COMMENTARY | On Saturday, April 27, 2013, at UFC 159, Chael Sonnen (27-12) will attempt to become the UFC light heavyweight champion when he takes on Jon Jones (17-1). "The American Gangster" takes on insurmountable odds, as he faces one of the most prolific light heavyweight champions of all-time. Jones' unpredictable and unorthodox style of fighting has rendered most of his opponents helpless and bewildered in the octagon. Barring a disqualification loss at the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, the champion is undefeated in the octagon, and his diverse skill-set creates significant obstacles for Sonnen.
Striking: Jones' stand-up game is varied and stifles many of his opponents. His arsenal includes a combination of flying knees, spinning elbows, and a vicious ground and pound. His 84.5 inch reach advantage over his opponents strengthens the champion's striking as well. Jones uses his range extremely well, and keeps his opponents at the end of his combinations.
In fact, the champion's unorthodox fighting style has put down the likes of other seasoned fighters who were renowned for their stand-up game. Some of these combatants include former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and a prime Brandon Vera. Almost half of Jones' wins have come via knockout, compared to Sonnen's 25%. Even though Sonnen has only been finished by strikes two times in his career, Jones' ability to toy with the best of the UFC's light heavyweight strikers will more than likely play a role in their match-up at UFC 159.
Submission Defense: Almost 70% of Sonnen's losses have come by way of submission. A wrestler by trade, the Oregan native enjoys taking his opponents down and controlling them on the ground. Against many high-level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) artists, however, Sonnen has come up short in matches, succumbing to submission after submission.
Perhaps Sonnen's most infamous loss occurred on August 7, 2010, at UFC 117. After winning all four rounds on each of the judges' score cards, Sonnen found himself in a slowly applied triangle that cost him the UFC middleweight championship.
Ironically, just two months prior to his match-up against Anderson Silva, Sonnen mocked the middleweight champion's BJJ skills and stated, "He's (Silva) got a black belt under the Nogueiras (referring to former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and his brother, Antônio Rogério Nogueira). I think a black belt under the Nogueiras is saying, like, I got a free toy in my Happy Meal. I don't really understand what the big deal is."
Unfortunately for Sonnen, he not only found out what the "big deal" was at UFC 117, his submission defense deficiencies have cost him two world title opportunities (the other was against Paulo Filho for the World Extreme Cagefighting middleweight championship at WEC 31).
Meanwhile, Jones has remained steadfast in his ability to finish his opponents, many of them by submission. His most famous submission wins have come against other BJJ black belts, such as former UFC Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort and former Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida. To the surprise of many, the latter fighter was actually choked to sleep by Jones, courtesy of a standing guillotine.
Wrestling: This is definitely the strongest aspect of Sonnen's game. The former NCAA Division I All-American and Greco-Roman wrestler has a profound wrestling background that has earned him numerous accolades. For Sonnen, this has translated well into the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. With 16 of his wins coming by decision, Sonnen has a history of controlling his opponents on the ground and churning out the win.
Although Jones' wrestling background is not as decorated as that of Sonnen, he has used his total arsenal to takedown many of his opponents, including those with extensive wrestling backgrounds, such as Ryan Bader and Matt Hamill.
Not only has Jones taken down and beaten opponent after opponent, the champion himself has never been taken down in his UFC career. In an interview, Jones stated, "Chael takes down a lot of opponents, but he has been taken down by Demian Maia. Right now, I haven't been taken down by anyone. I'm not going to say that it isn't possible, but I'm going to have to say it's myself based on the stats."
Sonnen's Last Chance: At 36 years old, this may be Sonnen's last opportunity to obtain a championship title in the octagon. He lost his previous two championship outings to the current UFC middleweight champion in 2010 and again in 2012. On April 27, the American Gangster faces a physically bigger opponent than Silva whose athleticism is unparalleled, accompanied by a MMA pedigree that is technical, yet unconventional.
Jones has defeated five former UFC world champions and sports an 82% finish rate. The 25-year-old's dominance is a testament to his understanding and mastery of the fight game. However, in the world of MMA, anything can happen. At the same time, considering the skill-sets of each opponent, all things being equal, Sonnen will face an uphill battle when attempts to become the UFC's light heavyweight champion at UFC 159.Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! News. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock. _________________________________________________________________________
More from this contributor:
After a Devastating TUF 17 Finale Loss, What's Next for Miesha Tate?
Spectacular Wins at UFC 158 Produce a St. Pierre/Hendricks Showdown
- Sports & Recreation
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Chael Sonnen
- Jon Jones