Chael Sonnen vs Michael Bisping goes up in smoke ... and so does the UFC middleweight division

via cdn2.sbnation.com

Chael Sonnen was booked to coach The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 opposite Michael Bisping according to testimony entered today (May 18, 2011) in the former middleweight number one contender's licensing hearing with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).

And I stress the word "was."

That's because Sonnen saw the indefinite suspension of his fight license upheld by the CSAC for fabricating testimony in a previous hearing earlier this year stemming from his failed drug test at UFC 117 -- not to mention his felony conviction in Oregon for money laundering.

Testosterone, felonies and lies ... oh my!

The mouthy ex-Realtor, who made a career out of talking the talk, may no longer be able to walk the walk in Las Vegas either after he was pinched for using Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer's name in his phony feedback.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Even Bisping, known for being the brashest of Brits, had a rare moment of sympathy for his fellow fighter in a Twitter message posted shortly after today's hearing concluded:

... gutted for chael sonnen, people make mistakes. He paid his dues and should be allowed to continue with his career. Real shame for the guy. I did wanna fight him, as it would of been awesome, and a no1 contender matchup, but my own personal wants aside, I do truly feel for the guy ...

While UFC fans will miss what potentially could have been a TUF season of epic trash-talk, the ripples of Sonnen's punishment will wash over the UFC's 185-pound division and reveal, well, not a whole lot.

Nate Marquardt is now a 170-pounder, "Mayhem" Miller is riding the "A-Train" and Vitor Belfort is still picking Anderson Silva's toe jam out of his teeth.

Sonnen vs. Bisping, which was expected to crown a new division number one contender, would have provided a much-needed shot in the arm for what could be seen as a mediocre weight class. That's no disrespect to the current talent, but can you headline a pay-per-view with Brian Stann vs. Jorge Santiago?

Then again, this may be the opportunity of a lifetime for a few select fighters.

Alan Belcher, who spent the last six months with his eye hanging out like a beat-up Mr. Potato Head, is ready to get back into the mix and reclaim what he believes is his rightful place atop the 185-pound contender's list.

So too is Mark Munoz, who will try to prove he's "elite" when he tangles with another perennial contender, jiu-jitsu wizard Demian Maia, at the UFC 131 event on June 11 in Vancouver. And let's not forget about the muscle-bound maniac known as Rousimar Palhares.

And when all else fails, maybe Joe Silva can get on the horn and talk turkey with Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy.

Chael Sonnen, for better or for worse, had a way of energizing fight fans and drawing the best from his opponents. He may no longer have that opportunity thanks largely in part to being stricken with diarrhea of the mouth, but with a concerted effort from the rest of the 185'ers, maybe even one or two "Fight of the Night" performances and yes, a little bit of luck, there's no reason the middleweight division can't continue producing high caliber fighters.

But will any of them be good enough to dethrone Anderson Silva?

Time will tell.

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