Jon Jones silenced Chael Sonnen at UFC 159. | Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Chael Sonnen’s mouth wrote another check his body could not cash.
In his third failed attempt to capture Ultimate Fighting Championship gold, Sonnen withered in the face of the otherworldly talents of Jon Jones and succumbed to first-round punches and elbows from the light heavyweight champion in the UFC 159 main event on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. “Bones” buried Sonnen 4:33 into round one, equaling Tito Ortiz’s all-time record for consecutive title defenses by a light heavyweight with five.
Sonnen met the champion with his patented bulrush, only to be confronted by superior strength, talent and technique. Jones took down the onetime NCAA All-American three times in their brief encounter, as he bullied him in the clinch and on the ground before ultimately finishing his rival “Ultimate Fighter” coach with a brutal knee strike to the body and a volley of unanswered punches and elbows.
The champion did not leave the cage unscathed, however. Sometime during his scrap with Sonnen, Jones suffered a gruesome break to the big toe -- one of the bones protruded through the skin -- on his left foot. Had the fight waded into a second round, it seems almost certain that referee Keith Peterson would have noticed the injury, halted the match and awarded Sonnen the title.
As it stands, Jones recorded his ninth straight victory and made it clear that surging Swede Alexander Gustafsson was the man on his radar. The 26-year-old Alliance MMA representative was booked to face Gegard Mousasi in the UFC on Fuel TV 9 headliner on April 6 before a cut sustained late in training camp led to his withdrawal. Gustafsson has won his last six bouts, including a unanimous decision over former champion Mauricio Rua -- the man Jones dethroned two years ago -- at UFC on Fox 5 in December.
Perhaps the more pressing questions following UFC 159 revolve around Sonnen’s future. Does he retire? If he fights on, does he remain at 205 pounds or return to the middleweight division, where the weight cut appears to be exacting an increasing toll on him? Should he elect to set up shop at light heavyweight, perhaps he could build interest in a showdown with the loser of the forthcoming rematch between Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 161 in June. Wanderlei Silva’s name has also been mentioned. No matter which direction Sonnen heads, the possibilities with him always seem endless.
In the wake of UFC 159 “Jones vs. Sonnen,” here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz-Tim Boetsch winner: Bisping overwhelmed Alan Belcher with volume striking and top-notch cardio, though his inadvertent eye poke resulted in a premature end to their co-main event. The 34-year-old Englishman has recorded six wins in his past eight appearances and remains very much a part of the top 10 pecking order at 185 pounds. Munoz and Boetsch will lock horns at UFC 162 on July 6 in Las Vegas.
Alan Belcher vs. Ronaldo Souza-Costas Philippou loser: Belcher looked out of sorts against Bisping, repeatedly beaten to the punch by “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner. The 29-year-old Jonesboro, Ark., native has followed a four-fight winning streak with back-to-back losses, failing to make a significant move in a top-heavy division. Souza and Philippou will collide in a middleweight showcase at UFC on FX 8 on May 18 in Brazil.
Roy Nelson vs. Daniel Cormier: Nelson wiped out French kickboxer Cheick Kongo with his trademark overhand right a little more than two minutes into their heavyweight clash. The portly 36-year-old Las Vegan has become something of a cult hero since entering the UFC via Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2010. Behind the beard and belly hides a terrific mixed martial artist with well-rounded skills and an unshakable chin. Cormier, a two-time Olympian who has hinted at a possible move to 205 pounds, made his promotional debut at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20, coasting to a unanimous decision over former champion Frank Mir.
Phil Davis vs. Glover Teixeira-James Te Huna winner: They call him “Mr. Wonderful” for a reason. Davis put his vastly improved standup skills on display in capturing a unanimous verdict from 2011 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Vinny Magalhaes. According to FightMetric figures, the former NCAA wrestling champion out-landed Magalhaes by a staggering 79-29 clip in terms of significant strikes. Teixeira and Te Huna will toe the line against one another at UFC 160 on May 25 in Las Vegas.
Pat Healy vs. Donald Cerrone: Perhaps no man gained more at UFC 159 than Healy. Once labeled a journeyman, the 29-year-old cemented his place as one of the sport’s top lightweights with a stunning third-round submission of AMA Fight Club standout Jim Miller. Healy has won seven fights in a row since a June 2010 loss to Josh Thomson in Strikeforce. Cerrone would become a logical next step for “Bam Bam” if he can get past the deft hands of former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons at UFC 160 next month.