After the rather definitive finish to UFC 148's main event between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, I found myself wondering what Chael should do next. No matter what he does at MW, he will never get another shot at the belt as long as Anderson is around. Their feud is over and done with, and the Spider does not appear to be slowing down at all. Sonnen could fight someone like Wanderlei Silva and keep his hatred of Brazilians shtick going, but what would be the point? As a fan I am not interested in that fight, and the only other thing Chael can accomplish at 185 is derailing future prospects before they get to the champion.
Chael Sonnen is a gatekeeper at MW now. To say anything else is just wrong, because he will never contend for that belt with Anderson around. If he does not want to fall into the Jon Fitch role of extremely talented wrestler who can beat everyone except the champ, he MUST change weight classes. Chael would have to cut off a leg to make WW, which leaves only one real possibility. LHW: A relatively BJJ free division that is (usually) free of Spiders. After the jump we will take a look at some possible matchups for the former #1 MW contender.
Chael Sonnen vs Phil Davis would be a battle of two phenomenal wrestlers that apply their respective crafts in very different ways. Would the incredible athletic ability and wrestling technique of Davis be too much for Chael, or would he overwhelm the less experienced wrestler with his constant pressure?
Chael Sonnen vs Alexander Gustaffson would be a stark contrast in styles, and would be a great opportunity to find out how far "The Mauler" has progressed since he would was outgrappled handily by the aforementioned Phil Davis. It could also establish Chael as a quick contender in the 205 lb division. Either way, there is something to be gained by both fighters, as well as the UFC in creating a new contender to potentially challenge the champion.
Chael Sonnen vs Lyoto Machida would just be pure fun. Sonnen's contstant attacking could fall right into the game "The Dragon" wants to play, but Chael may walk right through the counter striking to get a takedown. I honestly don't have a clue how this would play out, but I would certainly watch.
Chael Sonnen vs Shogun Rua would be, on paper, the toughest fight for Sonnen before he could attain a shot at gold. Shogun has some of the best Muay Thai in MMA, and a top level BJJ game to go along with it. His conditioning has caused him problems in the UFC at times though, so Sonnen forcing him to burn his gas tank is not out of the question.
Chael Sonnen vs Jon Jones is a fight we are unlikely to ever see, but would be as tough a test for the young champion as anyone he has faced yet. Jones has never fought anyone (at least that I can recall) that has gotten in his face and tried to bully him around. I doubt it would work, but it would make for an exciting fight, however long it may last. The other benefit to this potential fight is buyrates. Chael is a draw, and it would be great for the UFC to get their young superstar a marquee fight against a big name amongst casual fans.
If Chael moves to the light heavyweight division, he get a fresh influx of new matchups, not to mention the potential of a title fight down the road with someone other than Anderson Silva. Whether he could contend a 205 is certainly not a guarantee by any means, but it is better than being stuck in purgatory at 185. What do you all think? Should Chael stay at 185 and be a high end gatekeeper, or should he risk being a mediocre LHW, with potentially big rewards?