As the current season of The Ultimate Fighter rolls along, fans are proving that Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones were exactly the odd couple that the series needed in order to recapture the fans who felt the show had grown stale.
But as time passes, and Sonnen proves what an enjoyable personality he has, people might be starting to believe that he has as great a chance at defeating Jones in the Octagon, as he does in their coaching contest.
Of course, it’s an easy mistake for the casual fan to make; after all, the UFC wouldn’t have put Sonnen in such a position if he wasn’t the best in the division and the greatest threat to Jones title, would they?
You bet they would…and they did.
As the show has gone along, it’s become very hard to be anything but a fan of Chael Sonnen. The man is damn near impossible to dislike (unless you’re Anderson Silva) and the show has given us a chance to see him put his best foot forward.
And my god, the man knows how to go about the job of coach; that much is for sure.
He’s always been highly intelligent and well spoken, not to mention a natural story teller who appreciates that half the battle of telling a good tale is waiting for the right time to deliver the punch line.
Well, this season of TUF is one of the better tales told in a long while, and the waiting has been pleasurable, but the punch line is coming…
Chael Sonnen has virtually no shot at beating Jon Jones at April 27.
Supporters of Sonnen (of whom there are many) claim that Sonnen can defeat Jones by taking the champion down and grinding on him for a decision.
They seem to base this upon the fact that Sonnen has been able to take down just about anyone he has ever faced, thus Jon Jones shouldn’t be any different.
Sadly for Sonnen, Jones is different; in all of his title bouts, Jones has never been taken down.
The counter argument for this, from Sonnen supporters, is that it is simply because Jones has never faced a fighter as good at takedowns and as dogged in his pursuit as Sonnen.
Such notions are so biased that they assume that Jones has never defeated strong wrestlers before...but he has—with an ease that is shocking.
Jones has dismantled men like Ryan Bader, Vladimir Matyushenko and Matt Hamill; all three are natural light heavyweights known for their excellent wrestling.
In Vladimir Matyushenko, Jones dominated a wrestler who was highly respected in the international wrestling world, having defeated men like Kevin Jackson (an Olympic gold medalist) in wrestling competition.
In Ryan Bader, Jones defeated a man who was a two-time NCAA Division 1 All-American, not to mention a three-time Pac-10 champion.
Chael Sonnen is much like Ryan Bader; a NCAA Division 1 All-American who took second place in the Pac-10 twice.
To say that Jones has never faced a fighter with a wrestling core that is as good as Sonnen is simply not true.
Granted, Sonnen uses his wrestling in a different way than Matyushenko and Bader, just as all men are different, but Jones is no stranger to that caliber of grappler.
On the flip side, Sonnen has never in his entire career faced a fighter like Jones.
While Sonnen is a “gamer” in every sense of the world, his only real advantage over his opponent is that he has no pressure on his shoulders. Most people expect Jones to run over him like a speed bump in the road; that puts the pressure of delivering on such high expectations squarely on the shoulders of Jones.
Thankfully for Jones, he’s got the frame to handle that pressure quite well.
In a fight like this, sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.
Sonnen isn’t going to out-strike Jones, he certainly doesn’t possess the power to knock the champ out and he’s not going to submit him, no matter what his teammates say.
All that is left is for Sonnen to take Jones down five times and keep him down for the entire 25 minutes.
Of course he’ll need to accomplish this without having any of his takedown attempts stuffed (and being trapped under Jones after the sprawl) or reversed.
And without getting thrown to the floor himself anytime they tie up in the clinch.
And without getting submitted, be it while working from the top or when having Jones work the front headlock position—a position the champion is likely to secure a time or two in the fight.
And without getting hammered like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rashad Evans, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and others who tried to engage in any kind of striking battle with Jones.
And without suffering any of the disadvantages that come with fighting a man who enjoys such a significant reach advantage and who knows how to use it better than anyone in the sport.
And without getting destroyed by the dangerous ground-and-pound attack of a man who has proven that he can wreck a tough fighter like Brandon Vera with considerable ease.
Of course, Sonnen can negate all of these advantages by simply scoring every takedown he attempts and keeping the much bigger Jones underneath him the entire fight.
The truth is, Sonnen can do that; upsets in the fight game happen all the time, and it’s usually the unseen pothole that derails the hype train.
But Jones is no longer simply a fighter who has yet to prove he has the substance to back up the hype; he’s the four-time defending champion who doesn’t let anyone bully him into a situation where he steps into the cage unprepared and unaware of the dangers to his title.
Jones will be ready for Sonnen, in every sense of the word. The amount of grief and criticism he suffered over the UFC 151 fiasco was so great that to think he won’t be using that as fuel for his preparations is selling the champion terribly short.
Still, it’s been a true joy seeing Sonnen coach, and in doing so give us a glimpse of the side of him that shows us what he really is: A good guy.
I have railed on Sonnen in the past, perhaps unfairly so, and now I find myself in a position of hoping he can make a good enough accounting of himself in the cage that should he fall before the champion—like so many other great fighters—he finds no shame in it and continues entertaining us all with his fighting and his wit.
It’s easy to root for a good guy to pull off the upset in an unforgiving sport, and I hope the support he finds from the fans can carry him past the disappointment of a probable defeat; because to be honest, he has virtually no shot of beating Jon Jones.