It’s About Legitimacy … What’s at Stake for Chael Sonnen at UFC 148

For 23 minutes, Chael Sonnen looked like he would fulfill a lifelong promise he made to his father of winning a world championship. Dominating a champion who hadn’t even been in significant amounts of trouble in his UFC career to that point, Sonnen backed up every single word of trash talk he had uttered to that point. His words seemed prophetic: he was giving Anderson Silva a one sided beating and he was swinging the hammer down on him. And then something marvelous happened: “The Spider” pulled off one of the most brilliant submissions out of nowhere to secure the win and redeem the stench of three title defenses that were anti-climatic at best.

And for all of his personal shenanigans, from the introduction of the phrase “testosterone replacement therapy” and his various squabbles with the federal government for mortgage fraud, a rematch with the champion loomed for both of them. While Sonnen was on the outside looking in due to his personal matters keeping him away from fighting, Silva defended his title twice in vicious fashion. It was as if Sonnen’s near victory awoke something inside him that came alive during a spectacular KO of Vitor Belfort and an extended beatdown of Yushin Okami. While Sonnen dismantled Brian Stann, and squeaked out a victory over Michael Bisping to secure the title shot, the specter of that first fight loomed large. And it boils down to one word that this rematch is going to settle once and for all.


In the near two years since Sonnen nearly defeated Silva, and struck him more in that fight than he had been struck in his entire UFC career to that point, one thing has remained in time since. Could he do it again? Was this the case of a champion being legitimately injured to the point he wasn’t himself, as the rib injury disclosed after the fact seemed to indicate? How much of a factor, if any, were Sonnen’s post fight testosterone elevations to his abilities in that fight?

All these questions are going to be answered on Saturday night. And for Sonnen this fight means more than just answers to a handful of questions. It means more than cashing in all the trash talk he’s been relentlessly throwing at the champion for the two years since they fought. And it means almost as much as the title belt for Sonnen for one thing.


Beating Anderson this time redeems everything about that first performance. A vocal portion of the fan base and media tend to discount that first fight because of everything that happened afterwards. People are discussing the fight in terms of “if Chael’s testosterone levels were normal, Anderson would beat him” and such; not as much credence to what he did to the champion because of everything that followed.

He may have pushed the champion in that fight to places he’d never been before but with everything that’s happened in the meantime there’s a considerable volume coming up that it was a fluke. The mythos of Silva has taken over like they did in the first fight. A loss here and everything about that first fight is discounted immediately as a fluke or worse; he has to win this weekend.

It’s not a matter of being able to cash the check his mouth has written at Silva’s expense, though that has plenty to do with the fight. Chael Sonnen needs to win this fight to validate everything he did in that first fight and everything he’s done since. This is a fight about legitimacy, pure and simple.

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