Chael Sonnen: If Wanderlei Silva Fight Is Out, Who Should Sonnen Face Next?
It seemed like a match made in heaven, but just a few weeks after calling out Wanderlei Silva following his loss at UFC 159, three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen retracted his words.
Sonnen told MMA Heat's Karyn Bryant at the United 4 Wrestling event in Los Angeles that he's no longer enticed by the thought of fighting "The Axe Murderer."
"I'm not looking for it anymore, I don't like to bully guys," he said. "I tried to fight him, he doesn't want to fight. I'm not gonna stick a finger in a guy's chest. If a guy says no, I'm not gonna be a jerk about it.
With the fight with The Axe Murderer seemingly put on hold, which bouts exist for the aging Sonnen in the meantime? Here are four showdowns for "The American Gangster" in the near future.
Not long ago, Hector Lombard made his long-awaited debut in the UFC on a 25-fight unbeaten streak.
But the former Olympian in judo has unfortunately lost two-of-three fights in the promotion, dropping split decisions to Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami at UFC 149 and UFC on Fuel TV 8, respectively.
Although Sonnen claims he wants to compete at 205 pounds, the 5'9" Lombard represents one of the middleweight division's strongest and most explosive fighters. Perhaps the two could meet at a catchweight.
With Sonnen's wrestling skills and Lombard's knack for scoring knockouts, this bout could provide an intriguing contrast of styles.
Slugfests typically ensue when a pair of NCAA Division I All-American wrestlers square off in the Octagon.
For Sonnen, however, fighting a fellow All-American wrestler would prove an unfamiliar endeavor.
In 41 pro fights, Sonnen, a former standout at the University of Oregon, has yet to take on an NCAA Division I wrestler, let alone an All-American.
With that said, it would be interesting to watch the wrestle-happy Sonnen face Bader, a former stud at Arizona State University who placed fourth at the NCAA championships (197 pounds) in 2004.
Although Bader has only surrendered three career takedowns, two of which came at the hands of Jon Jones, Sonnen possesses the better functional wrestling skills and would likely outgrapple the winner of The Ultimate Fighter's eighth season.
But if Bader can keep the fight upright, the 29-year-old Arizona native could notch his eighth career knockout at the expense of The American Gangster.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Roughly three years ago, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua owned the UFC light heavyweight belt, while Sonnen was riding a three-fight winning streak and preparing to fight Anderson Silva for the first time.
But Rua has lost three of his last five bouts, and Sonnen has dropped back-to-back contests, which leaves the two fan favorites in similarly desperate scenarios.
If Sonnen wants to catapult himself back into contention at middleweight or light heavyweight, a win over Shogun would help him realize that goal.
Although Rua only sports a takedown defense percentage of 44 percent, the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt scored five takedowns and allowed just one against former Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson.
A vicious knockout artist, Shogun has the power and the technique to hand Sonnen his fifth career loss via KO—if he can consistently stay off his back.
Submission ace Rousimar Palhares had never tasted defeat in two straight contests until getting finished by Alan Belcher (TKO) and Hector Lombard (KO) in his last two outings at UFC on Fox 3 and UFC on Fox 6, respectively.
The back-to-back setbacks will turn "Toquinho" into a more desperate and dangerous fighter, but Sonnen has dealt with that before.
While Palhares has only allowed four takedowns in 11 UFC fights, he doesn't possess the wrestling chops to fend off a barrage of shots from Sonnen.
Toquinho does bring to the table a venomous Brazilian jiu-jitsu game that includes some of the sport's most lethal leglocks.
With eight of Palhares' 13 career losses coming via submission, Sonnen would need to execute a mistake-free game plan against Toquinho to avoid tapping out.