The controversial mixed martial artist made a convincing comeback on Oct. 8 at “UFC 136” by obliterating Brian Stann after more than a year away from the octagon. It took Sonnen only two rounds to throw around the former marine like a marionette, and then submit him with an arm triangle choke.
It was an interesting bout as Sonnen—who typically jabs his opponents both verbally and physically—remained uncharacteristically silent when discussing Stann before their bout in Houston. Making up for lost time in his post-fight interview, he immediately confronted UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, his last opponent before Stann, and revealed his desire for a winner-takes-all rematch.
“Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck,” Sonnen said to his bitter rival sitting in the stands. “Super Bowl weekend, the biggest rematch in history: but this time, we’re upping the stakes. I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I leave the UFC forever.”
Sonnen’s strong words foreshadow an already coveted second championship fight against Silva. Silva is the UFC’s most successful fighter ever, sporting a record-breaking 14 win streak and a 31-4 overall mixed martial arts (MMA) record. Sonnen’s no slouch himself, having amassed a 26-11 record. The former is considered the best middleweight (171-185 lb.) fighter in the world, while the latter is a close second.
The reason for this is that Sonnen has come closer than anyone else to snapping Silva’s superhuman reign. Clashing with Silva at 2010’s “UFC 117,” Sonnen outperformed the champion on judges’ scorecards for four rounds before falling to a triangle armbar in the final round. It was only the third time an UFC fighter scored a fifth round victory, and only the second he did so via submission. Many consider the match among the sport’s best.
Sonnen stewed for 14 months following this close loss. His subsequent return against Stann showcased a man focused on steamrolling the opposition and scoring vengeance on Silva. In Sonnen’s mind, the two men have a score worth settling.
“We’ve got unfinished business,” he said of Silva at the “UFC 136” post-fight press conference. “In some parallel universe you can hit a man 300 times and he can wrap his legs around your head for eight seconds and they call him the winner.”
A big mouth comes with even bigger stakes. Should Silva accept Sonnen’s challenge, it will place both warriors on a collision course with permanent change.
A second Silva victory, for example, would cement his status as the world’s best middleweight. It would also put Sonnen on unemployment and leave the UFC’s middleweight division without one of its finest fighters and his signature sound bites.
If Sonnen can dethrone the champ, however, Silva will leave a division he has dominated on the same scale as Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or Tiger Woods. Changing weight divisions could send Silva onto new conquests or reveal that he’s only human after all if he struggles for additional success. It’s a hell of a tradeoff—fight fans are left with either a living legend or a shattered legacy on their hands.
For now, a rematch with such damning stipulations remains unrealized. If and when Silva and the UFC sanctions Sonnen’s ultimatum, the ensuing bout’s final result will echo through MMA lore for years to come.
In the meantime, Sonnen’s started quite the debate for fight followers. When it comes to hyping a showdown’s second incarnation, nothing works better than forcing fans into discussing what comes next.
Mark Hensch is a freelance journalist and former intern for The Washington Times. An avid MMA fan, he believes his love for the sport stems from wrestling and doing karate in high school. It may also have something to do with his large martial arts movie collection. Readers can follow Mark on Facebook and Twitter.
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