Opinion: What’s Next For Chael Sonnen?
By Jesse Heitz
At this past weekend’s UFC 159 event in Newark, New Jersey, Chael Sonnen received another ferocious beating by one of the top fighters in the world. This time it was the UFC’s Light Heavyweight kingpin, Jon “Bones” Jones, who toppled Sonnen within the first frame. While it was a fight that undoubtedly piqued a tremendous amount of interest, and certainly bolstered Zuffa’s pocketbook, it was a clear mismatch from the beginning.
Yet after such a succinct thrashing, where does Sonnen go from here? In my opinion, it’s beyond clear that Sonnen can’t remain at 205-lbs, unless he desires to get brutalized with each trip to the famed Octagon. He simply doesn’t have the size or the youth, given that he’s 36 and has been fighting professionally for over a decade, to take on the light heavyweights of today.
Despite his opposition to the reality of his particular situation, Sonnen has reaffirmed his intent to continue competing in the Light Heavyweight Division, in an interview conducted on “UFC Tonight”, Sonnen stated,
“I will definitely continue – and at 205 pounds, unless they come up with a catchweight. They have a couple of people that do that. I know Rich Franklin has fought at catchweights a bunch, but I’m not going to be in contendership anytime soon, and neither is Rich Franklin or a pool of other guys. So there is a little bit of room where we could meet in the middle.”
“Now that I’ve dropped Rich’s name, this wasn’t my way of challenging Rich. I was speaking to the point of the catchweight situation. I’m going to stick around.”
“I’d rather give up the size but have a smile on my face.”
I have a sneaking suspicion that after a few more beatings like the one he took at the hands of Jon Jones, that the smile would be forcibly removed from his face. As I stated above, the fighters at 205-lbs today, men such as: Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis, Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader, among others, would all give Sonnen severe thrashings. It could very well be reminiscent of Tito Ortiz’s last stand at light heavyweight, only Tito had a little more natural heft to him.
With all of this in mind, I’m thankful that he mentioned the option of competing in catch-weight bouts, and I wouldn’t even mind a fight between Sonnen and Rich Franklin. However, Sonnen took all the mystery out of who he wants his next opponent to be. In the aforementioned interview, he named Wanderlei Silva as the man he truly wants to lock horns with, stating,
“He’s called me out before, and I’ve called him out, but the fight never really made sense. I was a contender, and he was just a guy on the card. Now I think the fight does make it a little more sense.”
“I’m not leaving this sport. Whenever I get asked about retirement, I never say it, but I always think it: I’m not going anywhere until me and Wanderlei straighten this thing out once and for all.”
Sounds like an option to me, although for a fighter who just got finished in his last two fights to be in a position to dictate who his opponents will be seems a little brash, but then again that’s Sonnen’s style, love it or hate it. As such, I have no doubts that we’ll see this fight real soon. And if that’s where Sonnen decides to end his career, then I see no more fitting end for him than to be embroiled in a financially successful and sensationally-hyped swansong against Wanderlei Silva.