I first started paying attention to Chael Sonnen when he fought Paulo Filho in the WEC. At the time, Filho was considered one of the top prospects and was undefeated going into that fight; he was supposed to be the future. Unfortunately for him, he ran into Sonnen, not once, but twice. It wouldn't be until the second time around when Sonnen officially handed him his first loss. In the first fight, however, Sonnen held his own until he got caught in a submission in the second round. Sound familiar?
After the fight, Sonnen gave the infamous quote, "I didn't tap," which made for a good laugh for awhile. That being said, he was winning that fight, in my opinion, and I was excited to see more from him. I've always been interested in looking for new challengers that Anderson Silva might face in the future. Even back then, Sonnen seemed like he could be a legitimate contender at some point. He was a good wrestler with a good chin; two things you need against Silva.
Following his loss to Filho, Sonnen went on to fight Bryan Baker, winning a unanimous decision. Believe it or not, he actually complimented Baker after the fight, not yet known as the American Gangsta he's become today. It was after that when he got his rematch with Filho, winning a unanimous decision. Shortly afterwards, the WEC was bought out by Zuffa, and Sonnen made his return to the UFC. He seemed like he would be a top contender for Silva after his win against Filho, but in his first fight back, he was submitted by Demian Maia in the first round, and just like that, the little hype he did have was gone in an instant.
Sonnen returned to fight Dan Miller on short notice, winning a unanimous decision. From there, he pushed forward and defeated top contenders Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, finally earning his title shot against Silva. They say the best way to get known is to beat a giant, and there's no bigger giant in the UFC than Anderson Silva. Not letting this opportunity to become a household name pass him by, Sonnen stepped up the trash talk, bashing the champion at every turn.
Maybe Sonnen has always been like this, but never had the platform to express his true self, or maybe he saw an opportunity and seized it in order to sell the pay-per-view. Whatever the case may be, it worked. On top of that, Sonnen also stepped in the ring and backed it up, at least for the first 4 1/2 rounds. He nearly won the fight, dominating it in fact, before once again being caught in a submission, which has always been his Achilles heel when you consider that of his 11 losses, 8 of them are by submission.
After the fight, Sonnen was suspended due to an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) ratio level, and it was later discovered that Silva fought with an injury. Was Sonnen simply lucky to catch Silva on an off night? Can he do it again against an healthy and angry Silva? We'll soon find out later tonight.