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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
In August of 2010, Chael Sonnen nearly did the unthinkable: defeat Anderson Silva in the UFC. It was an incredible and unexpected performance, but ultimately a futile endeavor as he was forced to tap out to a triangle choke midway through the fifth round.
The way that fight played out led to two more years of intense trash talk from Sonnen, which then culminated in Silva getting involved in the verbal proceedings as well heading into UFC 148. However, it was Silva who had the final word, allowing Sonnen one round to open the fight before picking him apart easily and stopping him in the second round. After the fight, a humbled Chael Sonnen could only commend the Champion for getting the job done again.
"It's pass or fail when you're in [the Octagon]," Sonnen said at the post-fight press conference (transcribed by Sherdog.com. "You either get it done, or you don't. I was handed a lot of compliments after the first fight, and I'm going, 'Jeez, that's nice, but did you see who won the fight? I didn't win.' [Silva is] just a another regular guy. We weigh the same thing, and he finds a way to win. I admire it."
The two seemed to leave the feud behind them in the cage after the fight, with Silva extended a hand shake to Sonnen and inviting him to his Brazil home for a barbecue. It was a move that did not go unappreciated.
"That's the way you deal with combat," Sonnen said of the handshake. "You always leave it in the cage or on the mat. Those are the rules, and I follow them. That was great that he [shook my hand]. It was very nice of him."
Sonnen also had kind words for the Brazilian fans in attendance in Las Vegas. The vocal crowd rained down boos on him and were in Silva's corner throughout the night after all the things Sonnen had said of them in the last two years, and it was something Sonnen both expected and appreciated at the end of the night.
"The Brazilian fans have it down right. They back their guy," Sonnen said. "America is the only country in the world where we don't do that, and that's fine, but I really admire the Brazilian fans. That includes when I'm getting booed on the way in. I should be getting booed when I'm taking on their guy."
From here, Sonnen's future isn't clear. The force driving him has been becoming the UFC Middleweight Champion, and his failure to do so a second time may mean it's unlikely he gets to a third opportunity. However, if there's any hope of fighting once more for the belt, he's sure to get back in line to make a run for it.
"I really believe that if you're going to be in this company and take up a spot, then you've got to be chasing a championship," Sonnen said. "There are plenty of young guys who could come in and get their opportunity. I got my chance, and then I got it again. I'm not going to ask for anything. I'm grateful for it, but I will not hang around for one day to blend in. It's either to be the world champ or I'll move on and do something else."
Penick's Analysis: Dana White has been saying this week that UFC 148 was trending as the best event they've ever done on pay-per-view, from a buyrate standpoint. Because of that, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Sonnen could work his way to a third fight with Silva. Especially because there isn't much in the way of options for the UFC at middleweight right now. Mark Munoz, Chris Weidman, Hector Lombard, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, Alan Belcher, and Brian Stann are all either fighting or trying to get fights set up in the division to move them into place, but even then few of them make for highly intriguing opponents, and half the field will suffer losses in the next several months. Sonnen could win two or three fights and be right back in position to potentially get the fight again, though the circumstances would be much different in that event. The trash talking would be significantly subdued compared to what we got into this fight, and Silva would have two wins to hold over Sonnen should anything be said. But there could still potentially be money in a third fight, so don't put it past the UFC to eye it down the line.
[Chael Sonnen art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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