Chael Sonnen recently went on MMAJunkie’s Legend 2 Legend podcast with Burt Watson and opened up about the mistake that he believes ultimately led to his 5th round submission loss against Anderson Silva back in 2010. At the time, Sonnen had recently moved over from WEC, where he was one of the promotion’s top talents at the higher weight-classes. After losing his debut against Demian Maia he went on a hot streak of three straight Unanimous Decision victories over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt. This was what led to him earning a title shot against Silva, a fight that very few fans gave him a chance of winning at the time.
This was thanks to Silva’s dominance of the Middleweight division where he’d already reigned as champion for nearly four years, in between equally dominant trips to Light-Heavyweight. It was almost a year to the day since Silva’s legendary knockout of Forrest Griffin and he was at the absolute height of his powers, where he seemed impossible to defeat. But something unthinkable happened when the cage door closed and Sonnen did absolutely everything he needed to dethrone the king. Silva ate more strikes in this fight than his first 11 UFC fights combined and every judge had the fight clearly in Sonnen’s favor heading into the fifth round with several 10-8s to put the scores at 40-36, 40-35 and 40-34.
When the fifth round began, all Chael Sonnen had to do was survive five minutes against Anderson Silva and he would be sleeping tight as the new UFC Middleweight Champion. Sonnen explains exactly why that was much harder than it sounds:
“OK, so that was my first time in the fifth round. I had been scheduled for two other fights that were five-round contests in the WEC, we never saw all five rounds, though. So it was my first time in the fifth round. The reason I bring that up is when you talk about running out of gas, I can tell you I was for sure very tired. Now, I don’t ever remember having a fight in my life where I left with any energy. I used it all, and I’m used to being tired. But this maybe was another level.”
Sonnen also explained that he and his coaching staff made a crucial error between the fourth and fifth rounds that effected the way the fight played out:
“I do remember one thing, which was in the fifth round – which I had never been to before – the corner had told me before the round that it was the fourth round, that we had two rounds to go,” Sonnen recalled. “And I only bring that up to you because I have often wondered would I have done something different if I knew there was only a minute left? A minute left and I’m gonna be the world champion as opposed to a whole other round. That isn’t an attempt to blame the corner, I’m just sharing a story with you about that specific moment.”
He also went into detail about exactly what happened in the dying seconds of the fight when he tapped:
“I did lose track of the rounds. I didn’t really know where I was and he hadn’t hit me that many times, but every time he hit me, it affected me. So between all of the chaos that goes on, I lost track of the rounds and it was a choke, it wasn’t an armbar that made me tap. I didn’t really know where I was. It’s one of these things that, when you start to go out, even if it’s for half a second, it could be five minutes. It’s kind of like when you go to sleep at night. Have I been asleep five hours? Have I been asleep five minutes? You have to look at a clock.
The full Legend 2 Legend episode can be found below: