It’s one thing to break down a fight before it happens. It’s another to look at the path that took a fighter to the promised land of potential UFC championship glory. As we count down to the UFC light heavyweight title fight this Saturday night we thought id’ be interesting to take a look back at how exactly each fighter got to their side of the championship. In chronological order here are the last five fights of title challenger Chael Sonnen.
#1. UFC 109 (Feb 6, 2010) vs. Nate Marquardt
Before the fight it was almost a sure thing that Marquardt would win and get his second shot at the title. Sonnen was a good fighter but Nate was still considered one of the top three middleweights in the world. It was almost a foregone conclusion … and then Sonnen mauled him for three rounds, dismantling Marquardt and stating his case for a title shot. Sonnen resurgence as a fighter started nearly a year before but he really came into his own this fight; he finally put together everything to look like an elite fighter.
#2 UFC 117 (8.7.2010) vs. Anderson Silva
Chael was just a designated loss, or so it seems, and even his incessant trash talking before the fight seemed a bit much. Anderson was going to destroy him, probably early, and then move on to the light heavyweight division sooner than later. Sonnen was the final coup de grace to his run at the top of the middleweight division, as this was the final cleaning out of the division. There were no challenges save for moving up in weight or taking on GSP in a superfight. All the talk from Sonnen was just that: talk.
And the Sonnen did exactly what he said he would and came within two minutes of winning the UFC middleweight title.
It gave us a shot at Anderson’s mortality; he just wasn’t so far ahead of the rest of the pack that winning was a foregone conclusion. For the first time in his UFC career we thought of “The Spider” as someone who could lose and the formula for toppling the greatest fighter ever began to come forth.
#3. UFC 136 (10.8.2011) vs. Brian Stann
Stann was on the rise as a middleweight contender and a win over Sonnen, coming off a year long suspension, would vault the Marine Corps veteran and genuine war hero into a title shot. Both were friends, too, and it marked the first time in a while that Sonnen’s trash talking was muted. This was a fight of genuine respect, the first and only finish in his UFC career as he pulled off a brilliant arm-triangle after mauling Stann for the first round no the ground.
#4. UFC on Fox 2 (1.28.2012) vs. Michael Bisping
Chael Sonnen called out Silva immediately after UFC 136 and didn’t get the fight he wanted. Instead he got Mark Munoz in a title eliminator, switched up to Michael Bisping after Munoz pulled out less than two weeks before the fight. Sonnen would win a tough split decision and the level of respect for Bisping would rise dramatically among fans considering how close it was.
#5. UFC 148 (7.7.2012) – vs. Anderson Silva
The biggest rematch in the history of the middleweight division, and one of the biggest in UFC history, saw the champion repeat the same formula to retain the title. Sonnen would dominate Silva for the first round with his takedown game and top control and Silva stopped it the second round, ducking a spinning back fist from the challenger and stopping him on the ground with strikes to retain his title.