Chael Sonnen and the Biggest Title Fight Gaffes in UFC History
It has been nearly two years since Chael Sonnen infamously got himself caught in an Anderson Silva triangle choke with less than two minutes remaining in a fight that would have earned him the middleweight title. However, in less than one month, Sonnen will have a chance to redeem himself when he meets Silva in a rematch at UFC 148.
While it has likely haunted him since the second he was forced to tap, Sonnen's submission loss to Silva at UFC 117 was far from the only embarrassing moment in UFC title fight history. With so much on the line in a single fight, mental mistakes are bound to happen to even the world's top fighters.
As anticipation builds for one of the biggest rematches in MMA history, let's take a look back at Sonnen's loss to Silva and the worst title fight gaffes the UFC has ever seen.
After winning the vacant UFC heavyweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Pete Williams, Kevin Randleman's first title defense was to serve as the main event of UFC 24, which was creatively titled "First Defense."
However, in warming up backstage for his title fight against Pedro Rizzo, Randleman slipped on concrete and suffered a concussion. It was determined that Randleman would be unable to compete that night, so the main event was cancelled and rescheduled for UFC 26.
Due to the cancellation of Randleman's fight, UFC 24 became recognized as one of the worst events in UFC history. Less than one year later, the struggling organization was sold to Zuffa.
Randleman ended up defeating Rizzo in the rescheduled fight, but he proceeded to lose his title against Randy Couture one year after his backstage incident at UFC 24.
In the midst of what still stands as one of the best title runs in welterweight history, Pat Miletich's fifth chance at defending his belt came at UFC 31 against Carlos Newton.
Though he wasn't as dominant as he had been in his previous title defenses, Miletich appeared to have a slight edge over Newton with only a few minutes remaining in the fight. However, as the clocked ticked down on what appeared to be another successful title defense for Miletich, Newton locked up a choke that would make the schoolyard bully proud.
It was embarrassing enough for a jiu-jitsu black belt like Miletich to get caught in a bulldog choke during practice, but to lose his title due to the rarely utilized choke in a fight he seemed to be winning was crushing.
After his loss to Newton, Miletich never regained elite form. Now an MMA commentator, Miletich lost two of his next four fights before retiring from the sport.
At UFC 39, Josh Barnett picked up what was arguably the biggest win of his career with a first-round knockout of Randy Couture.
Initially, the stoppage earned him the heavyweight title, but a failed post-fight drug test resulted in Barnett being stripped of belt and banished from the UFC. Barnett has continually denied steroid use and went on to have a successful career since losing the UFC title, but he has never gotten a chance to return to the Octagon.
While a similar series of events in today's MMA world would probably result in his win over Couture being overturned to a no-contest, Barnett remains a former UFC heavyweight champion in the history books and somewhat of a black mark on the sport.
With 15 straight wins to start his career, Tim Sylvia earned the UFC heavyweight belt by knocking out Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41.
After the win over Rodriguez, Sylvia defended the heavyweight title for the first time in his career with a first-round knockout of Gan McGee, but Sylvia ended up failing a post-fight drug test and was stripped of the belt.
Following losses in his next two title fights, Sylvia would eventually regain the title, but his image as a fighter has been tarnished ever since testing positive for stanozolol after his UFC 44 bout.
By winning a TUF middleweight tournament comprised of other former UFC fighters in November 2006, Travis Lutter earned himself an unlikely shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Despite being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Lutter failed to make weight at the UFC 67 weigh-ins. As a result, his bout with Silva was change to a non-title contest.
Although he started strong against Silva, Lutter gave up positioning with a failed armbar attempt. Silva later locked up a triangle choke and forced Lutter to tap due to elbows from the submission hold.
Lutter not only hurt himself by missing weight at UFC 67, but his mistake stole one more title defense from what has become the greatest championship run in MMA history.
In October 2006, Sean Sherk took the vacant lightweight title with a victory over Kenny Florian. Following the win, Sherk was set up for his first title defense against Hermes Franca.
At UFC 73, Sherk defeated Franca and looked to be a potentially dominant champion. However, Sherk failed a post-fight drug test and was stripped of the 155-pound belt.
Since losing the title, Sherk battled injury after injury and has only competed four times in a five-year period.
After missing out on a title shot with a loss to the aforementioned Travis Lutter in the Season 4 TUF middleweight tournament finals, Patrick Cote went on a run of five straight wins and earned a spot in a championship bout the hard way.
At UFC 90, Cote met Anderson Silva and was performing admirably well on his feet with the elite striker. However, early in the third round of the fight, Cote's knee buckled and rendered him unable to continue competing.
It took Cote more than a year to return to the Octagon after the knee injury. Once he did return, Cote lost two straight fights and was released from the UFC, to which he will return against Cung Le at UFC 148.
Despite the invincible aura that Anderson Silva had developed by the time he earned a title fight with the middleweight champion, Chael Sonnen made no secret that he planned on dethroning the Brazilian at UFC 117.
Many shrugged Sonnen's comments off heading into the fight, but he shocked all of his doubters by dominating Silva through the first four rounds of the fight. After taking Silva down once again in the fifth round, Sonnen simply had to survive the round to bring an end to the greatest title run in MMA history.
However, Sonnen was caught in a triangle choke with less than two minutes left in the fight. Following the fight, it was discovered that Sonnen had failed a drug test with a high T/E ratio, adding insult to injury and resulting in a lengthy suspension.
In less than one month, Sonnen will have a chance to exact revenge against Silva, who remains titleholder at 37 years old.
Although he ended up fighting BJ Penn in the fight card's main event, Nick Diaz was initially expected to fight welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137.
While it didn't end up hurting him, as St-Pierre was forced off of the card due to injury, Diaz was replaced in the title fight by Carlos Condit after missing a pre-fight press conference without any valid excuse.
Eventually, Diaz and Condit would meet for an interim title, but Diaz came up short in a narrow decision and announced his retirement after the fight, though many feel he will return to MMA at some point in the not-too-distant future.
While an argument could be made that Nick Diaz's punishment of being removed from a title fight for missing a press conference didn't fit the crime, the same could not be disputed in the case of Alistair Overeem's removal from a UFC 146 bout against heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
After a pre-fight press conference promoting the event, Overeem was randomly drug tested. When results showed that Overeem had an abnormally high T/E ratio, he was suspended from fighting until December and replaced in the fight against Dos Santos by Frank Mir.
For a long time, fans and pundits had suspected Overeem's use of performance-enhancing drugs, so his removal from UFC 146 was a huge blow to his entire fighting legacy.
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