After getting beatdown by Jon Jones at UFC 159, Chael Sonnen seemed contrite and resolute in his idea that he would retire because he had no legitimate shot at being a champion. However, it is now being reported that Sonnen has called out Wanderlei Silva and looks to take on “The Axe Murderer” at UFC on FOX Sports 1 before he calls it a career.
In many ways, this mirrors the end of Matt Hughes’ career when he took on BJ Penn and Renzo Gracie near the end of his career. Neither fighter was very close to title contention (at the time) and it was more of a fun matchup for Hughes. The Gracie matchup harkened back to the days of PRIDE when fans watched Gracie take on all comers in Japan. The matchup with BJ Penn was intriguing because Penn had returned to the Welterweight division and it served as the rubber match for their series.
In the same way, Sonnen is smart enough to realize that he can still cash in on his personality and make a few more paydays in the sport of MMA. Furthermore, there is minimal risk in taking on a guy like Wanderlei Silva. Silva has never had the strongest takedown defense. If they fight at 205 lbs, Sonnen will have a big size and wrestling advantage over Silva. The chances that Silva is able to beat him up on the feet is minimal because Sonnen’s powerful wrestling will put Silva on his back for much of the fight. Silva can always attempt to submit Sonnen, but Silva’s strong Jiu-Jitsu game has never led to too many submissions in either PRIDE or the UFC. All in all, it seems likely that Sonnen will take down Silva for three or five rounds and come away with paycheck and a unanimous victory.
Sonnen probably has a few matchups like this left in him before he calls it a career. Vitor Belfort in Brazil would sell extremely well, though that is a more dangerous matchup for Sonnen. Either way, he’s put himself in a position where he can cash in on his persona with some high profile, but ultimately irrelevant fights.