The sophomore edition of UFC on FOX just got a lot more interesting for those who like their fighting to be complemented by a bit of verbal sizzle.
The sad news that "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" and Inside Fights’ personal pick to challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title, Mark Munoz, was out of his Jan. 28 UFC on FOX 2 fight against Chael Sonnen due to an arm injury paved the way for a fight between two larger-than-life characters now that Sonnen will take on British middleweight contender Michael Bisping.
In the Star Spangled Banner corner is Sonnen. The former amateur wrestling standout has for the past 18 months embraced the motormouth role he was prepared to unleash on the world as a pro wrestler in 2001. He made a name for himself with hilariously vicious barbs at Anderson Silva and his Black House teammates.
The effectiveness of Sonnen’s trash talking in recent months has been undermined by his lapses into incoherence, not the least of which was his current "angle" of promising that — should he win next Saturday — he won’t be fighting Silva, but would instead challenge a different champion at a new weight class. Given how close Sonnen came to upsetting the hitherto untouchable middleweight champion in their first bout in August 2010, those treats seem silly. A rematch between Sonnen and Silva is more than enough to get any fight fan interested.
In the Union Jack corner is Sonnen’s new opponent, Michael "The Count" Bisping. Originally scheduled to face Demian Maia in the No. 3 bout at UFC on FOX 2, Bisping now moves up to the co-main event slot vacated by Munoz.
Over the past year, Bisping has cemented himself as one of the more hated fighters in the Octagon. A convincing victory over Jorge Rivera last February was marred by Bisping nearly knocking out the underdog with an illegal knee, then after the victory berating Rivera’s corner while spitting in their direction. Despite being levied a hefty fine, any lingering unhappiness didn’t stop UFC management from making Bisping a coach on "The Ultimate Fighter 14," where as the bad guy foil to the ever-likeable Jason "Mayhem" Miller, he proved to be a more effective television draw than Brock Lesnar or current heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. He would go on to overwhelm Miller in one of the more one-sided main events in UFC history.
An intriguing irony is that the original pick to be Bisping’s rival on "The Ultimate Fighter" was actually none other than Chael Sonnen himself. However, Sonnen’s dispute with Nevada State Athletic Commission director Keith Kizer, and his suspension by their colleagues in California for testing positive for testosterone after his fight against Silva, prevented that from happening. Sonnen also had to deal with legal issues, having pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges stemming from a real estate deal, after which Sonnen had his real estate license in his home state of Oregon revoked.
But now we know the matchup between the two most controversial fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division was only postponed rather than delayed. Already they’ve started going at it on Twitter, with Bisping saying of his new opponent, "He’s been kicked out of politics, kicked out of real estate and I am going to kick him out of the middleweight division."
Sonnen said, "I am going to knock the teeth out of this snot-nosed Brit who calls himself royalty, who calls himself a Count. I am MMA royalty and America will tune into the Chael Sonnen Show next Saturday on FOX."
On Jan. 28, we’ll find out which fighter can provide the action to back up his big talk.