5 Rounds: How will Chael Sonnen be remembered?

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Chael Sonnen introduced his retirement from combined martial arts on Friday evening at Madison Sq. Backyard in New York Metropolis. The Bellator mild heavyweight and former UFC middleweight title challenger made his choice within the cage after his second-round TKO loss to Lyoto Machida at Bellator 222. After the consequence was shared, he laid his gloves on the mat.

“I am strolling out.” he advised the cheering crowd.

Sonnen, 42 and an ESPN MMA analyst, completed his profession 31-17-1.

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim gave their tackle “The American Gangster’s” choice, in addition to different high storylines that got here out of Bellator 222.

What is going to you keep in mind most from Chael Sonnen’s profession?

Okamoto: This shouldn’t be a straightforward query to reply. Sonnen’s legacy is an advanced one. In some ways, he was every thing we love in regards to the sport. He was powerful and as near fearless as most likely exists. He went up in opposition to the most effective fighters of his era and by no means took a step backward. He was at all times prepared to exit on his protect and was nice at explaining why. He additionally cheated. And as nice because it was to see him take duty for that, he should not get a cross for it.

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However that mentioned, that is a straightforward query to reply. I’ll keep in mind Sonnen focusing on Anderson Silva round 2010, launching a one-sided disagreement that modified his (and Silva’s) profession without end. Sonnen himself, on Friday, admitted he most likely performed a task within the “leisure” period to which the game transitioned. He modified the sport in that manner, however he nonetheless was old-school at coronary heart. He talked an excellent recreation, however his motives had been nonetheless so simple as being the most effective. I am going to keep in mind Sonnen as an athlete I used to be genuinely fortunate to cowl.

Raimondi: Sonnen might speak butts into seats higher than simply about anybody in MMA historical past, other than Conor McGregor. Sonnen was by no means the most effective fighter on the planet in his weight class, however he wasn’t far off — and he made you consider he might win. He made Anderson Silva a real pay-per-view draw by being the heel “The Spider” wanted. Sonnen even talked himself right into a title battle with Jon Jones in a weight class up coming off a loss. MMA is an leisure sport, and Sonnen was probably the greatest entertainers to ever do it.

Wagenheim: Chael positive might speak. He poured the muse on which Conor McGregor constructed Fort Knox, his piercing manner with phrases usually imitated however seldom matched. However I am going to depart the poet laureate reward to others. The Sonnen that I am going to at all times keep in mind is the one who directly shattered the invincibility mystique of Anderson Silva and in addition elevated the legend of “the Spider,” impossibly dominating the Brazilian champion for a great 23 minutes earlier than succumbing to a last-ditch Silva submission. Sonnen at all times had extra battle in him that what we’d have anticipated; he was a superb wrestler who was greater than a wrestler, a artistic talker who made himself bigger than life not simply together with his phrases however by backing them up.

Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Darrion Caldwell on Friday evening at Madison Sq. Backyard in New York to turn out to be a champion in each Bellator and Rizin. Lucas Noonan/Bellator

Ought to Bellator remorse the choice to advertise with Rizin?

Okamoto: The plain response right here is: most likely? The promotion has now, actually, misplaced management of its personal bantamweight title. No matter no matter circumstances went behind that, it may’t be seen as a great factor. Belts are promotional instruments. Now, Bellator is down one.

However upon nearer inspection, I do not suppose Bellator goes to lose an excessive amount of sleep over this. If we’re being sincere, its bantamweight championship did not maintain a lot worth entering into to Friday. Darrion Caldwell by no means actually popped with Bellator followers, in actual fact, he hadn’t even defended the belt since March 2018. Prior to those two fights with Kyoji Horiguchi, he had moved as much as a non-title 145-pound battle. And nobody actually observed (or cared) he wasn’t defending his title.

This new state of affairs is exclusive. And fascinating. It is immediately extra intriguing than Caldwell’s title run, even when Horiguchi is barely anticipated to defend every year. Hey, Horiguchi is legitimately probably the greatest bantamweights on the planet. And now, he is a Bellator champion. Even when the connection between fighter and promoter is a non-traditional one, it is not horrible for Bellator.

Raimondi: By no means, and I think there can be extra to return this yr, with each firms reaping the advantages. Kyoji Horiguchi is now the Bellator and Rizin bantamweight champion. And that is type of enjoyable and funky. The Japanese star is required to defend the Bellator belt at the least every year. Friday wasn’t a complete loss for Bellator, both. Lindsey VanZandt choked out Rizin star Rena Kubota and may emerge as a diamond within the tough. Search for a Rizin fighter to be in Bellator’s upcoming featherweight grand prix and a Bellator fighter to go to Japan for Rizin’s light-weight event.

Wagenheim: What a neat plotline it could have been if the Rizin man gained in Japan, that promotion’s house base, and the Bellator man gained on that firm’s turf in New York. However MMA does not play out like WWE. Sports activities retains it actual. And what extra can we ask? Properly, OK, we will ask to be entertained, and Kyoji Horiguchi’s second win over Darrion Caldwell wasn’t precisely a thrill a minute — there was barely a thrill, in actual fact, for the entire 25 minutes. However that by no means besmirches the Bellator-Rizin partnership, and this is hoping their cooperation is an indication of issues to return. Who aside from Caldwell actually cares that Rizin is 2-Zero, Bellator Zero-2? This association has breathed some life into each firms.

Douglas Lima will tackle Rory MacDonald within the finals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix. Lucas Noonan/Bellator

Okamoto: I believed MacDonald regarded completely good on Friday, however I am unsure he regarded just like the Rory MacDonald. I’m prepared to confess I could be making that up in my head, based mostly on all of the issues MacDonald mentioned after his final battle in opposition to Jon Fitch. However I do not know if I felt the identical killer intuition I’ve lengthy related to MacDonald. The results of the choice was by no means doubtful, however he now could be on a path towards Lima once more. And any lack of killer intuition can get you harm in opposition to Lima proper now. MacDonald is so good, he is gonna win greater than he loses, even when his thoughts is not the place it must be. However as of proper now, as we speak, I am choosing Lima within the Grand Prix finals.

Raimondi: The one factor we actually realized tonight is that this: Rory MacDonald had sufficient to beat Neiman Gracie by unanimous choice. The Canadian fighter edged out Gracie in nearly each spherical in a technical, workmanlike efficiency. MacDonald was stable, if not spectacular. He’ll want extra to beat a killer like Lima, particularly contemplating his post-fight feedback about his draw with Jon Fitch two months in the past. MacDonald would most likely profit from a while off proper now, however most likely will not get an prolonged break with the grand prix closing seemingly within the fall.

Wagenheim: MacDonald regarded higher on Friday evening than he did in his final outing, however he nonetheless didn’t seem like the fighter who gained a unanimous choice over Lima in January 2018. He will should step up his vitality stage to duplicate that victory, particularly with Lima on a mission to recapture the belt MacDonald took away from him. Does MacDonald nonetheless have it in him? It is unimaginable to measure a fighter’s coronary heart, however I’ve my doubts that the sequel will comply with the identical storyline.

Who’s most in charge for Aaron Pico’s Four-Three document?

Okamoto: This reply could be very, quite simple. It is Scott Coker. And I say that respectfully. There are usually not many figures within the historical past of the game who’ve proven extra dedication over an extended time frame than Coker. However he messed this up. And he ought to have identified higher.

Pico was probably the greatest 20-year-old wrestlers on the planet when he made his MMA debut. He additionally had flashed great potential in boxing. However he had no expertise in MMA. He did not (and nonetheless type of does not) know what he is doing. Sure, he wished to face powerful competitors and his administration agreed. In that state of affairs, Coker, together with his stage of expertise in selling fight sports activities, ought to have been the voice of motive. You anticipate the fighter himself, and maybe the individuals in his nook, to get carried away. Coker ought to have tempered that. And pairing Pico, in his first battle, in opposition to a much bigger, taller veteran like Zach Freeman, who had six years of expertise on the time, was ill-advised.

After which, they did not study from it. This final one, having Pico face a harmful, undefeated prospect like Adam Borics … when he is coming off a brutal knockout loss lower than 5 months in the past…why? Look, I am not asking for Pico to battle cans, however actually? His document is now Four-Three. His opponents’ mixed data is 104-23. Pico holds duty in what’s occurred too. He has made errors. However Bellator has mishandled his profession to date. Badly.

Raimondi: There’s blame to unfold round right here. Bellator’s matchmaking undoubtedly deserves criticism. Possibly not for all of these three losses, however undoubtedly this one. Pico was knocked clear out in January by Henry Corrales. Then, 5 months later, he will get pitted in opposition to Borics, a legit undefeated prospect with energy. Pico is ridiculously gifted and has violent, highlight-reel knockouts. However he hasn’t been capable of put it collectively in opposition to higher-caliber competitors. This could have been a tune-up battle for the blue-chipper going right into a attainable Bellator World Featherweight Grand Prix berth.

Wagenheim: Aaron Pico was positioned at simply in regards to the good spot on the battle card: the eighth bout of the evening, with 10 extra to return. That is the place a prospect belongs. The place he does not belong is standing throughout the cage from an undefeated opponent with a dozen fights underneath his belt. Pico did not take a look at all overmatched in opposition to Adam Borics, although, simply as he hadn’t regarded overmatched again in January in opposition to Henry Corrales, a veteran who got here in at 16-Three. Pico was main the dance in each fights … till the music stopped instantly and violently. That is what occurs in high-level preventing. The ebb and circulation could be going your manner, and in case you accept treading water, you are going to drown. Overconfidence throws warning to the wind — simply as Bellator threw warning — and its younger prospect — to the wolves. Did the promotion merely run out of persistence after signing Pico manner again in 2014 and holding off on placing him within the cage till three years later?



Adam Borics knocks out Aaron Pico with a flying knee within the second spherical of the Bellator 222 prelims.

A number of high Bellator prospects impressed on Friday evening. Who stood out essentially the most?

Okamoto: Adam Borics. Cause being, I consider Borics most likely fought the most effective model of Pico on Friday. This was Pico’s first camp with Greg Jackson and it was simple to see the modifications they labored on. Pico was prepared to make use of his greatest attribute — wrestling — and had Borics been overwhelmed by it, few would have been shocked. However he rose to the event. A typical thought was that when Pico realized to make use of his wrestling in an MMA battle, he can be that a lot more durable to beat. Properly, Borics had one thing to say about that.

Raimondi: Just a few months in the past, I tweeted a listing of attainable names for the upcoming Bellator featherweight grand prix. I used to be promptly accosted by coaching companions of Adam Borics at Laborious Knocks 365. How might I depart him off the potential checklist? They had been proper. Borics weathered Aaron Pico’s wrestling Friday evening and knocked him out with a flying knee within the second spherical. Unimaginable coming-out celebration. The Hungarian fighter is legit.

Wagenheim: Patrick Combine did not placed on a lot of a present — when it comes to its size. He wanted simply 66 seconds to complete Ricky Bandejas and run his document to 11-Zero. What an environment friendly efficiency. He was in management and threatening a end proper from the beginning. And the 25-year-old saved doing work even after getting the faucet, calling out the talkative Irishman James Gallagher, the type of opponent who can promote a battle and, in case you beat him, look good on the resume. That is a great evening’s work.



Within the closing seconds of Spherical 2, Juan Archuleta has his again in opposition to the cage and lands an overhand proper that knocks out Eduardo Dantas.



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