Chael Sonnen had a rough go against Rashad Evans at UFC 167. But even after being crushed by his FOX Sports colleague, the charismatic light heavyweight has no excuses for the defeat.
“I had one significant problem [against Evans],” Sonnen said following the event. “I took on a better fighter. I got mauled.”
Saturday’s co-headliner from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was short and decisive. Evans (19-3-1 MMA, 14-3-1 UFC) controlled Sonnen (28-14-1 MMA, 7-7 UFC) early and cruised to victory after a securing a takedown and landing a cringe-worthy flurry of ground strikes. Sonnen’s inability to get off his back from under Evans was a crucial element in the loss, and his difficulties mirrored the shortcoming seen in his defeat to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones earlier this year.
“When he got in that top position there, I just couldn’t go anywhere,” Sonnen said. “I had the fence on one side. I had a world champion on the other side, and I was trying, but he hit me so hard. And then he did it again and again.”
Defeating Evans would have marked one of the most significant victories of Sonnen’s career, but unfortunately things did not go his way at the UFC’s 20th anniversary event. The 36-year-old expected to have much more success inside the cage against “Suga,” but he says the underwhelming performance was a product of being stuck in an inescapable position.
“I think that I could have some moments with him. I think that I’ve got some spots where I could be a lot more competitive, but that wasn’t one,” Sonnen said. “Once he got on top of me, I just couldn’t get out. We could still be out there. I’d still be down. I just couldn’t get up.”
While competing against a future Hall-of-Fame candidate in Evans was an honor for Sonnen, the outcome of the fight sent a clear message to the three-time UFC title challenger. Sonnen is very aware he was physically outmatched in the contest, and it made him realize once and for all the 205-pound weight class is not what’s best suited for him.
“I think I compete my best at 185,” Sonnen explained. “I’ve been trying to adjust to 205, and I don’t feel like they’re too big, but there’s a couple of positions that I’m just not able to get out of at 205. I’m just simply held down. So I think I can do my better competitive work at 185.”
Even with that said, Sonnen’s next fight could still take place in the light heavyweight division.
It is well known by now that the Oregon native will soon begin coaching the third installment of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” opposite Wanderlei Silva, another fighter who has fluctuated between weight classes in recent years. The grudge match between the two has been a very long time in the making and Sonnen is chomping at the bit to finally get his hands on “The Axe Murderer.”
After a friendly build-up for the fight against Evans, Sonnen is looking forward to his next challenge because the man fans have come to know and love is waiting to burst through the seams to torment his arch nemesis.
“I’ve been wanting to fight Wanderlei for three years,” Sonnen said. “I was never overly excited to fight Rashad. I did everything I could do to beat him, but no, I’ve been wanting to fight Wanderlei for three years.
“It’s a grudge match, and those don’t come along all that often. And when they do, they’re exciting, and they’re fun to be a part of. I’m always motivated to fight Wanderlei Silva.”
For complete coverage of UFC 167, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.