On August 17th, Chael Sonnen will be in the headlining role against Mauricio Rua in a light heavyweight bout on Fox Sports 1. It will be Sonnen's 2nd straight fight at 205 and it looks to be his last. Last night on UFC Tonight he revealed that he signed a new contract with the UFC, has switched fight camps, and will be back at 185 lbs following the Shogun fight:
"I’ve moved to Southern California and am training at Reign with Mark Munoz. My new contract, which is a five-fight deal, was finalized today."
"I’ll return to middleweight after beating Shogun. There’re two guys I want to get matched up with: Vitor Belfort, because he’s awesome and he’s on an incredible roll. And Wanderlei Silva, who I’ve heard is going back to middleweight. The landscape has completely changed. I’ve got a new contract and I’m returning to the weight class."
After losing to Anderson Silva at UFC 148, the UFC sensibly granted Sonnen a title shot at 205 lbs against Jon Jones, which Jones won by 1st round TKO. Chael has historically not been a legitimate contender at light heavyweight and at 36 I don't see any sensible reason to believe that starts now, regardless of whether or not he beats Shogun.
Before everyone's time was wasted with Jones/Sonnen, you might remember Chael as one of the elite middleweights of the division. His only losses at 185 lbs since returning to the UFC in 2009 were against Demian Maia and twice to Anderson Silva. Middleweight is not exactly one of the UFC's deeper divisions, so I would imagine that Sonnen would (rightfully, in my opinion) assume the position as one of the immediate contenders upon return. It would probably take him no more than 1-2 wins for him to face Chris Weidman, and perhaps a Silva/Sonnen 3 fight wouldn't be out of the question should Silva regain the belt.
What do you think? Is this the right move for Sonnen? He could ride out the rest of his career at 205, but until I see otherwise he's vastly superior at middleweight and can still be a formidable challenge to other contenders.