Chael Sonnen has all the tools to follow Matt Mitrione’s path to victory against Emelianenko
This Saturday, one of the greatest fighters in MMA history attempts to further his legacy and prove he still belongs in the cage by advancing to the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. A legend of the sport, his dominance is known to hardcore fans around the world, and though he may no longer be in the prime of his career he still shines as bright as ever in the spotlight.
And his opponent Fedor Emelianenko is supposedly pretty good too.
In the main event of Bellator 208, Chael Sonnen will take on the “The Last Emperor” in a bout at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Colosseum in Uniondale, New York, to determine who will fight for the vacant Bellator heavyweight title next January. While the other half of that matchup is yet to be determined, it will be a stiff test for either man as it comes down to the winner of Ryan Bader vs. Matt Mitrione which will take place tonight, at Bellator 207 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Now while I can already feel the eye rolls and hear the various “Are you kidding me?!” comments from fans based on the title and introductory paragraph, hear me out on this one while I do my best to explain why Sonnen will win and end up finishing Emelianenko by strikes, not submission.
Analyzing Their Most Recent Fights
Although Fedor did win his last fight by an emphatic knockout, he certainly didn’t look anything like his former self doing it. Going up against an aging Frank Mir who was coming off a two-year layoff, the Russian took a glancing blow in the opening fifteen seconds that stunned him. As Mir rushed in for the finish, Emelianenko was able to use his judo to fend off the former UFC heavyweight champion and take him down, buying himself some time to recover. After Mir quickly got the fight standing again, he recklessly traded with Fedor in the pocket, and “The Last Emperor” was able to land a wild left hand in the onslaught that knocked down the former UFC standout before finishing him with strikes on the ground. The entire bout ended in under a minute.
Sonnen’s last performance wasn’t exactly spectacular either. In a three round fight that went the full fifteen minutes, the former UFC middleweight title challenger went up against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at Bellator 192 in what was mostly a lackluster fight. Sonnen was clearly the faster man, moving in and out with jabs and an overhand right that found a home most of the contest, but ate some bigger shots from “Rampage” when he kept it standing that could have caused him real trouble. To avoid getting knocked out by the decorated striker, Sonnen used his wrestling pedigree to secure multiple takedowns, keeping the fight on the mat until the final bell was rung and his hand was raised with a unanimous decision win.
How and Why Sonnen Will Be Victorious
After reviewing both performances, the key factors that stand out are this: Sonnen’s technique and durability are still there, while Emelianenko’s are not.
It’s pretty obvious that both men have lost a step in these categories, but Emelianenko has seemingly dropped off a cliff. Even though Sonnen fought the majority of his career at middleweight, the move to heavyweight hasn’t stopped his ability to secure takedowns and chain wrestle opponents that are significantly heavier than him, and though his standup was never particularly great it hasn’t seemed to have diminished to point where he can’t survive on the feet. Fedor, on the other hand, seems to be trading in the pocket more recklessly, trying to finish the fight as fast as possible, and his striking defense has suffered to a point where he is bound to eat multiple clean shots in a fight.
As far as durability is concerned, the Russian’s chin has seemingly gone beyond glass and turned to dust. Fedor has been dropped in the first round in his last three fights and finished brutally in one of them (two if you think the Maldonado fight that should have been stopped), and the blows that have caused the damage weren’t always of the best caliber. Sonnen meanwhile has been able to take strikes as well as he ever was, meaning that a threat of being knocked out is always there but not necessarily imminent. Being able to take shots from Jackson and Wanderlei Silva even if they’re past their prime is no joke.
So long as Sonnen is able to absorb a couple of strikes from Emelianenko in the process, he can use his speed and the threat of takedowns to pressure Fedor against the cage and make him throw wildly. From there “The Bad Guy” can land an overhand right that will put the Russian MMA legend to sleep, or at least give him the opportunity for a TKO.
Whether or not my prediction will come true remains to be seen, but if you agree then you may want to a flier on Chael given the odds. You can thank me later if I’m right.
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