What a difference a win over a legend can make.
Chael Sonnen is back on top of the UFC ladder after his impressive submission victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in their light heavyweight main event at Fight Night 26. The options for the ultra-talented Sonnen seem endless after his decisive triumph.
Going into the Rua bout, a move back to middleweight appeared in the cards but now things have changed. Sonnen, a two-time title challenger in the 185-pound class, seems prepared to stay at light heavyweight for now.
Sonnen went into his best trash talking mode after the Rua win by calling out Wanderlei Silva. Silva is likely more than happy to accept Sonnen’s invitation as there is a strong mutual disdain for one another. UFC President Dana White has indicated if Silva is healthy, he would look to make that fight the co-main event of an already solid UFC 167 event in November.
There are other notable names such as Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida who’ve also expressed an interest in a future bout against Sonnen. Belfort has already ratcheted up the verbal war by stating he thinks Sonnen is probably relieved now that “The Phenom” has been locked into a bout with Dan Henderson in November. It’s a rather odd statement, given that Sonnen has shown he is willing to fight anyone.
A future Belfort matchup would be highly anticipated as you would have two marquee names that have shown the ability to transition between weight classes and be highly successful in doing so.
Belfort is on quite the roll, having derailed the middleweight title hopes of Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold with highlight-reel knockouts his last two fights. Machida would be an intriguing matchup stylistically. His un-matched karate style would be leveraged by Sonnen’s dogged determination and top-flight wrestling game. Machida has his own business to take care of in November against Tim Kennedy.
Everyone seems to know that calling out Sonnen for a potential fight is following the money trail.
The Rua victory was an enormous one for Sonnen as it showcased he still has game and that he hasn’t been sidetracked by his broadcasting career at FOX. The UFC’s ultimate company man is clearly well versed both inside the Octagon and out with his new television career.
He resonates well with viewers through the passion he shows for the craft. At this stage, there’s really nothing he can’t do. As the numbers for the inaugural card on Fox Sports 1 showed, he remains a huge draw.
Sonnen is currently in a great position of being ranked in the top-10 in both the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. Before the Rua fight, the “American Gangster” had mentioned the possibility of a third fight with his ultimate foil Anderson Silva. Most seemed skeptical of the idea at the time given that Silva is 2-0 against Sonnen, the last win coming in a quicker, more decisive fashion than the first.
Now that idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched with Sonnen’s stock having risen dramatically due to the “Shogun” win.
Sonnen, who was highly respectful of Rua prior to their bout, has shown that he can easily morph back into that trash-talking quote machine we all know. He clearly has his sights set on “The Axe Murderer” at the moment, but has made it clear that if Belfort, Machida or even Anderson Silva want a piece of him, he’s more than ready to oblige.
Anytime the “American Gangster” is matched up against someone he has a genuine dislike for, there’s nobody better at selling the product and getting people talking about a fight. As we saw this past Saturday night, Sonnen at his best can still be a formidable challenge for anyone.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports