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The MMA Top Ten 6.16.14: Top 10 Chael Sonnen Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 06.16.2014

Chael Sonnen's Top Ten Fights
 photo sonnen.png

Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking back at the career of Chael Sonnen and his best fights. Sonnen announced his retirement this week and while his career had some blemishes, it was a great one. Chael was one of the best fighters in the UFC over the past couple years and one of the best middleweights of all time too in my opinion. He fell short of winning gold a few times, but at least he's set himself up well now that his career is over and walking away sooner rather than later. I'll miss him, he was always one of my favorite fighters. It would be cool if we just got to see one last fight with Wanderlei. The fights are ranked based on fight quality, the significance of the fight, and some of my personal opinion.

Honorable Mention:
VS Paulo Filho WEC 31

The American Gangster's WEC debut was at WEC 31 in December 2007 as he took on Paulo Filho for their middleweight title. Filho won in somewhat controversial fashion as the ref stopped the fight while Sonnen was trapped in an armbar. Sonnen never tapped, but did scream out in pain. So the rematch was set up and finally happened eleven months later at WEC 36. The rematch was a complete mess from the get go as Filho came in seven pounds overweight, so it was changed to a three round non title fight.The fight itself was not very good, as Sonnen dominated a disoriented and confused Filho. So why is this fight on the list then? Because Sonnen should have won the title here and he became the first person to defeat Filho. Now we don't think very highly of him after the way his career collapsed, but Filho was one of the best middleweights in the world for a couple years. Regardless of Filho's mental state, Sonnen's stock was fairly high as he prepared to move onto the UFC.

10: VS Anderson Silva UFC 148  photo vlcsnap-00010_zpsd81d86ae.jpg

Their rematch from UFC 117 was one of the most highly anticipated fights in the history of MMA. There was nearly two years of build and trash talk leading up to this one. Sonnen was suspended for a year after UFC 117 for having elevated levels of testosterone. When he returned, Sonned defeated Brian Stann and Michael Bisping to earn another title shot. The first round was very similar to the first fight as Sonnen took down Silva almost immediately. Sonnen connected with 76 strikes but he isn't the most powerful striker so Silva didn't take too much damage. But one judge did score it 10-8 for Sonnen. The second round was very different as Sonnen was unable to take Silva down, it certainly helped that Silva grabbed his shorts like crazy. Silva got out of Sonnen's clinch and started throwing some crazy strikes. Then Sonnen went for that spinning back fist and was finished with a knee to the chest followed by strikes to the head. I didn't know where to place this one as it was a huge fight, but it wasn't as good as the first one and the ending kind of symbolized how he always choked in title fights.

9: VS Jason Miller HFP 1: Rumble on The Reservation

In only his second MMA fight, Chael took on Jason Miller. The future Strikeforce number one contender was 5-0 here and dominated his competition up until this point. Sonnen stuck to his bread and butter as he went up against the more experienced fighter. Mayhem had some fairly good takedown defense early on, but it wasn't enough as the fight kept going to the ground where Sonnen was far superior. Sonnen even scored a huge slam as he went on to win by unanimous decision.

8: VS Bryan Baker WEC 33

Chael Sonnen was supposed to have his rematch with Paulo Filho for the WEC middleweight title at this event, but Filho went into rehab sometime before the fight. So Bryan Baker stepped up to take on Sonnen in the co-main event of WEC 33. Baker was 6-0 at this point and one of the top fighters in the WEC's shallow middleweight division. Baker showed some real toughness and heart in this one, but Sonnen is on a whole other level. Baker was taken down, slammed, suplexed, and busted open as Sonnen won by unanimous decision (3026, 3025, 3025). Sonnen would get his title shot and Baker would go onto have a nice career in Bellator as he would reach two tournament finals.

7: VS Dan Miller UFC 98

Sonnen came over to the UFC in 2009 after a nice run in the WEC. Unfortunately, Sonnen's UFC debut was pretty disappointing as he got owned and submitted by Demian Maia at UFC 95. Sonnen would step in for an injured Yushin Okami only a few months later to take on Dan Miller. Dan may not be as good as his brother Jim, but he was 11-1(1) at this point and 3-0 in the UFC. Sonnen took down and slammed the former IFL middleweight champion multiple times for three rounds. Miller teased a few submission attempts and even had a really deep guillotine locked in the first round, but Sonnen escaped and unloaded with ground & pound for most of the fight for the unanimous decision win. This was a much needed win to prove he could hang in the UFC.

6: VS Yushin Okami UFC 104

After filling in for him at UFC 98, Sonnen would go on to fight Yushin Okami in his next fight. Okami was 7-1 in the UFC at this point and his only loss at this point was to Rich Franklin in a number one contender fight, so this was a huge fight for Sonnen as he tried to put his name in the mix with the elite middleweights in the UFC. Sonnen won by unanimous decision, but the way he dominated Okami was impressive and surprising. Sonnen outwrestled him and even won their striking exchanges with some good combinations. Both are not easy things to do considering how good of a wrestler and boxer Okami is. Okami would then go onto train at Team Quest with Sonnen and Chael has said a few times since then that Okami is the one fighter he would never want to have a rematch with.

5: VS Michael Bisping UFC on Fox 2

This was the number one contender fight to decide who would face Anderson Silva at UFC 148. Sonnen was originally supposed to face Mark Munoz, but he got injured and Bisping stepped up on short notice. This was the much better fight to make anyway. Sonnen won by unanimous decision and it was seen as a bit of a controversial win. It was a close fight and I wouldn't have been upset if the fight went either way. I thought Bisping won the first time I watched it, but the second time around I did agree with the judges. A great chess match of a fight that gave Sonnen his rematch with Silva and the loss didn't set Bisping back too much either.

4: VS Nate Marquardt UFC 109

The UFC 109 Fight of the Night and number one contender fight to determine who would go on to challenge Anderson Silva next. Nate Marquardt was coming off an impressive knockout victory against Demian Maia and looking to get another crack at Silva. Sonnen was on an equally impressive run having just dominated Yushin Okami in his last fight. Sonnen just owned Marquardt in this fight with his wrestling. Marquardt showed some life busting open Chael, threatening with two deep guillotines, and a kimura, but it wasn't enough as Sonnen was just too good that night. Sonnen would go on to have his epic fight with Anderson Silva next at UFC 117.

3: VS Shogun Rua UFN 26

After he was 27 seconds away from winning the UFC light heavyweight title, Sonnen would go on to fight Shogun Rua in his next fight at 205 lbs. Rua was originally supposed to fight Little Nog at UFC 161, but he got hurt as usual and Sonnen had trouble getting a visa to fight in Canada so this fight was pushed back a bit. This was a huge show for the UFC and they stacked it as best they could with these guys in the main event. Shogun was on the decline, but still one of the best light heavyweights in the world. Sonnen scored a takedown as soon as the fight started and that would set the tone for the fight. Shogun got back up and even tried a takedown of his own, but Chael reversed it and ended up on top. Sonnen was doing his usual ground & pound that controls you, but doesn't do too much damage before they stood up. Then he hopped on Shogun's neck and locked in a guillotine choke that would force him to tap. The last win of his career was a nice one as he defeated the former UFC and Pride champion.

2: VS Brian Stann UFC 136

This was a huge fight for both Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann. Stann was a perfect 3-0 in the middleweight division at the time and this was Sonnen's first fight in fourteen months since he lost to Anderson Silva at UFC 117. Sonnen immediately went for a takedown, but Stann was able to stuff it and then we got to see them work nicely in the clinch. Sonnen was able to eventually take him down and he went to work. Stann tried his best to work out of it and had some nice maneuvers, but not good enough for Sonnen on the ground. Sonnen took him down immediately in the second, the ref stood them prematurely but Sonnen just took Stann right back down. Sonnen then picked up a rare submission victory when he locked in a triangle choke. A big win coming off his suspension. An interesting trivia/sidenote for this fight is that while people were clamoring for Sonnen trash talk, he refused to for this one as he didn't want to disrespect an American hero like Stann.

1: VS Anderson Silva UFC 117

On August 7 2010, Chael Sonnen came closer to defeating Silva for the title more than anyone else ever had until that point. After that disgusting fight with Demian Maia, Sonnen was the perfect person to take on Silva. Yea his trash talk helped put him in that position, but his defeating three top middleweights in a row were more important. For nearly four and a half rounds Sonnen dominated Silva from the top position. Sonnen hit Silva 320 times in this fight. Then at 3:10 in the fifth round, Silva locked Sonnen in a triangle armbar to get the win. And I don't believe the nonsense that Silva let Sonnen dominate him for four rounds so he would have an entertaining fight or that he came into the fight with injured ribs. So at UFC 117 Silva finally looked human as he suffered his greatest beatdown and then had his greatest comeback. I've seen this fight a bunch of times since it aired and sometimes I even find myself yelling at the tv for Sonnen not to give up his wrist. Even though he lost, it was the 2010 Fight of the Year and the best middleweight fight of all time in my opinion.

So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
Next week will be Andrei Arlovski's best fights.


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