Chael Sonnen Expected to Face Anthony Johnson After Wanderlei Silva Withdrawal

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2014

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 17: Chael Sonnen reacts after winning the fight with a tap out by guillotine choke against Mauricio Rua in their light heavyweight bout at TD Garden on August 17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen has the opportunity to once again enter the title picture with a win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 175 on July 5, but that wasn't the way he originally expected things to pan out. 

"The American Gangster" was expected to finally settle a grudge with Brazilian adversary Wanderlei Silva at the pay-per-view event.

However, MMA Fighting reports that the idea crumbled after Silva did not fulfill his obligations with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. 

While he found a top-notch replacement in "The Phenom," Sonnen told Fighters Only last week that he actually expected to face surging contender Anthony Johnson at UFC on FOX 12 following Silva's removal from UFC 175: 

I've been on hold to fight Anthony Johnson. Right now Little Nog's supposed to fight Anthony Johnson, everybody's waiting for him to call and say he can't do it - which will happen. And then I was supposed to fight Anthony Johnson. So when Dana told me, "Hey, Wanderlei's out," I thought he was gonna say, "We're just going to put you and Anthony together." And Vitor was a surprise for me, it kinda hit me from left field.

After missing weight three times in 10 contests between September 2007 and January 2012, "Rumble" was quickly released after missing weight and then getting rear-naked choked by none other than Belfort at UFC 142. 

However, after the hulking Blackzilian team member decided to leave the welterweight and middleweight divisions behind him, he has amassed seven straight wins at heavier weight classes. 

Johnson, 30, returned to the Octagon at UFC 172 in April, where he easily shrugged off takedowns and outstruck perennial light heavyweight contender Phil Davis. 

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He is expected to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on July 26, but to Sonnen's point, "Little Nog" hasn't had a track record of impeccable health in recent memory. 

The third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has fought just four times since September 2010, posting a 2-2 record and withdrawing from several scheduled bouts due to shoulder and back injuries. 

Despite Sonnen initially believing otherwise, Fighters Only notes UFC President Dana White has announced that "Uncle Chael" will fight Belfort at middleweight and Sonnen isn't guaranteed a title shoteven with a decisive victory.

Should Nogueira not make it to his showdown with Johnson next month, who would a suitable replacement be?

John Heinis is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for