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Despite legal issues, Sonnen scheduled to fight Akiyama at UFC 128

Chael Sonnen photo by Mark J. Rebilas/ESPN.com

Despite his recent guilty plea on a federal money laudering charge and a six-month suspension for failing a UFC 117 post-fight drug test, middleweight Chael Sonnen will likely be back in action at UFC 128 on March 19 in Newark, N.J., taking on Yoshihiro Akiyama, according to MMAJunkie.com.

Sonnen hasn’t fought since UFC 117, when he beat up middleweight champ Anderson Silva for four-and-a-half rounds before succumbing to a fight-ending triangle choke.

As for Akiyama, he’s riding a two-fight losing streak after winning his UFC debut. Last time out at UFC 120, Akiyama suffered a unanimous decision loss to Michael Bisping, and before that he lost via third round submission to Chris Leben at UFC 116 in one of the more exciting fights in 2010.

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Now that we have the news bases covered, should Sonnen even get a fight, at least this soon, after the hot water he’s been in?

True, he’s served his time for the drug test suspension. The entire hearing seemed strange and I don’t get that anyone on either side had a full grasp on all of the facts, but he served his punishment with the system that’s currently in place. Nevertheless, with Sonnen pleading guilty to a felony just months after the steroids/testosterone replacement therapy/hypogonadism discussion began, I’d think a timeout is in order. While I hate comparing MMA to other professional sports with all of the differences in the organizational structures, it’s hard to believe an athlete in the NFL, NBA, or MLB would jump right back into things so quickly.

And although he did an exemplary job with his over-the-top trash talk hyping up the UFC 117 bout with Silva, at some point enough is enough and you need to think about whether a fighter is hurting the sport’s image by trying too hard to act tough. Unless someone hacked poor Chael’s Twitter account again, slamming Wanderlei Silva by suggesting he’d be “sellin’ barbequed monkey on the street” or “thrashing around the jungle w/ a blowgun trying to catch breakfast” in his native Brazil  crossed the line. When you put all of these recent transgressions together, I have a hard time understanding why the UFC should reward Sonnen with another fight, and one that would take place less than two weeks before a federal court appearance to receive his sentencing.

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