Fans began salivating eight months ago over tonight's main-event bout between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones at UFC 159.
In mid-August, Sonnen used his position at Fuel TV, along with a pro-wrestling-like persona, to call Jones out before his scheduled bout with teammate Dan Henderson at UFC 151.
Roughly two months later, the UFC's brass announced that Sonnen would coach opposite Jones on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter and that the duo would ultimately locks horns after the show's conclusion.
In a shallow attempt to psychologically gain ground, Sonnen immediately shifted gears and attempted to buddy-up with Jones during filming of The Ultimate Fighter.
Then, once the show ended, and in typical Sonnen fashion, "The American Gangster" shifted his efforts back to belittling Jones, a diabolical tactic that evidently angered the longtime light heavyweight champ.
There's no doubt about it. And the way that he did it is by being all friendly to him on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. And Jones said to me that night, 'I've never wanted to hurt another fighter. This is what we do. It's a sport, and whatever, (but he said) I wanna hurt this guy.' So he's definitely gotten in his head.
Animosity has flared and then subsided between Sonnen and Jones, a fact that has fans and experts even more tantalized for the fight.
But the fact that Sonnen's been deemed a 5-to-1 underdog (+500), according to Bovada.com, slightly takes away from the luster of the event.
The 25-year-old Jones (-800), who's virtually unbeaten in 18 fights, with the exception to a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, stands 6'4" and possesses an 84.5-inch reach.
Arguably the most gifted and well-rounded fighter in MMA, "Bones" can strike, wrestle and submit with the best of them.
In 12 UFC fights, Jones has finished eight foes, piling up five submissions and three TKO's in that span.
At just 6'1" and sporting a 74-inch reach, the 36-year-old Sonnen, has suffered 12 career losses and has tasted defeat twice in his last four outings.
"The American Gangster" has risen to fame primarily on the strength of his wrestling and ground-and-pound chops. Sonnen's used his grappling prowess to decision the likes of Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt and Michael Bisping, among many others.
Because Bones has racked up 23 takedowns and given up none, the thought of Sonnen scoring a takedown on Jones has become an infatuation for some fans.
Perhaps enthusiasts have genuinely realized that Sonnen can't trump Jones without scoring at least a handful of takedowns. Or maybe fans just yearn to watch Jones give Sonnen some of his own poison and serve the Oregonian a hefty portion of ground-and-pound.
Regardless of what fans expect, Jones remained adamant during the UFC 159 conference call that he's the better grappler by saying:
I'm excited to go out there and prove my critics wrong again about me being this inferior wrestler. I don't think people give my junior college accolades respect. I'm going to earn respect in this fight. I have great takedowns and I'm excited to see what he has learned off of his back. Even the ground and pound—Chael doesn't really damage anyone with his ground and pound. Anderson's (Silva) face was fine, all of his opponent's faces were fine. I think Bryan Baker is the only guy he made bleed with his ground and pound. Everyone that I take down I cut them open right away, so I don't think anyone respects my grappling, my ground and pound, or my wrestling. I'm excited to go out there and show people I do.
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