It's hard not to feel for Chael Sonnen right now.
The only thing worse than getting embarrassed "Forrest Griffin style" by Anderson Silva is having a sure victory torn from his clutches the way that it did tonight.
After dominating Silva in a way that no fighter has ever done before, Sonnen was ultimately submitted by the champion near the end of the fifth round via triangle choke.
Now let's first give credit to the reigning UFC middleweight champion. He withstood four and a half rounds of punishment and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history. He showed that he still has the heart of a champion, in spite of his recent title defenses.
This type of performance from any other fighter would have led to universal appreciation from the UFC faithful, but after so many controversial performances in the Octagon as of late, his number of detractors will only grow.
But in Chael Sonnen's case, he just took his first legitimate step to UFC stardom.
He ran his mouth incessantly in the months leading up to the fight, but he certainly lived up to one billing - he brought the fight to Anderson Silva.
Before the fight, he was written off for believing that he could give the Brazilian the fight of his life. Even those who called Sonnen upsetting Silva can't say that they expected such an impressive performance out of the challenger.
But perhaps that was the reason for his four and a half rounds of brilliance. There wasn't a single doubt in his mind that he could compete with Silva for five rounds, and that's the first step to conquering "The Spider".
Demian Maia probably gained this confidence in the fifth round of his title bout. Forrest Griffin may have sensed his doom before the fight even began. Chael on the other hand, agreed to this fight right away thinking "I have absolutely no fear of stepping into the Octagon with Anderson Silva and I will beat him."
As an Anderson Silva fan, I will admit that I had absolutely no respect for Chael Sonnen prior to this fight. I wanted him, more than anything, to end the night as another act in Silva's "ballet of violence". But after undoubtedly giving us the Fight of the Year, words can't express how much I admire Chael Sonnen's grit and determination.
While owning up to defeat in the post-fight press conference, Chael's unwavering determination was still on full display.
When asked if he had an ill will towards Anderson, Sonnen hilariously replied, "If the state would sanction it and if Dana White would move, I'd fight him right now." It may have seemed erroneous to some, but I didn't doubt it one bit.
Chael Sonnen gained the respect of the entire UFC community tonight. Fans of him will yell for a rematch until they're blue in the face. And while emotions are still running high, I can't mutter a word against it.
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