This weekend’s UFC on FOX 2 card in Chicago, IL will showcase a high-profile bout between Chael Sonnen and Michael “The Count” Bisping as the co-main event. After Mark Munoz was injured his elbow in training, Bisping moved in to take his place against Sonnen. This short notice has made the anticipation suffer due to a lack of time to build up back-and –forth hype that would have most likely reached a fever pace considering the two combatants. Without a doubt, the fight will be a showcase piece of a card that almost guarantees to help the UFC move towards the goal of becoming a mainstream sport worldwide. Each fighter has proved their skills repeatedly in the Octagon over time, and the winner will find himself atop the list of contenders for the UFC Middleweight championship.
Bisping and Sonnen have been hyping up the fight on short notice, with their well-known talents on the mic making them arguably the most notorious fighters in the UFC today. The two fighters will bring contrasting styles of martial arts to the cage on Saturday, and both have shown to be extremely good at what they specialize in. What remains to be seen is how these two styles will clash and what exactly will prevail.
Chael Sonnen made huge waves in the summer of 2010 during the build-up and subsequent battle for the Middleweight championship with Anderson Silva. As many fans know, he was the only fighter to have recently taken Silva to such deep waters while dominating the fight with ground and pound, only to lose the bout at the last minute due to a triangle choke. He was found to have failed the pre-fight drug screening with highly elevated levels of testosterone, and while he appealed his year-long suspension on the grounds of using TRT therapy, he was ultimately placed on the shelves for six months. He rebounded effectively with an impressive submission victory over feared Middleweight striker Brian Stann at UFC 136 last October, and proceeded to call out Silva for a rematch.
Prior to his newfound fame, Sonnen was an extremely dedicated and talented wrestler, which has formed the base for his punishing style that many fighters have been unable to overcome. Hailing from the Northwest, Sonnen earned a spot as an NCAA All – American while at the University of Oregon in 1998, finishing eighth in the nation that year. Sonnen has trained with many of the most decorated wrestlers in the game such as Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, and Matt Lindland at Team Quest to further his already impressive skills. He has translated these skills into a 26-11-1 record over the course of his MMA career, but it seems that submissions have been his kryptonite of sorts, having suffered eight of his eleven total losses by tapout.
Across the cage from Sonnen, Michael Bisping will await, attempting to use his well-known kickboxing prowess to derail the hype train that is Chael Sonnen. Bisping at first struggled to make it as a fighter in England, having worked many blue-collar to jobs to fund his training before finding success in kickboxing rings, becoming a regional champion in England before taking it to the next level in the Octagon.
A former winner of the Ultimate Fighter, he became only the second Light Heavyweight to obtain the honor and parlayed this opportunity into an impressive 14-0 record to start his MMA career. He holds victories over fighters such as Dan Miller, Denis Kang, Chris Leben, and Yoshihiro Akiyama, and most recently defeated Jason “Mayhem” Miller with a one-sided TKO at the TUF 14 finale on December 3, 2011. Having compiled an impressive 22-3 MMA record currently, Bisping has only been beaten by Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, and Wanderlei Silva, with the only finish at the hands of Henderson. While Bisping does possess excellent, crisp, and precise striking, it still remains to be seen if he can defeat a truly top-level fighter in the UFC. Bisping will get his chance to prove this on Saturday in Chicago, and has recently proclaimed that if Sonnen does take him down as planned, he will submit him. While not being known for high-level submissions, he does train with many seasoned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts.
With the talents of both fighters well-known, the focus of this fight will revolve around the age-old debate of striker versus wrestler. Bisping has shown that he is very well on his way to becoming a well-rounded fighter, staving off both takedowns and submissions alike on the way to winning eight out of his last ten bouts. Sonnen has proved that his wrestling is at the top of the game right now, but this has tended to overshadow his deficiencies in the striking and submission aspects of mixed martial arts. It is fully expected that Sonnen will take the fight down to the ground to attempt a finish there, but will his ground-and-pound attack be enough to TKO Bisping? Has Bisping’s ground game improved enough to negate the obvious wrestling prowess of Sonnen? As fans, we could have seen quite the build-up to this bout with more time, but this fight should nonetheless deliver on all fronts. With a title shot at the coveted Middleweight belt at stake, expect both fighters to leave it all in the Octagon on Saturday.