For Chael Sonnen fans, the buildup to UFC 159 has served as a change of pace.
Sonnen’s interviews ahead of his clash with Jon Jones have been starkly different than in his previous title tries, which notably featured some of Sonnen’s most famous pre-fight banter. Although Sonnen and Jones initially traded verbal taunts when the fight was first booked back in October, Sonnen’s opinion of the champion changed during their stint as coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 17.”
Nevertheless, Sonnen believes that their cordial relationship on the show will have no effect on his intensity in the cage.
“I had [Jones] wrong. He’s a good, nice, decent person. That was refreshing, and good for him, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference [about] what I’m going to do to him on Saturday,” Sonnen recently said during a UFC 159 media scrum. “There can be only one champion. I’m coming for his belt, and he’s going to have to defend himself.”
In Jones, Sonnen faces arguably the toughest test of his career, which includes two unsuccessful middleweight title bids against Anderson Silva. Jones has tasted defeat just once in his five years as a professional, when he was controversially disqualified in a fight he was dominating against Matt Hamill. Since that time, Jones has taken out five former UFC light heavyweight champions, capturing the title from Mauricio Rua and defending it successfully against Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort.
“I think Jon is the best, but I think I’m better. I think he’s great, but I think I’m greater,” Sonnen said. “He’s had a good run. He’s got a lot of skills, and he’s got an interesting style, but I’m a whole other deal. I’ve never lost a round, ever. I’ve never had a fight where a round has gone against me, and that’s going to be a lot for Jon to deal with.”
In Sonnen, Jones must face a 40-fight pro and former Olympic wrestling alternate who has defeated the likes of Michael Bisping, Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami. In spite of his foe’s credentials, Jones believes that Sonnen’s typical fight strategy of grounding and controlling his opponents will prove less than effective when the men do battle Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“He has been fighting the same exact style for so long,” said Jones. “When he shoots, his head goes to the same side. When he grounds and pounds, he uses it to pass guard to the same side. He does the same submissions. It’s all been the same for years. I don’t understand how he’s been so successful with it. I’m just not going to allow it to happen to me. I know what he has.”