LOS ANGELES — Chael Sonnen has not been known for taking a beating on the feet over his 20 years as an MMA fighter. Sonnen has never really been knocked out cold. And until his fight with Wanderlei Silva at Bellator NYC in June, “The American Gangster” had not been dropped.
Quinton Jackson, on the other hand, is known for his one-punch knockout power. It has made him one of the most popular fighters to ever grace the MMA cage. Sonnen and “Rampage” will meet in the first round of the Bellator heavyweight title tournament at Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 in Inglewood, Calif.
“That’s the biggest thing, if you were to say what worries me most,” Sonnen said. “I have never been knocked out in my career. I had never even been knocked down. In my last fight, I got knocked down by Wanderlei. It was a very scary feeling, because I had no control.”
Sonnen, 40, always had somewhat of an advantage on the feet because of his dominant wrestling ability. Opponents couldn’t plant their feet and throw hard without the fear of getting sent to the canvas with a double-leg takedown. Sonnen (30-15-1) even got the better of Anderson Silva in striking in their first fight back in 2010, mostly because of the threat of the action going to the ground.
“Rampage” has said publicly many times that he doesn’t like fighting wrestlers, that he prefers a fight where both men can let their hands go. Jackson even said before the first-round matchups were announced that he specifically didn’t want to fight Sonnen. As far as that goes, Sonnen is not sure if he buys it.
“You never know when those veterans say stuff like that,” Sonnen said. “They could be hustling. ‘Aw, you’re really good at those takedowns.’ You never know. He said he doesn’t want to fight wrestlers, well he beat Matt Lindland, who’s one of my coaches. He beat Dan Henderson, that’s one of the guys I looked up to. Those guys were pretty good wrestlers. He knocked out Kevin Randleman. These guys were pretty good wrestlers. I don’t quite know where this ‘Rampage’-doesn’t-like-wrestlers thing comes from. I know he’s working that angle, but I don’t know, man. I’m not falling asleep on this guy. He’s been around too long.”
What “The Bad Guy” does know is that “Rampage” backs a heck of a punch. He has 16 career knockouts and has finished the likes of Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Randleman and Marvin Eastman with his hands.
The size difference Jan. 20 will also be vast. Sonnen, who has fought mostly at middleweight in his career, said he expects to be under 220 pounds for the fight. Jackson has said he’s walking around somewhere around 260.
“His power worries me,” Sonnen said. “Boom, that uppercut. Boom, that hook. He’s a mean guy. Even when he looks like he’s not in shape, I’ve never seen the guy quit. If I could just find some video of him on Twitter somewhere [quitting], I’d feel better about it. He doesn’t quit and he’s gonna punch hard. I don’t know if he’ll prepare as properly as I will, but he competes really well. He’s gonna show up and if I’m gonna beat him I have to stay on top of him for 15 minutes. Because sooner or later, he’s gonna land one of those shots.”