The first fight of Bellator’s tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion saw a former UFC middleweight title contender defeat an ex-UFC light heavyweight champion as Chael Sonnen’s wrestling skills grounded Rampage Jackson to take home a unanimous decision victory. Sonnen will face the winner of the April 28 clash between Frank Mir and Fedor Emelianenko.
It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was effective.
Sonnen surprisingly kept the fight standing in the opening minutes and found success with an overhand right. With Rampage looking bewildered at Sonnen’s willingness to strike with him, Sonnen would eventually move on to the next stage of his game plan and look to take the fight to the canvas.
A clinch by Sonnen found him hoisted up by Rampage and slammed to the canvas. Rampage refused to follow Sonnen to the canvas and brought the fight back to the standup. But Sonnen eventually scored a takedown late in the opening stanza and took Rampage’s back. However, there wasn’t enough time for him to work his way to a submission.
Sonnen opened the second clinching Rampage along the fence and eventually securing another takedown. Sonnen worked his way to side control and a kimura attempt but to no avail. Nevertheless, Sonnen controlled the entirety of the second round and had the fight in hand.
The third round was much of the same with Sonnen clinching early and Rampage unable to get any separation. Rampage swapped positions with Sonnen and worked the body with punches.
With two minutes to go, a visibly frustrated Rampage pointed to the canvas in an effort to bait Sonnen into an exchange. But Sonnen eventually took Rampage back down and rode the fight out as all three judges saw it in favor of “The American Gangster” with 29-28 scores.
“God made 6 billion men and he didn’t make any of them as good as Chael Sonnen,” Sonnen said in his post-fight interview. Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, one of you is next.”