Top 10-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight superstars Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen fought in the co-main event of last night's (Nov. 16, 2013) UFC 167 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both Evans and Sonnen have extensive resumes full of high-level mixed martial arts (MMA) experience. They are also good friends and broadcast partners on Fox Sports 1, causing the fight to stray far away from the usual trash talk-fueled Sonnen fight.
Both needed a win to stay afloat near the top of the stacked UFC Light Heavyweight division.
Evans may have needed it more, however. After losing two straight, Evans got back into the win column with a decision win over Dan Henderson at June's UFC 161. Sonnen came in on the momentum of a first round submission win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC Fight Night 26 in August. It was a surprising victory that launched Sonnen into relevancy at his new home of 205 pounds.
In the end Evans squashed all that talk with a huge victory. Let's take a look back at his thoroughly dominating win over "American Gangster."
The bout began with Sonnen going for his trademark double leg, but he couldn't get it. A clinch battle ensued until "Suga" went for his own unsuccessful takedown. Evans looked for some big hooks against the cage then got his desired takedown. Evans landed an absolutely huge elbow then went to work with punches after taking Sonnen's back. Sonnen was flattened out and unable to defend himself as "Suga" teed off, earning the first round stoppage from the referee.
After UFC president Dana White questioned Evans' motivation after his thoroughly uninspiring decision loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira back at UFC 156. "Suga" proved the critics wrong in a big way, getting his second straight top ten win to immediately put his name back into title contention. Sonnen was a respected name who simply couldn't provide much of a challenge for former Light Heavyweight champion Evans.
Evans will move onto a marquee match-up. At the post-fight show he hinted that he wants a fight with Alexander Gustafsson, but "Mauler" already has a date with surging Jimi Manuwa in London next March. "Suga" also teased a bout with Daniel Cormier, the number two-ranked Heavyweight who has long been rumored to make the cut down to 205 pounds. Evans prodded "DC" by recalling a training session where he took down a relatively green Cormier twice in a row.
That fight could be a very interesting prospect if Cormier can make the weight.
For Sonnen the loss is disheartening. He finally had a big win under his belt after defeating Rua, and beating Evans would have proven that he was still near the top of the heap. Instead, he got dominated in the wrestling department, his main area of strength. The loss will likely send him plummeting to the bottom of the top ten, if not out altogether.
With his advancing age and experience, Sonnen may re-evaluate his fighting career after UFC 167. He's fought a long list of the best, winning some and losing others. He has a bright future as an MMA analyst and broadcast host, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him hang up the gloves sooner than later.
He admitted that Evans was the better man, which is definitely not the usual post-fight banter we've grown to expect from Sonnen.
Rashad Evans proved that he still has the fire to compete at MMA's highest levels with a first round throttling of Chael Sonnen at UFC 167. Will "Suga" find himself fighting for the belt again in the near future? And what will become of "American Gangster" after dropping three out of four bouts to top competition?