UFC: Sonnen overtakes Hendo in title stakes
Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson are life-long friends. Their imposing fighting styles were both forged on the well worn wrestling mats of Oregon. Team Quest was the springboard from which both men would challenge for numerous world titles with differing degrees of success.
Whilst many parallels can be drawn between the two men in fighting terms their personalities could hardly be more different. Henderson lets his fists do the talking. On Season 9 of the Ultimate Fighter opposite our own Michael Bisping Henderson hardly set pulses racing. Not until he met “The Count” at UFC 100 at least. Quiet, unassuming and affable “Hendo” gets the job done with minimal fuss. Sonnen of course is a one man PR machine.
Tuesday’s announcement that Sonnen and not Henderson will get the next shot at Jones’ belt has sent shock waves through the MMA world. Sonnen and Jones will serve as opposing coaches for an upcoming season of TUF en route to the now customary PPV face-off. Henderson previously had been considered the next in line for a title tilt against the lanky New Yorker solely on merit. Sure he has a loyal fan-base but it was his notorious right hand and never-say-die approach that had brought him to the brink of UFC light heavyweight glory. Henderson’s position ahead of the 205lb queue has now been usurped by his more media savvy friend.
Following the announcement “Hendo” vented his frustration online tweeting: “I guess I should just quit training to win fights and just go to s***-talking school”. He later cleared up rumours of a rift with Sonnen by stating: “Just to make it clear… I will always have love for Chael and don’t blame him for saying yes to a big opportunity. But giving him that fight right now degrades the sport of MMA”.
Is it understandable that Henderson is peeved? Of course it is. At a spritely 42 years old and with the lingering threat of injury never far away, time is running out for him in terms of genuine title aspirations and he knows it. What he also knows however is that how you perform inside the cage is only one facet of being a modern day mixed martial artist (albeit the most fundamental part). Promoting any sporting event is all about putting bums on seats and few do it better than the lippy former estate agent-come-would-be-politician. Chael P Sonnen is PPV gold and the UFC see a juicy opportunity to cash in on the huge wave of PR produced by his UFC 148 clash this Summer with middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. Regardless of merit this could be the highest grossing fight of 2013.
Rio doesn’t disappoint… again
UFC 153 will go down as one of the most pulsating cards of 2012 and for good reason. The Rio crowd did as expected and created a cacophony of noise and the fighters duly delivered with aplomb. Anderson Silva proved yet again why he is constantly being labelled as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Big “Nog” stood up like the proud ambassador of BJJ that he is and demonstrated forcibly on “Pee Wee” Herman that “hey Dave, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu really does work”.
Fitch not finished just yet…
All in all a good night was had by all… well almost all. Eric Silva got a harsh and resounding lesson in “old man tough” by the resurgent Jon Fitch. Fitch has finally received some positive column inches in recent days. Fitch’s style may not be aesthetically pleasing but it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s not up-to him to change but rather for his opponents to nullify his patented wrestling centric blanket of suffocation. But change he did. Fitch knew his main card bout was the point of no return in a career which hasn’t truly reaped the benefits of a work ethic which is reputedly unparalleled (at AKA at least).
Eric Silva lives to fight another day in the knowledge that his crushing defeat to the relative old timer from Indiana could present a rite of passage to future glory days. Silva will doubtlessly work on his wrestling and clinch-work going forward and with time on his side has taken little collateral damage in his quest to be Brazil’s latest world champion.
Teixeira gains valuable exposure
Fabio Maldonado’s unflinching resolve in the face of a brutal fistic onslaught was reminiscent of “The Russian Bear” absorbing everything Tank Abbott had to offer way back at UFC 6).
Glover Teixiera emerged from his joust against the tough-as-nails Maldonado with his reputation enhanced. The only concern may be that when he tangles with those alpha males who inhabit the upper echelons of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, he may not have such prolonged opportunities to put his opponent away. Maldonado is one resilient hombre however and rightfully will not be cut by the organisation following a display of valour and determination well beyond the call of duty.
The word around the campfire is that Glover Teixeira has found it increasingly difficult to get matched, even in the world’s biggest and best fight league. Most if not all of the industry’s top 205lber’s knew of Teixeira and the fearsome toolkit he had diligently put together under the tutelage of John Hackleman at “The Pit”. Teixeira though had little or no name value amongst the vast majority of casual fans and so, the prospect of “poor reward for high risk” meant that he was not an attractive prospect for any fighter wishing to further their own profile.
Last Saturday night’s mauling of Fabio Maldonado may have altered this perception substantially. On one of the biggest cards of the year Teixeira proved emphatically to millions of watching fans that the hype is indeed justified. Next up for Chuck Liddell’s close friend will surely be a top five contender, as given his age the UFC will look to fast track him to within touching distance of title contention
As Anderson Silva basks in the glory of yet another stand-out display check out my piece in this week’s Times of India on why Silva and Jones are on an inevitable collision course.
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