up, and Evans figures to be just as much in the mix at LHW, so I don’t see it happening.

    Either way, Chael is just not in the mix with these guys. Let him fight Forrest or Lil Nog for his first taste at LHW. Or let him wrestle Bader or Phil Davis. (Davis-Prado isn’t exactly the type of *unfinished business* that would leave anyone disappointed if he were to instead fight Chael.)

    It might seem otherwise but I don’t hate Chael. He’s a smart dude, a very solid fighter and MMA is certainly more entertaining with him involved. He’s a really good self promoter and is able to generate hype, which I do find entertaining. But when that hype starts to spiral out of control is when I get annoyed… when fans start buying into it so much that they start believing he’s going to beat Anderson Silva, or he should be fighting Jon Jones on Septebmer 1, or that since Jones ducked him he should be in there with the guy who a week ago was the consensus #1 contender at LHW. Madness, people.

  • MCM says:

    Not only is Chael able to generate Hype, but he’s able to generate Wins. A fact you consistently overlook. Chael is 4-2 in his last 6. 2 wins over top 5ers, 2 wins over top 10ers and 2 losses to 1 man who happens to be the greatest fighter in the sport today ranked #1 in the division and on the P4P list. Machida is 3-3 in his last 6. 1 controversial win over a top 10er who he lost to in his next fight, 2 wins over top 15,1 loss to a top 10er and 1 loss to the #1 LHW in the world.
    Machida was never widely considered the #1 contender to the belt, Dan Henderson was, and is. Machida is still considered top 5. Chael, on the other hand, is still ranked as the #2 MW in the world.
    If you can’t see that as an even freaking match up, you’re blind.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    You’re describing what Chael has done at MW and Lyoto at LHW and assuming those somehow naturally overlap. That’s nuts.

    Chael is a poor man’s Rashad Evans. In my opinion Lyoto would beat him fairly easily. But more to the point, Chael has not yet earned the right to take on an established top contender at LHW.

    Forrest Griffin was/is a good intial pairing for Chael’s ascent to LHW. Then this UFC 151 stuff happened and everything’s gone wacky.

  • THEGUNNER says:

    I disagree rich. I think forrest isnt in a title run and chael is. Let the title runers battle it out and let the others do what needs for machida theres already a lil hype and it would actually be a decent main event or a really good main event.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    That’s exactly what I’m getting at… people already have Chael in the freakin title mix before he’s had a single fight in the division. Chael is starting to make Faber jealous.

  • MCM says:

    Would you argue that Frankie Edgar is not in the title run at 145? Or that Rashad Evans would not be in the title run at 185? Or that GSP wouldn’t be in the run it moved up to MW or Jones at HW? I don’t think it’s nuts to translate success in one division to success in another.

  • THEGUNNER says:

    Its about active fighters putting on exciting fights.fitch was # 2 forever but got like one title shot because hes not exciting. Evans, edgar, sonnen, even vitor are all exciting fighters and to put an exciting fighter on the other side of the cage with a champ makes sense to me.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    Frankie, GSP and Rashad has each been a champion, which carries a different weight. A better comparison for Chael would be someone like Gray Maynard, and if he had made the decision to move up to WW after his loss to Frankie it would have been silly for him to jump right in against a guy on the cusp of a title shot, like Condit or Ellenberger (at the time). But whether a champion or not, if a guy hops divisions he should have to earn his way to title contention, say, from the bottom of the top 10 up (as opposed to the other way around which is what’s been talked about the past few days with Jones & now Machida). Sure it’s subjective and there’s a lot of elements that play into matchmaking, but we don’t need to see the UFC rolling out any more of the Faber treatment.

    As for the assumption that success will automatically translate to a different weight class… heck no. Especially for a guy like Chael, whose entire game is built on wrestling. He’s been able to take down, smother & control guys at the 185 limit, but will that work at 205? Remains to be proven. I’m more than a little skeptical about its effectiveness against a Phil Davis, Rashad Evans or even Bader. And Lyoto is obviously one of the toughest guy to get ahold of, let alone take down, in the entire sport.

    Forrest is a good initial pairing and offers a pretty easy warm up, relative to what the division has to offer.

  • MCM says:

    Gray Maynard is a perfect example, but instead of moving into the stacked WW division where there are 3 or 4 guys all able to claim the #1 contender spot and none of which are rematches, he moved down to 145 where the champ has looked so dominant over his competition that the division is basically just crying out for anybody with a name just to keep things interesting, would it then be OK to translate his previous success?

    I said it in the very first post in this thread, I really like the Forrest fight. I also said Chael should string at least two wins together before getting a title shot, so even if he gets by his next opponent, I think he should still have to fight and win again before being offered a title shot.

    And lets not forget that it wasn’t that long ago (1 week?) that folks were debating whether or not Machida should even been in title TALKS let alone contention. Lyoto came off a 2 fight skid and beat an old man in Randy to earn his first shot at Jones, then only had to beat Bader to earn his second. That’s literally ONE fight difference than giving the shot to Chael. In fact, if (and as I said, I don’t think they should) but if, they give Chael a title fight if he beats Machida, at least he beat Machida! Which is much more of an accomplishment than beating Bader.

    Everything from physical size to rankings to level of recent competition says this fight makes perfect sense. If you don’t see that, well, we’ll just have agree to disagree.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    Both MW and LHW are in a bit of an odd place right now. I think both divisions are as deep as they’ve ever been, and yet neither has a clear-cut #1 contender, thanks to the dominance of the guy sitting at the top. You know I’ve been lukewarm at best on Lyoto getting a rematch so soon. But he’s right there among the top half of the division, and whether or not there’s an obvious #1 contender or not does nothing to improve Chael’s stock in the division, from my view. He should still have to prove he can beat the guy in a division 20 pounds up, and establish his spot in the rankings the same way the other guys have — by beating legitimate LHWs. Sure, his track record at MW puts him on a fast track to start facing top 10 competition right off the bat, but it shouldn’t be a free escalator ride to the top. It’s crap when it’s worked that way for Faber, Vitor, Diaz, etc. And the results usually expose it as the crap it is.

    But anyway… if it ends up being Chael vs. Lyoto I won’t quibble too much. It wouldn’t be the way I’d handle things, as I think Chael should be starting with a fringe top 10 guy like Forrest rather than an upper tier guy like Machida, but compared to the crazy talk of pushing Chael right into a title match it’d be a much easier pill to swallow. And I think that’s basically what’s happened here… after DW tried to put Chael into a title fight, now the notion of Chael fighting Lyoto seems more reasonable (and of course the fact Lyoto turned down the opportunity to fight for the belt in September). But when Chael announced his intent to move up to LHW, if he had started talking about facing Lyoto Machida, the guy everyone had tabbed as the #1 contender to Jones/Hendo, then I don’t think the reaction would have been very warm. Obviously circumstances change, but I think the pendulum swung too much admidst everything that happened.

    So who the heck knows what’ll happen next. With Chael it’s usually a soap opera… there was speculation of him facing Rashad, then Wandy, then Forrest, then Jones, now Machida. Forrest or Lyoto… call it a coin flip.

  • raker says:

    “Both MW and LHW are in a bit of an odd place right now.”

    That is for sure. Nothing is cut and dry is these divisions so a little creativity is needed. It’s seemingly harder for the top contenders to put together win steaks, as we have seen with Bisping, Machida, Stann, Bader, etc… Throw in a few injuries to others like Hendo and Vitor, and shit-the-bed performances like
    Lombard, and we have a little confusion in the pecking order.

    On top of that, Jones has been fighting way too often. It’s been an exciting run for him but the division behind him is somewhat in disarray. The usual suspects aren’t emerging ahead of each other as more deserving and up and coming contenders like Gustafsson and Davis haven’t been fighting often enough to climb the ladder.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    “On top of that, Jones has been fighting way too often.”

    I know you don’t mean it as a critique… but only Jon Jones could be blamed for fighting (and winning) too often. :)

  • raker says:

    No critique of Jones intended. He’s just cleaned out the top contenders so fast while the up and comers haven’t fully developed yet.


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