It’s a very rare thing when a fighter, who has never held a championship title, can claim any kind of victory over a 10-time defending champion who is among the pound-for-pound elite in the sport.
But that is exactly what Chael Sonnen has accomplished, and for that, perhaps he should get a congratulatory call from David Copperfield.
Ever since Chael Sonnen smack-talked his way into a rematch with Anderson Silva, “The Spider” has taken the back seat to his American wrestling counterpart.
Now, as the highly anticipated rematch between Silva and Sonnen has come to a disappointing conclusion, we are still left smarting as Sonnen dominates the press: the great collegiate wrestler who never won a UFC championship, overshadowing the great UFC champion who never was a collegiate wrestler.
There are even some who are calling Sonnen “classy” because after his defeat, he acted slightly contrite and observed some of the fight game traditions incumbent upon the loser of a bout. In short, he finally shut his mouth, and now it seems a great many want to give him the Nobel Peace Prize for all his humanitarian efforts.
Who said Sonnen isn’t the man?
What has been lost, by comparison, is the real class shown by the only gentleman in the cage that night, which was Silva. He was the one who applauded Sonnen, and asked his countrymen to forget about all the slander and slurs Sonnen had aimed their way.
With so much talk and media attention afforded to Sonnen over the past many months, he was happy to take aim at everyone, including GSP.
“He’d take me down a total of zero times and I’d take him down every time I wanted to,” said Sonnen of GSP during a Q and A session for the UFC in 2010. “Bring your $3,000 suit and your $3 date and get the $0.03 tan beat off your socialist back.”
In the quest to hype his rematch with Silva, anyone who came into the conversation was quickly ridiculed and then dismissed by Sonnen as if he had somehow accomplished so much more than they had that even giving them the slightest degree of respect was below him.
And that’s a damn shame, because Sonnen’s second go around for the middleweight title was wholly disappointing.
With all the talk Sonnen put forward, time and time and time again, you would think he would have been happy to hop up from the floor after missing that badly timed spinning back fist. God knows Anderson Silva was happy to give him the time needed to do so.
But instead, we got to watch as Chael “The greatest middleweight fighter ever” Sonnen simply gave up; scooting back against the cage as if his legs were broken. From there he just sat and waited for the end.
Thanks for the second effort, Chael.
While everyone is loudly crying foul, one need only look at the film. Sonnen fell, but had a great deal of room and opportunity to get back up. He could have easily popped back up to his feet, but he decided against it.
And then he got pounded for his identity crisis.
And all the while, a true fighter—and a nine-time defending champion, no less—was being discounted and disregarded because he wasn’t as “entertaining” as Chael P Sonnen.
If Sonnen proved anything over the past months, it’s that he’s the greatest talker in the game and that his victory in the press—coming from diminishing such fighters as Silva and GSP—was a victory of sensationalism over substance.
Sonnen has dominated the spotlight so thoroughly, both before and after his abject surrender in both of his fights with Silva that, to a casual observer, it would appear that a Sonnen loss was so uncommon that it must have been an apparition: a single blemish on the career of a long-standing champion.
The simple fact is, Sonnen’s only real victory over the past months has been given to him by the press, because he hasn’t proven himself the better of Silva, GSP or any long-standing champion in the company. And now the media is happy to promote the American as a role model of sorts; which makes it easy to understand why many a fan does not take the media seriously.
If anything, Sonnen is the anti-Silva, the anti-GSP, and his is the victory of hype over results; he didn’t need to win the title in order to call himself the champion, he simply had to buy a replica belt.
Where Silva and GSP have been consistently and thoroughly defeating the best in their divisions in the cage, Sonnen has been defeating them in the media and it’s made him a superstar.
Sonnen’s gift for the gab may be entertaining, but will only remain so if he can somehow manage to accomplish his heart's desire: winning a championship.
Now, it looks like he’s thinking about returning to the land of 205, where the ultimate prize would be a chance to face champion Jon Jones. If that fails, he may decide to attempt a hard weight cut in order to face another champion in GSP.
If he can secure a title shot in either division, to think of him being anything but loud, clever, self-promoting and utterly insulting is contrary to our experience. He must win a title in order to excuse or validate any of his lip, or else it was all simply tall talk and empty promises.
So, until a championship comes, the only victories Sonnen will ever enjoy will be won every time a member of the media puts a microphone in his face and allows him to do his stand-up routine as he pleases.
His oratory powers seem so great that he will forever be claiming the spotlight with his sound bites, giving him empty victories over fighters like Silva and GSP, who let their actions speak for them in the place it matters most: inside the cage.