Paulo Filho and Chael Sonnen square off in Flordia this Wednesday to decisively finish what they started nearly one year ago. Marred with controversy, their first bout ended prematurely in most eyes. After several scheduling attempts were derailed by Filho’s personal issues, these two middleweights will finally have their highly anticipated rematch.
The folding of the WEC’s 185 and 205 divisions removes any championship luster previously associated with this bout. There will be no future defenses for the winner and no road back to the title for the loser. For Filho and Sonnen it’s not about the belt, it’s about being the better fighter.
For the Filho, the incumbent champion, this rematch presents the opportunity to show fans and critics he still belongs at the top of the middleweight food chain. He can also silence questions about his mental state and fighting prowess. Was the first fight the result of an off night or just a display of Sonnen’s true talent? It will be fascinating to see how Filho performs coming off a stint in rehab for chemical dependency and depression.
The first round of their 2007 December bout was dominated by Sonnen. A costly mistake in the second round followed by a divisive verbal tap cost the Team Quest fighter the win. If he can prove that first round was no fluke and grab a victory over the champion, Sonnen’s stock within the middleweight ranks will soar to the top.
The victor will certainly have tons of momentum behind them going into the UFC in 2009. Filho will undoubtedly make a splash in the UFC regardless of the outcome; however, for Sonnen he may flirt with a title shot and score the most prevalent fights of his career if he comes out on top. Their resumes make the case that Sonnen surely has much more to gain from victory as a result of Filho’s vaulted status at 185.
Expect Paulo Filho and Chael Sonnen to step inside the cage aiming to conclude what they began last year. If nothing else, hopefully at least a clear cut winner will emerge and free both of these fighters from the controversy surrounding their first bout.
-Matt De La Rosa