Chael Sonnen returns to the Bellator cage on June 24th against Wanderlei Silva, looking to avenge the disappointment of his previous fight with Tito Ortiz.
Sonnen earned his reputation in the MMA community for his unparalleled trash-talking abilities but it was his skills inside the cage that first led his rise to notoriety. So to prepare for the return of the ‘American Gangster’ here is his top 5 career performances.
5. Anderson Silva UFC 117
Despite ending in defeat, this fight more than any other, announced Chael Sonnen to all on the MMA world stage. Having combined his impressive performances leading up to the contest with a quick wit and razor sharp tongue, Sonnen found himself in one of the most anticipated title fights of all time. Dominating the revered Silva for four-and-a-half of the scheduled five rounds, Sonnen would eventually succumb to a triangle choke. Despite this, Silva had been challenged in a way unlike any other bout of his UFC career to that point, and earned himself a sporting nemesis. Chael had also shown incredible heart throughout the fight, and with his graciousness in defeat, had earned a legion of new fans.
4. Yushin Okami UFC 104
Now training partners, Sonnen and Yushin Okami found themselves adversaries at UFC 104. Okami had lost just one of his previous ten fights leading into their contest and was considered by many to be the next middleweight challenger due to his extensive wrestling pedigree. The fight however, belonged to Chael. Engaging frequently and successfully with his patented blast-double-leg takedown, while negating the skills of his opponent, the American dominated the fight in impressive fashion, earning a unanimous decision victory and a step closer to middleweight contention.
3. Nate Marquardt UFC 109
Immediately following his victory against Okami, Sonnen found himself again without a title-shot but in prime position to angle himself towards the next one. Entering the cage as a huge underdog, Chael dominated the man touted by many as the worlds second greatest middleweight, landing six takedowns throughout the duration of the fight. However, perhaps more significantly, Chael utilised the attention drawn to him at the post fight press conference to request a fight with Anderson Silva, and in doing so gave one of the first glimmers of the charismatic behemoth he would one day become.
2. Paulo Filho WEC 36
When Sonnen fought Paulo Filho at WEC 26 it was not the first time the two had squared off against each other. Less then a year prior Filho had denied Sonnen the WEC middleweight belt, by way of a late second round armbar. The day before WEC 36 Sonnen would be once again denied the opportunity to be a world champion as Filho failed to make the scheduled weight limit, forcing the contest into a non-title bout. Undeterred, or possibly inspired by the then-champion’s unprofessionalism Sonnen would go on to dominate all five rounds of the fight to a decision victory. As a mark of respect, Filho later gave Sonnen the belt despite the American not being officially recognised as champion.
1. Shogun Rua – UFC Fight Night 26
In my opinion, the crowning achievement of Sonnen’s career came with his most recent victory. In spite of the fact that both men entered the UFC octagon with losses in their previous fights, fans clamoured to see the two legends compete against one another. Asserting his skills early in the contest, Chael dictated the fight with his superior wrestling skills, before capitalising on a lazy takedown attempt from Rua to sink in a guillotine choke and earn the victory. With criticism often levied at his submission skills, Chael had proved doubters wrong by defeating a Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt at his own game.