Dana White’s announcement that Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen would fight in the TUF 17 finale main event wasn’t met with the warmest of receptions. Everyone, beginning with UFC stars and ending with pundits who cover the sport, absolutely destroyed the decision – noting that it threw the process by which title contenders are determined into serious question.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that this move was necessary because of Jones’ injury, it was also a little odd to see the way folks were disparaging Sonnen. Did his mouth land him this bout? Sure. No doubt about it. Could Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida make more reasonable claims to be next in line for a fight against Jones? Probably.
But Sonnen isn’t exactly chopped liver, either. He might be coming off a loss, but that loss came against arguably the greatest of all time. And it's worth noting, by the way, that he got as close to beating Anderson Silva as anyone has in recent memory. Frankly, he deserves a shot at Jones a lot more than Stephen Bonnar deserved a shot at Silva.
Part of the reason that Sonnen has been so universally disrespected up to this point is probably because Jones set the standard following UFC 151’s cancellation. He absolutely killed Sonnen’s credibility for weeks, and a lot of people picked up on that.
Recently, Jones’ striking coach Mike Winkeljohn sat down with Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show and acknowledged that their next opponent does bring certain positive attributes to the table (via Sherdog):
“He’s relentless. Pressure. He’s always going to be on you. He’s a smart guy. It’s that pressure, that pressure he comes to the table with. If the Chael Sonnen shows up that is relentless, it makes it a much harder fight. If it’s the Chael Sonnen that has shown up in a few other fights we’ve watched, it could be an easy fight. It just depends which Chael Sonnen shows up. How aggressive, how strong he is.”
All that said, Winkeljohn was careful to balance out the Sonnen praise with some kind words for his own guy.
“It’s time to develop new tools, and that’s what Jon’s done since he’s come into camp. I’m real blessed that this young man listens. He went from being mostly a wrestler to now he’s turning over to become a great striker in the division. He’s almost there. He’s almost at that Anderson Silva place where he’s going to start getting those one-punch, one-kick knockouts. Just wait. You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Jones and Sonnen will square off on Apr. 27 of next year.