Chael Sonnen earned his sought-after shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva tonight at the United Center in Chicago, but he had to dig deep to do it.
Sonnen faced British standout Michael Bisping, who stepped up from a scheduled tilt against Demian Maia to replace the injured Mark Muñoz, and The Count gave the division’s number two a much a much harder go of it than most expected.
Sonnen came out of the gates hard, as usual, but Bisping set the tone for the fight right then by neutralizing most of Sonnen’s offense and quickly working to his feet. As the fight wore on, Bisping continued to repel Sonnen’s attack and made him pay for his forward movement with some of the most damaging stand up he’s shown in his UFC career, hitting Sonnen so hard that West Linn’s baddest man admitted he was in trouble.
“I was surprised about everything,” Sonnen said in regards to Bisping. “Michael Bisping hit me so hard in the first round, I didn’t even know what day it was. I remember when I came to, looking at him and thinking, ‘Oh my god, you have no idea how bad you hurt me or you’d step in and do something about it.’ I was never in a position tonight where I felt comfortable, not one. It was fifteen awkward minutes. … I don’t have a bad thing in the world to say about the guy.”
Bisping tagged Sonnen up on the feet and consistently thwarted his attempts to smother him against the cage or take him down; neither man took their foot off the gas pedal. Sonnen entered the third round with a sense of urgency, doing his best work of the night by putting Bisping on the mat, keeping him there and doing damage with ground and pound. As the round closed, Bisping showed that he was still in the game by getting to his feet and planting Sonnen on the mat, getting in a few good elbows before the round came to a close.
Though he’s disappointed he didn’t get the nod in a decision he – and many others – feel he deserved, Bisping handled his controversial defeat with class, giving props to Sonnen for fighting a hard fight and keeping it close enough that the judges saw it in his favor.
“Well, I’ve got to say congratulations to Chael, first and foremost,” Bisping said. “You know, he won the fight and did a great job. He was nothing but a gentleman this week as well, throughout all the promotions. So, I haven’t got a bad word to say about him. Regarding the fight, I can’t lie, I think I won rounds one and two. I think in this modern day of social networking and stuff, you’ve just got to look at the internet and I think it’s the general consensus that people think I won the fight. But, biggest cliche in the book: don’t let it go to the judges. And I did that. Chael got the decision, congratulations.”
In victory, Sonnen improves to 27-11-1 and finally gets the rematch against his arch-rival Anderson Silva that he’s pined after for so long.
Bisping falls to 22-4, but put on one of his most impressive performances to date in battling Chael Sonnen and should walk away from this fight with his chin up and an eye on facing one of the division’s elite in his next outing.
Sonnen and Bisping met at UFC on Fox 2: Evans vs. Davis, which went down at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. For full results of the event, click here.