Both Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans have talked about how their co-main event at UFC 167 has seemingly gotten lost in the shuffle. There’s a good reason why that’s happened. In the lead-up to this important light heavyweight matchup, there’s been very little hype from Sonnen or trash talk heading in. The tone between the two competitors has been very respectful and complimentary.
That’s understandable because Evans and Sonnen are good friends and broadcasting colleagues, but the looming presence of Wanderlei Silva has simply been impossible to ignore and has taken away from their matchup.
Evans is hoping to build off of his decision win over Dan Henderson at UFC 161. That victory ended a two-fight losing skid and has seemingly rejuvenated the former light heavyweight champion. “Suga” failed in his bid to get the title back against current champion Jon Jones at UFC 145.
For his part, Sonnen will be looking to make it back-to-back victories over former light heavyweight champions. He ended a two-fight losing skid by recording a surprising first-round submission victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at Fight Night 26. While Sonnen is a seasoned professional, he’s had other things on his mind other than the fight against Evans.
“The American Gangster” has had more going on with “The Axe Murderer” than with his actual opponent for the UFC’s 20th anniversary event. Sonnen and Silva have been involved in a war of words, a highly-publicized and videotaped confrontation, and the official announcement that they will finally meet in the Octagon after acting as opposing coaches on the Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3.
Sonnen-Evans is a contest featuring two fighters with very strong wrestling backgrounds. It could very well to lead to a stalemate with both fighters ending up involved in clinch work against the cage. Sonnen can utilize his dirty boxing and always pushes the pace, but it is Evans who has the advantage of being able to turn the tide with a single punch. Evans will also enjoy a speed advantage.
Sonnen already has his next high-profile assignment in place, and Evans is just hoping that he can work his way back into the spotlight in the 205-pound division. While Sonnen is seemingly always in the UFC spotlight these days, Evans can definitely make a big statement with a victory over his friend turned foe in Las Vegas this weekend.
Both men have talked about setting their friendship aside for this special occasion, and hopefully they will be able to produce an entertaining affair. After Saturday night, Sonnen can then solely focus on his Brazilian gig and dealing with a bitter rival, rather than a friendly one.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports