UFC 159: How Will We Remember Chael Sonnen's Career?

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UFC 159: How Will We Remember Chael Sonnen's Career?
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Chael Sonnen is many things.

He's a successful mixed martial artist and has risen to the mountaintop in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. He's enjoyed some of the greatest business and financial successes of which any fighter can dream. Yet, something is still missing.

That something happens to be a major MMA championship.

Thus far in his career, Sonnen has always finished in second place. He nearly completed the unthinkable when he beat down Anderson Silva for nearly 25 minutes, only to fall victim to a triangle choke. He lost to Paulo Filho in the WEC prior to that, and now Sonnen was simply demolished by Jon Jones at UFC 159.

Even though he joins the ranks of guys like Kenny Florian and Michael Bisping, who've choked in big-time fights, Sonnen is still a widely popular fighter. Fans have grown tired of his "Chael P. Sonnen" persona as time wears on, but the UFC's bank account isn't noticing—the pay-per-view buy-rates continue to rise by putting Sonnen on the card.

It's that ability to generate interest no matter the opponent that has placed Sonnen in the position he finds himself in now. When the Oregon native entered the UFC for a second time, he became an instant highlight reel victim, as Demian Maia used a trip to secure a triangle. It seemed as if Sonnen was headed back down the midcard path until someone stuck a microphone in his face.

Sonnen went off on the UFC middleweight champ Silva in a way that few had seen before. Most fighters seemed in awe of Silva's greatness in the Octagon, while Sonnnen wanted to test "The Spider" and see just how invincible he really was.

But it wasn't just words that earned Sonnen a title shot; it was two very impressive showings against Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami. In the weeks leading up to Silva-Sonnen I at UFC 117, few believed Sonnen stood a chance and merely laughed at his feeble attempts to promote the fight.

But then Sonnen shocked the world by not only surviving but taking the fight to Silva for the better part of the bout. The performance gained Sonnen more fans than any of his trash-talking had done before.

What followed would be a slow downward spiral that saw Sonnen go from top of the MMA world in 2010 to where we are today. He was popped for elevated testosterone levels and suspended, and he even ran into some legal trouble.

The name Sonnen became the punchline in a number of MMA jokes, but he changed that by taking out Brian Stann and Bisping upon his return. His climactic rematch with Silva reached new heights of fight promotion and became one of the most successful UFC events in terms of revenue.

Despite not emerging victorious against Silva, Sonnen still was able to secure a title shot at light heavyweight and an Ultimate Fighter coaching gig due to his ability to generate interest. With Jones' dominance at 205 pounds, interest is something the division desperately needed.

Once again, Sonnen failed to capitalize on a title fight and seems to be leaning towards retirement. Although Sonnen has been regularly competing since 2002, it will be the past three years that will be remembered about Sonnen's career.

He practically changed the hype game in MMA and showed that the ability to promote a fight was just as valuable as the fight itself. We all knew that it was just pre-fight hype, yet we all still tuned in for the show.

That will be the legacy Sonnen leaves behind. He's obviously a talented fighter, but fans will forever remember him as "The Oregon Gangster, Chael P. Sonnen."

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