I’ve always found Chael Sonnen to be a sort of anomaly amongst MMA fans. He is roundly despised, by many fans for his PED’s/real estate fraud/telling the truth problem(s). To his detractors, he is at best an annoying braggart who crosses too many lines (and steps on too many toes) in his unceasing quest for attention.
At worst, he is a cheat, a criminal, and a black mark for the sport of MMA.
And yet despite all that, we MMA fans just can’t seem to get enough of him. His every utterance into a microphone, every kinda-racist tweet, every bald-faced lie, every new plot twist in the never ending drama of his personal life—all are gobbled up by MMA fans like E.T gobbling up Reese’s Pieces.
It’s sort of like how everyone claims to hate a Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, yet somehow they also know who they’re currently dating, what drugs they’re doing, and what prison they’re doing time in.
Recently, the big question surrounding Sonnen was “what’s next?”. Because as we all know, now that his licensing issues are resolved (well, kind of) and his legal troubles are behind him (ah, the power of plea bargains) it’s time to determine the proper opponent for Chael’s big return match which, don’t lie, you and every MMA fan you know will be watching.
The original plan was to have him face Wanderlei Silva. But that went out the window when Silva was starched by Chris Leben in about the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence. The next opponent talked about was Lyoto Machida, who as a LHW title contender who’s “in the mix” (to use Dana-speak) made about zero sense as an opponent for Sonnen.
The UFC agreed. And then they went and upped the ante on the bad matchmaking. Compared to who they picked, Lyoto Machida starts to seem pretty reasonable.
Brian Stann. That’s the guy widely believed to be welcoming Chael Sonnen back to the Octagon. I personally think this is plain bad matchmaking for a number of reasons.
First off, why is the UFC so determined to quash Stann’s rising star? To my mind, “All-American” Brian Stann is poised to ascend to MMA stardom for the simple fact that he’s, well, “All-American”. He’s an ex-marine, patriotic and opinionated, with a soldier’s calm demeanor and cruise missiles for fists.
If he was a Transformer, Stann would transform from an American flag flying over amber waves of grain into a robot that shoots automatic crowd support and a fan-friendly fighting style out of his eyes.
In other words, he’s the perfect guy to groom into a big star. He’s already right on the cusp of it.
So the UFC decides to give him Chael Sonnen, the most dominant wrestler at MW and the dark patron demon of blanket wrestlers. This is a guy who had no problem playing painful Snuggie for Yushin Okami, Dan Miller, and Nate Marquardt—all of whom are better wrestlers then Brian Stann is.
Hey, I hope Brian Stann proves me wrong. I hope he goes in there and puts on a Jackson-inspired wrestling clinic, or pulls some crazy guard submission out of his butt. I really do. But I don’t see it happening. He’s got three windows of opportunity to win this fight, and it’s in the first 30 seconds of each round before Sonnen shoots for a double.
The second reason this fight stinks is because it confuses the hell of of fans rooting interest. Brian Stann is at his promotional best when facing scary looking foreign dudes, and giving crowds the chance to dust off that beloved “USA! USA!” chant once again. This time, he’s facing a dyed in the wool patriotic American, so what would be the point in all that drunken nationalistic chest-beating?
And Chael? Well, poor Chael’s going to be completely at sea when it comes to his bread and butter: outrageous trash talking. I mean honestly, what’s he going to say about Brian Stann?
“When Brian Stann walks into a room you can hear a rat piss on cotton…because everyone in the room is saluting him.”
I’ll be surprised to see what, if anything, Chael comes up with to attack Stann. Ot worse yet—what if he doesn’t talk any trash at all? Perish the thought.
For once, I think the UFC has booked themselves a no-win situation. If Stann wins, it will kill all the momentum and hype Chael Sonnen has built since (almost) handing Anderson Silva his a**. on a plate. If Chael wins, then Brian Stann’s rising star gets derailed really quick (you can derail a star, right?).
In a rare moment, the UFC has decided to feed one star to another. The result will be either a quick KO or a grinding three-round decision—and lots of wasted potential either way.