Chael Sonnen (top) pushed Anderson Silva to the limit when they fought at UFC 117 in August 2010, but Silva rallied brilliantly in the final reel. (AP)
Two things you need to know about Chael Sonnen: He can take down Anderson Silva at will, and he’s found life outside of the octagon to be a lot more difficult.
Saturday’s fight marks Sonnen’s return to action for the first time since he was submitted by Silva in the fifth round of a UFC 117 title fight that, had it gone the distance, he no doubt would have won by decision.
If anyone can beat Silva, widely regarded as MMA's pound-for-pound kingpin, it’s Sonnen.
Since he lost in his first attempt to dethrone Silva, Sonnen has been fined for elevated testosterone levels and convicted of felony real estate fraud.
“I’m happy [to be back],” Sonnen said. “I got put in timeout for a while and I’m glad that’s all over.”
His welcome-back present is a fight with Brian Stann. If the UFC ever wanted to promote a fight as good guy vs. bad guy, this is the one. Sonnen’s criminal record and steroid allegations make fellow UFC villains Rashad Evans and Josh Koscheck look like choir boys.
Stann, on the other hand, is a former Marine who earned a Silver Star in Iraq, the president of the charity Hire Heroes -- which helps get war veterans civilian jobs -- and the man in the way of a Sonnen-Silva rematch.
“It’s definitely a fight I’d love to see,” said Stann. “But I’m not willing to lose a fight to see it.”
Silva has been a middleweight superhero since coming to the UFC. He’s 14-0 in Dana White’s organization with nine-straight title defenses and he’s finished 82 percent of the fights in his MMA career. Sonnen made him look human before getting caught in an arm bar to lose the fight by submission. The former Oregon wrestler still believes he’s the best fighter in the middleweight division and accuses other fighters of being scared of Silva.
“I never called Dana and told him I wanted a title shot,” Sonnen said when complaining about other middleweights “begging” to fight Silva. “I told him I wanted the title and that’s the big difference.”
Stann, a considerable underdog in the fight against Sonnen, agrees that other middleweights give Silva too much respect when they enter the octagon and don’t always put on their best performance. But he doesn’t think that he’s one of those middleweights, because his Marine Corps background makes him one of the most mentally tough fighters in the UFC.
“There’s only one thing in the world I’m afraid of,” said Stann. “And that’s something happening to my wife and my children.”
If anyone can beat Silva, it’s Stann.
A win on Saturday is a must for either fighter to get a chance at taking the belt that’s been around Silva’s waist since 2006. The middleweight contenders are both extremely confident that they’ll pick up the win on Saturday, but Stann sees a difference in where his confidence comes from.
The “All-American” believes Sonnen goes into the octagon thinking like a star athlete who is used to having success. Stann said he has the mindset of a “warrior” -- a word that’s often overused in sports, but has an entirely different meaning to the Iraq War veteran.
Although the fight between Stann and Sonnen is only a three-round, non-championship bout, the man with the best chance to dethrone Silva will be inside the octagon on Saturday.
“Chael is one of the best in the weight in the world and I’m one of the best in the weight in the world,” Stann said of the matchup.
If anyone can beat Anderson Silva, it’s …
-- Stephen Boyle