Next To Oregon’s Chael Sonnen

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February 1, 2012 by David Gillaspie

(originally filed with oregonsportsnews.com. Also found on yardbarker.com)

Chael Sonnen, Oregon's Fighter

Oregon’s Chael Sonnen stands in the middle of Chicago and calls it  his own. You see him hold a microphone. It’s the Chael Sonnen microphone. He’s talking from a Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon.

From the sound of Chael, it’s a Chael Sonnen world. After he asks announcer Joe Rogin how it feels standing so close to Chael Sonnen, you’ve got to wonder.

What does all-Chael all the time feel like?

Ask Michael Bisping.

The Chael Sonnen vs Bisping fight showed on UFC on FOX-2 Saturday night, a prime time cage fight. Is America ready for this? Only with Chael on the card.

An earlier fight finished to a chorus of boos from the crowd. They didn’t fight it out to the last second. Or, more likely, they fought it out the best they could, but they were gassed. At least give UFC on FOX credit for keeping their guys engaged when the clock is running instead of taking a dive.

Apparently the fight schedule wasn’t perfect for them due to injuries in training.

It wasn’t perfect for Chael Sonnen, either. He and Bisping were both supposed to fight others, but injuries kept their planned opponents out of the octagon.

From the first take down to the first escape, the Chael vs Bisping fight had an odd feel to it. What else would you expect between a kick boxer and a wrestler? But there was more.

Maybe it was just me, but the pre-match talk seemed to place Chael in the role of stepping stone for Bisping, just another obstacle to get around on the way to the top.

Maybe that’s right, maybe not, but Bisping seemed to believe it. Chael took a beating from this guy. Then he brought out spinning kicks. The feet didn’t land, but the punches did.

When Bisping jammed Chael into the sides of the octagon and held him, it didn’t look good for Oregon.

In and out of tight spots they went, until the third round. That’s when championship form started showing. That’s when Chael gave the answer to who is the obstacle and who isn’t with a masterful close-out.

Chael Sonnen, you ask? Ultimate Fighting Championship? Mixed Martial Arts? Some sports fans can’t bear the sight of two strong men tearing each other up. Others consider competition inside an octagon just this side of chicken fighting.

They are wrong.

When you see a full house at Chicago’s United Center showing all the signs of a big time sports event, you take a closer look. This is the house where Michael Jordan raised the roof. This is where Derrick Rose, NBA MVP, whips the crowd into a frenzy during basketball games the way cage fighting did Saturday night.

Is a real sport, you ask?

When Curt Menefee from the FOX NFL broadcast team hosts the event, you know it’s something big. With Oregonian Matt Lindland on the desk with Menefe, and Fear Factor’s Joe Rogan for in the ring interviews, UFC on Fox was covered top to bottom.

That’s who big time sporting events draw.

When they announced Chael Sonnen’s match as the co-main event, you knew he’d come out steaming. He’s a big-fight fighter, and this match was his last before a title shot. If he wins.

It was hard watching him take the hits all MMA guys take. It was hard seeing him tire while Bisping kept swinging and kicking.

Watching Chael shoot the double and take him down in the third was classic.

As a take down leader, and a leader of time in control during fights, Chael Sonnen is by all measures one of the kings of the octagon.

Why does he seem so angry?

The clock is running. The window for Chael’s championship run is open, but not for long. Not as long as he can’t get the biggest fight.

In an interview, Chael Sonnen said he’s been after middle weight champion Anderson Silva four years for the title belt. Is Silva hiding, or being an elusive champion. Either way, it’s bad for the sport. People want to see the best, and the best should get into the octagon.

Chael Sonnen’s been inside 38 times, 26-11-1. He’s no tomato can for the next guy to beat to a pulp on his way to the match Chael wants.

In a post-fight interview, Chael admitted to being hit so hard he didn’t know what day it was. He said if Michael Bisping fought Anderson Silva like he fought in Chicago, Bisping would win. Even though Bisping said he would send Chael to the hospital like he did seven of his last eight opponents, Chael was gracious in victory.

He was also throwing another insult. He praises the man he just beat as someone who could beat the man he once lost to?

The graciousness didn’t extend to Anderson Silva. When asked if he was nervous about traveling to Brazil for the fight against Silva, Chael said he didn’t like leaving the country to fight. He doesn’t even like leaving Oregon. But going to Brazil won’t bother him. He said the streets of Chicago aren’t all that safe, but he showed up.

Like all great fighters, Chael Sonnen said he would fight anyone anywhere, that a Saturday night without a fight didn’t seem right. Then he capped the night with this line:

“Send anyone you want after me and I’ll fight them. Just don’t send someone you want back.”

Don’t all sports fans hope athletes they pay to watch have the same attitude? They get it when the co-main events of a UFC fight card includes three wrestlers like Chael Sonnen from the University of Oregon, Rashad Evans of Michigan State University, and four-time all-American, 2008 National Champion Phil Davis from the reigning NCAA D1 Champion Penn State Nittany Lions.

The Big Ten ruled. Again. But Sonnen put a spin on the evening.

It is Chael’s world to win. It is our pleasure to hear him tell how he’ll do it.

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