It’s almost unfair to write about the light-heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen from last night’s UFC 159 right now, since we won’t know whether or not this fight delivered what it was supposed to for a long time. I’m not writing about the way that Jon Jones effortlessly defeated Chael Sonnen; we knew Sonnen was absolutely no threat to the light-heavyweight kingpin. I’m not writing about how Jones completely ignored his vastly superior striking and ridiculous reach advantage in order defeat “the gangster from West Linn” by impersonating him; we sort-of predicted that Jones would clown his way through this fight. We knew that the main event was going to deliver a lopsided beat-down. It’s yet to be seen how – or even if – the marketability of Jon Jones will benefit as a result.
That being said, it’s hard to expect the superfight we never asked for to have much of an effect on the way that fans perceive Jones. I didn’t think it was possible to feel as apathetic about a first round knockout as I felt after last night’s main event. Judging by the comments I’ve read on our liveblog, I’m hardly alone here. When it was over, the match felt more like a bad professional wrestling storyline than a UFC pay-per-view main event, and the outcome felt just as forced.
It’s common in professional wrestling to take an extremely talented, yet laughably uncharismatic grappler who struggles to connect with the fans, match him up against a natural heel with the gift of the gab and have the heel irritate fans with his outlandish behavior to the point that they’ll cheer on his opponents by default. This is done under the assumption that when the champion defeats the heel, he’ll reach a new level of respect among the fans. The thing is, this tactic only works when the guy annoying everyone is actually perceived as a legitimate threat to the champion. Chael Sonnen – an aging middleweight also-ran coming off of a loss in his last fight - never had this going for him; something that even the UFC seemed to openly acknowledge. As we saw last night, when the challenger is more of a nuisance than a contender, it’s hard to feel too enthusiastic about the champion’s victory.
Speaking of “things that felt forced,” Dana White seemed to imply during the post-event press conference that Anderson Silva called him requesting Jon Jones as a future opponent. Before you get too excited, remember two things. Number one, that Dana White never actually gave the name of the fighter who Anderson Silva requested. And number two, that Jon Jones has already explained why this fight will never happen.
For what it’s worth, Jones suggested Alexander Gustafsson should be his next opponent, but since Jones is out indefinitely due to the broken toe that he suffered last night, we’ll have to wait and see.
And as for Chael Sonnen? How serious he is about retirement will probably depend on whether or not he can talk his way into another high-profile bout. If he can line one up, then don’t be surprised to see him back in the cage. If not, he may very well decide to hang up the gloves for good. Immediate announcements of retirement after a loss in this sport are rarely permanent. I doubt that will change when someone as unpredictable as Chael Sonnen is involved.