Chael Sonnen was hoping to set up a megafight in Brazil later this summer, but first he had to get past Michael Bisping last night (Jan. 28, 2012) in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 2 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Bisping is perhaps the most despised fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) today, with one of his primary criticisms being a lack of top quality opposition in the middleweight division.
Well, if "The Count" could beat Sonnen, the consensus number two ranked 185 pound fighter on the planet, he'd have more than proved his worth as a title hopeful. Sonnen, meanwhile, was expected to steamroll the Brit with his superior wrestling.
So how did the fight end up nearly being a toss-up? And what happens next for both elite middleweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping UFC on FOX 2 post-fight review and analysis:
The fight began just as many predicted, with Sonnen scoring a huge takedown and immediately throwing a heavy volume of punches into Bisping's face.
But instead of wilting until the onslaught, "The Count" remained composed and actually worked his way back to his feet. Once there, he became the first man to ever outstrike Chael Sonnen in the UFC, actually sitting on his punches and throwing with more power than fans were used to.
Sonnen, on the other hand, looked very wild with his stand-up, throwing almost exaggerated overhand rights to try to close the distance and work for more takedowns. Sometimes he would get the takedown, other times he would get stuffed, but Bisping always popped back to his feet regardless.
To me, it looked like Bisping was the first fighter to not have Sonnen's wrestling stuck in his head, and this allowed him to throw as hard if not harder than he normally throws his strikes. He found a home repeatedly on Sonnen's face and a frustrated Sonnen spent a large majority of the first two rounds battling the Brit along the cage with both men trading inside position. He surprisingly allowed The Ultimate Fighter season 3 winner to grab double underhooks repeatedly to fend him off along the fence.
With the first two rounds being very close, as Bisping's striking was evenly matched with Sonnen's takedowns, the third was all Sonnen, as he scored a huge takedown and did not let his opponent up for well over half the round, even taking Bisping's back and passing to mount before letting "The Count" slip from his clutches at the end of the round.
While it was close, the judges unanimous sided with Chael Sonnen, although two of the judges gave Bisping one round.
For Michael Bisping, he actually fought a terrific fight last night. He gave this new and improved Chael Sonnen his toughest test since his UFC return against Demian Maia. Bisping was landing the harder shots with significantly bette technique, stuffed a decent amount of takedowns and usually got back to his feet quickly. He also more than held his own with the Oregonian in the clinch as both men battled back and forth from that position.
The only fault to Bisping's performance was giving away the third round and when the first two rounds are close while the third is guaranteed for a fighter, it usually winds up that the fighter with a guaranteed round will win. I actually moved "The Count" up in my middleweight rankings after his performance last night so he should not be ashamed one bit. Some intriguing future opponents for Bisping include fellow main card loser and originally intended opponent Demian Maia, the winner or loser of Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch or perhaps Brian Stann if he gets past Alessio Sakara.
For Chael Sonnen, this wasn't nearly as dominant a showing as was expected, but he still did enough to win. He was wildly aggressive in his striking, perhaps to a fault, but the openings he gave Bisping might have even been intentional as he was able to put the Brit on the ground when he fired back with counters. He was active with strikes when he had Bisping stuck in a rough spot against the fence, but he was not nearly top heavy enough to keep him there.
Sonnen will need everything to be clicking in his next fight, which will be the much anticipated rematch against Anderson Silva in a soccer stadium in Brazil later this summer. If he shows up with the same holes in his striking that he had last night, it could be a very short rematch for the promo-dropper.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Who's side were you on in the close decision? Will Chael Sonnen be Anderson Silva's kryptonite later this year?