Former three-time title challenger Chael Sonnen can’t get behind giving Israel Adesanya another crack at reclaiming the middleweight title after surrendering it in shocking fashion to Sean Strickland at UFC 293.
By now, the dust has settled and fans are beginning to accept the idea that Israel Adesanya’s time at the top of the 185-pound division is over. With his second title loss in less than a year and a loaded roster of top-ten talent fighting for their own opportunity at gold, an immediate rematch feels completely unnecessary. Especially when you consider the dominant fashion in which Sean Strickland dethroned ‘The Last Stylebender’ in The Land Down Under.
Appearing on The Schaub Show with former UFC heavyweight standout Brendan Schaub, Chael Sonnen addressed the notion of an immediate rematch, suggesting that there are certain fights where it certainly makes sense, but in the case of Strickland vs. Adesanya, it’s a pretty hard sell.
“Generally when we do immediate rematches, somebody got caught,” Sonnen said. “I would argue that Aljo got caught. Aljo had one completed round and he won that round. He takes one shot and goes down. A lot of those are the ones we go, ‘Hey, we got to see that again.’ This was so dominant, not to mention in the realm and Izzy didn’t handle this like any former champion.
“I mean, they all come out with the same story. ‘Oh, my hand was broken. I went through camp anyway. I didn’t want to let you fans down.’ It’s the same story every time. Izzy didn’t tell that story. He took it like a man. He said, ‘You know, we fought a fair fight, this guy won.’ I appreciated that side of it.”
Sonnen continued, “Anytime you do a rematch, you’re going to get asked the same question. And the answer doesn’t overly matter, you just have to have an answer, but what’s going to be different this time? And that is where it gets complicated. They fought the fight where Izzy wanted to fight it. There’s not going to be a make-believe interview where Izzy comes out and says, ‘I knew I should have taken him down. I know I should have pinned him up against the fence and dropped my elbows.’
“That’s where I think it gets a little bit tough as a selling feature. Nothing went wrong in that fight. Everything went perfect and for whatever reason, Sean Strickland was better at it than Izzy was.”
One minute of Sean Strickland piecing up Adesanya
— 🌴ᴛʜᴇᴀʀᴛᴏꜰᴡᴀʀ🌴 (@TheArtOfWar6) September 11, 2023
Chael Sonnen Believes Dricus Du Plessis’ Spot at No. 1 Contender is In Jeopardy Come UFC 294
With fans and the division seemingly ready to move on, many expect top-ranked contender Dricus Du Plessis to finally earn his shot at the middleweight title, but Chael Sonnen isn’t necessarily of that same opinion.
Du Plessis has seemingly fallen out of favor with UFC CEO Dana White after the South African declined to fight Adesanya at UFC 293 following his stunning second-round knockout of Robert Whittaker eight weeks prior. Still, Du Plessis has more than earned the opportunity, but in a few short weeks, two more middleweight contenders will take center stage in Abu Dhabi, potentially stealing any momentum ‘Stillknocks’ has built up for himself when it comes to scoring a UFC title fight.
“What do you do with Du Plessis? I know he’s sitting there thinking he’s the number one contender, but in a month we’re gonna have [Khamzat] Chimaev and Paulo Costa and they’re gonna steal a lot of thunder,” Sonnen said. “They’re going to get built up. I’m quite sure before that fight goes off, they’re going to announce that this is the number one contender’s match and it just feels like Du Plessis is going to need something to do and him fighting with Adesanya, not for a title, I love it.
“What’s the difference? If they have a problem with each other… They never said it was about the belt in the first place and they just want to fight, the fight still works.”
Du Plessis has already gone on record stating that his focus is 100% on becoming a world champion, no matter who holds the gold. But if Khamzat Chimaev or Paulo Costa deliver a show-stealing performance at UFC 294 next month, it’s possible that the UFC could nudge ‘Stillknocks’ off his perch at the top of the weight class.
Watch the full interview below: