Chael Sonnen defied the odds, surprising many at Bellator 192 on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
The opening round of the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix served as Bellator 192’s main event Saturday. In it, Chael Sonnen moved up to heavyweight to face Quintin ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Like Sonnen in recent years, Rampage is better known as a light heavyweight, and is not a natural heavyweight. That said, he’s always been a big 205lb’er, and had been creeping up into the weight class in recent fights.
At The Forum in Los Angele Saturday, the pair collided, with the winner set to face the victor of Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir later this year. Sonnen entered the night off a win over Wanderlei Silva at Bellator NYC last June, while Jackson had a five-fight win streak snapped last March when he dropped a decision to King Mo in a rematch of their Bellator 120 bout.
With a scheduled three rounds, could the wrestler Sonnen overcome the powerful Rampage?
Sonnen opened with a left, and threw out a leg kick for good measure, then a kick to Rampage’s thigh. Chael stayed light on his feet, and mixed up his striking, going to the body with a punch, and continuing to touch Rampage’s legs with kicks. After a minute no takedown had been attempted. Chael landed an overhand left more than once, though it didn’t seem to bother the bigger man much. Chael then ate a counter, to the roar of the crowd. Chael took it well, however, and continued to slip the majority of Jackson’s strikes. Finally clinching, Jackson quickly reversed, Chael looked back in control, but Rampage dumped him on his back with the crowd cheering. Jackson then waved him back to his feet. Sonnen was still connecting with the left, and you’d have to wonder whether Rampage should have got on top for ground and pound.
Chael next tried a bit of a jumping knee. Then another left. In an exchange, another to the side of Rampage’s head. Of course, the threat of a Rampage Jackson knockout was ever-present. Chael then scored an uppercut, a takedown, and quickly took Jackson’s back. He looked for the rear-naked choke, but Rampage turned in and escaped. Still, a surprisingly effective approach on the feet for Chael Sonnen.
In the second stanza, Chael Sonnen went for a takedown early, but it wasn’t to be had. Chael broke out a foot stomp, while Jackson worked in some short punches. Staying on Jackson, Chael finally dragged him to the canvas. From there, he worked his way to half guard. While the crowd wasn’t pleased, he did just enough to prevent the standup, working for a kimura. Jackson threw some elbows from the bottom, but simply didn’t have the angle for them to be effective. Sonnen would attempt a second kimura attempt, still in half guard. In the end, he’d ride out the round on top, and was likely up two rounds to none.
The third round saw a visibly tired Rampage and Sonnen tie up along the fence. Jackson worked in some shots to the ribs, getting more aggressive the more he landed. Sonnen was wrapping his arms around Jackson’s head, which exposed his ribs and midsection. Chael had a single overhook, and was able to clasp his hands around Rampage. However, the ref restarted the action, which played more into Jackson’s favor. Jackson went head hunting, stalking ‘The American Gangster.’ He then waved Sonnen forward, and later turned his back on his opponent to goad him in. Jackson continued to rip the body when Chael was in range, but more often than not, he wasn’t in range. With a minute to go in the round and Rampage Jackson in desperate need of a finish, it was Sonnen taking the former UFC champion down. He couldn’t do much, but a last minute stand-up really didn’t matter.
With Rampage negated on the feet early and controlled in the second, his last-minute flurry in the third was too little, too late. Shocking many, it was Chael P. Sonnen with his hand raised to open the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix 2018.
“Frank Mir, Fedor Emelianenko, none of you are the best, but one of you is next” Sonnen quipped after the fight.
Chael Sonnen def. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)