Chael Sonnen is at it again.
The self-proclaimed “Gangster” from West Linn, Ore., used his mouth to draw the ire of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva over the past few years, and it not only helped him earn a shot at UFC gold, it made what could have been an ordinary rematch the most anticipated fight in UFC history.
Unfortunately for Sonnen, his attempt to wrestle (pun absolutely intended) the middleweight title away from Silva came up a bit short, and he’s since decided his chances at getting back to the pinnacle of the sport are better in the light heavyweight division.
This leads us to Jon Jones.
The UFC’s light heavyweight champion has been the closest thing to perfect that we’ve seen inside the Octagon since he started his UFC career, completely destroying a handful of former champions and title contenders in the last 18 months alone.
There are only a handful of marketable fighters in any given weight class, and if “Bones” is able to beat down Dan Henderson at UFC 151 next month, there’s quite literally no one left for him to defend the title against that he hasn’t already beaten down before.
Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis and Glover Teixeira are all names that fans love to toss around as eventual title challengers, but the reality is that none of them have the resume or a big enough name to make a fight against Jones any more worthwhile than a rematch against Lyoto Machida, something that Jones recently said he was not interested in.
Sonnen was smart enough to look at the current landscape of the 205-pound division and realize that if he ever wanted to get another shot at winning a UFC belt, he needed to make his move now.
With no serious contenders left for Jones if he beats Henderson (who is being severely overlooked by a lot of the MMA community at the moment, I might add), he’s going to need an opponent to help him sell a fight that people want to see.
No one in MMA has proven they can do that better than Sonnen.
The second “Uncle Chael” opens his mouth, fans are prepared to hear the best verbal pipe bombs outside of WWE champ CM Punk, and Sonnen delivers nine times out of ten.
Jones can discuss how he doesn’t feel like Sonnen should be able to talk his way into a title shot as much as he wants, but the reality is, Jones needs Sonnen just as much as Sonnen needs another shot at a belt.
The UFC has to realize that it is quickly running out of challengers for Jones at this point. The promotion already showed its hand a bit when it left the door open at UFC on Fox 4 earlier this month for Brandon Vera, of all people, to earn himself a shot at Jones.
Sonnen has the ability to talk his way into this fight, especially if he looks impressive against Forrest Griffin this December. And unless UFC President Dana White has something against making money, an eventual fight with Jones is bound to happen.
Is this fight a mismatch? On paper, it probably is.
No one in MMA relies more on their wrestling to win fights than Sonnen, and when he hasn’t been able to overwhelm his opponents on the mat, his results against tough competition have been mediocre at best.
Jones has the wrestling skills to make himself a walking nightmare for Sonnen, but that doesn’t mean the fight doesn’t need to happen.
To paraphrase the immortal Kanye West, Jones would likely be “bigger, better, faster and stronger” if he found himself across the cage from Sonnen, but in the end the result of the fight isn’t going to matter.
For Jon Jones to truly reach the level of stardom that the UFC is gunning for, he’s going to need to fight well-known opponents. An occasional fight against a guy like Gustafsson is passable, but if he keeps fighting guys that the casual fans have never heard of, then those fans will quickly lose interest.
People will pay to see the best in the world take out seemingly overmatched opponents, but eventually they’re going to want to see Jones fight someone they recognize and respect as a title contender.
Regardless of the outcomes of both fights against Silva, Sonnen has earned that respect amongst fans as a top-level fighter. He dominated Anderson Silva for a total of over 25 minutes between their two fights, and since no one else has come close to dispatching the best fighter in the world, Sonnen has earned a lifetime of street cred from the MMA community.
As much as MMA fans like to act like they are getting tired of Sonnen’s shtick, everything the former title challenger says still ends up getting reported by virtually every MMA media outlet on the planet, and all it will take is a win over Griffin for the fans to start to get behind a bout between Jones and Sonnen.
If all the pieces fall into place, Jon Jones will fight Chael Sonnen at some point in 2013. It makes too much sense not to happen.
Photo: Chael Sonnen (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)