Chael Sonnen is quite the polarizing figure in MMA. Igniting both a chorus of boos and a roomful of applause at the same time, Sonnen is a name that always elicits a response from MMA fans. That was never more true than during the epic UFC 148 event.
Sonnen spent the past two years verbally beating UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva through the media. Up until a week prior to the event, Silva remained relatively quiet. In the UFC 148 conference call, Silva exploded on Sonnen with verbal threats.
The response from Silva only heightened the anticipation for his climatic rematch with his rival. The main event at UFC 148 lived up to the hype as Sonnen dominated the champion for the entire five minutes of the opening round.
The second round is where everything seemed to change. Like an episode of The Twilight Zone, Sonnen just didn't seem himself. A failed takedown attempt lead to the wrestler being forced to strike with the champion.
One spinning back fist whiff later and Sonnen found himself sitting on his rear end, looking up at his adversary walking over to deliver a devastating knee. The image of Sonnen sitting in the cage while Silva strolled over to him is literally worth 1,000 words.
After such a dominating first round, where did it all go wrong for Sonnen?
It wasn't the spinning back fist, the legal/illegal knee, the grease, the shorts grabbing or any other moves that caused Sonnen to lose. It was the man himself.
Sonnen had effectively moved past the disastrous end to his bout at UFC 117 with a solid win over Brian Stann and showed some toughness by overcoming a slow start against Michael Bisping back in January.
With all the confidence in the world, Sonnen seemed destined to learn from his mistakes and capture the UFC title that had eluded him in 2010. But once again, a disaster ensued in what should've been a moment of triumph.
Just take a look at Sonnen's performance at UFC 148. The challenger stormed into Silva and immediately secured a takedown. The ground fighting that followed seemed a bit odd.
Silva seemed almost content to lay there and hold on, waiting for a stand up from the referee. There was a moment where it seemed he practically dared Sonnen to take a submission attempt while offering little resistance from the bottom.
Sonnen was even able to secure the mount position with little over a minute left in the round. Instead of sitting up to rain down power punches and possibly secure a first round stoppage, Sonnen just lay there. The challenger had already maneuvered into the most dominant position.
Perhaps the recent quotes from Dana White give a little insight as to why Sonnen may have chose to hold on instead of attack.
"In that first round, when I was on top of him, and I was hitting him with those big elbows, I felt him break. I broke him in that first round. He came back in that second round and destroyed me. I've never seen anybody do that ever." (BleacherReport.com)
How do you "break" someone and then let them come back like that? How can you secure the full mount with a minute left and do virtually no damage? Why attempt a spinning back fist?
It's clear that something isn't right in Sonnen's head. I don't mean with his "Chael P. Sonnen" persona but with Sonnen the athlete. A monumental collapse like Sonnen had against Silva rests with the challenger himself.
Silva didn't win that fight; Sonnen lost it.
Guys like Luke Rockhold and others may point to Silva grabbing Sonnen's shorts or greasing as to why Sonnen lost, but they're sadly mistaken.
Sonnen lost that fight before ever stepping into the Octagon.