Chael Sonnen is back!
After four long years without a win, the “American Gangster” finally broke his dry spell with a victory over his long-time rival, Wanderlei Silva, at Bellator 180 (June 24th). It was a much-needed win for Sonnen, who made his MMA return earlier this year with an embarrassing first-round loss to Tito Ortiz.
Sonnen now fights at light heavyweight, so you would think he’d call out someone in that division following his win. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he called out heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko immediately after his win. And at the press conference, he called out Welterweight contender Rory MacDonald.
That’s all par for the course when dealing with Chael Sonnen. The infamous trash talker is now more well-known for his antics out of the cage than in it. No one plays the role of the heel quite like Sonnen, and for that reason, he’s still one of the biggest draws in the sport.
With an ongoing multi-fight contract with Bellator, it’ll be interesting to see who they pair him with next. He’s equal part fighter and hype-man, which makes him an invaluable resource in Bellator’s bid to rival the UFC.
Who will Chael Sonnen meet in the cage next? Here are some picks.
The most obvious next step for Sonnen would be to contest the Bellator light heavyweight title. That means taking on Ryan Bader, who clinched the title from Phil Davis earlier in the night on Saturday.
Bader is a gifted fighter, but he’s known for his slow, uneventful fights. His rematch against Davis was a snoozefest, as was the first time they faced off. At this point in his career, Sonnen prefers big fights over title fights. But if he wants to attract some truly big names, he may need a title to put on the line.
Fedor Emelianenko is arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, but his days on top are well and truly behind him. After his loss to Matt Mitrione on Saturday, reporters even asked him if he intended to keep fighting. He replied, “Yes, because I am a fighter.”
His days in the cage are numbered, and a retirement fund is probably more valuable to him than a title. A big-money fight against Sonnen could give him what he needs. Emelianenko is on the shorter side for a heavyweight and Sonnen has stated that he’s willing to bulk up to meet “The Last Emperor”.
Emelianenko dismissed the idea during the press conference, but let’s not be so quick to rule it out.
During a post-fight interview, Sonnen announced, “Rory MacDonald and I are going to fight — and he knows it.” Why Sonnen is seeking a fight against a welterweight contender remains a mystery to the rest of us, but apparently “it’s going to happen”.
For now, we can only speculate on what the back story is. It’s a strange match-up, to say the least. Sonnen has never fought professionally at welterweight and hasn’t even fought at middleweight since 2012.
MacDonald is currently seeking the Bellator welterweight title, so a fight with current champion Douglas Lima is probably next in line for him.
During Bellator 180, Tito Ortiz stood cage-side and trashed Sonnen throughout the entire event. Ortiz may be retired but he seemed to be picking a fight. After the win, Sonnen had some choice words for Ortiz as well. Could this be a recipe for a rematch?
The first fight was an embarrassment for Sonnen, and he would pounce at the chance to redeem himself. The question is whether Ortiz is interested. If he steps inside the cage again, it’ll probably be against Chuck Liddell.
Here’s an interesting prospect. Anderson Silva has been open about his feelings toward the UFC. After his fight with Kelvin Gastelum was canceled, Silva offered Dana White an ultimatum: a title eliminator against Yoel Romero or Silva retires.
Well, the UFC decided to call him on his bluff. How will Silva respond? He signed a 15-fight contract with the promotion back in 2014, so leaving for Bellator would be a legal minefield. But if he can find a way, then Silva vs Sonnen 3 would be one for the ages.
Sonnen received two title shots during his time at the UFC, and both were against Silva. In the first fight, he mauled Silva for four rounds and was moments away from winning when he fell victim to an armbar-triangle submission. This would be his chance for redemption.
Featured photo credit: CouchFighter (Vimeo) [https://vimeo.com/32720874]
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