Chael Sonnen has recently gone on record saying he'd like to fight Lyoto Machida once he gets his license back. Sonnen frequently challenges fighters outside his weight class, but this time the challenge was accepted.
Machida commented on the possible fight, saying "I think that’s great, I’m excited to do that. He’s coming back now, wants to fight, and I really think it’s a good fight for me. If Sonnen really wants this fight, I’ll sign it immediately, no problem at all."
I'd rather not see this fight. I think there are better fights for each fighter in their own respective divisions. But if it does happen, Machida is right: It is a good fight for him.
On the feet, there is no doubt who would emerge victorious. Sonnen is a competent striker in his own right, but not a match for Machida. There is no doubt that Machida would win if the fight stayed on the feet.
Sonnen's best hope would be to take Machida down and stay on top long enough to secure a decision win. That's no easy task.
In the UFC, Machida has a takedown defense of 85 percent. He thwarted Shogun's four takedown attempts in their first fight. BJ Penn was able to take down Machida once in six attempts. Jackson took him down once, but could not hold him there for more than a few seconds. Ortiz was unable to take him down in five attempts.
Sonnen's pure wrestling would be the best of anyone Machida has ever faced, but he would lose some of his usual effectiveness from moving up in weight. As a small light heavyweight, takedowns would be harder to secure.
And let's not exclude the possibility that Machida could take Sonnen down.
What's more, his takedowns aren't the conventional sort that Sonnen might be used to from years of college wrestling. He uses throws, trips, and even kicks to get his opponents to the ground. Sonnen has not been on his back much, but he has never looked good when he's been there.
But let's say Sonnen does get Machida to the ground and he doesn't bounce right back up. Machida has a competent submission game. He nearly submitted Jackson in an armbar, and was working an omoplata in the last seconds of the fight.
Sonnen has poor submission defense, and it hasn't gotten much better in the late stages of his career. He ruined a chance to become the new champion when he got caught in a triangle/armbar, a fairly basic attack from guard. He has often fallen to simple submissions.
The way I see it, if the fight stays standing he will certainly lose, and will probably be finished. If he stays on top long enough to win any given round, he's probably stayed on top long enough to get submitted.
Sonnen may want to reconsider what his first fight back in the UFC should be. It would be a shame if he got beat up by a karate guy.