Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it.
Love him or loathe him, Chael Sonnen has carved out a unique place in mixed martial arts history. Hands down one of the greatest trash talkers to ever grace the sport, he has often backed up his bluster with results inside the cage or ring.
Sonnen was an NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon before he transitioned to MMA, where his grappling skills made for a natural fit. He captured a few regional titles before signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2005. The Milwaukie, Oregon, native went 1-2 in his first stint with the promotion and then moved on to Bodog Fight and Sportfight before settling back in to World Extreme Cagefighting. Sonnen returned to the UFC in 2009 and later took aim at reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The two rivals met for the first time at UFC 117, where Sonnen dominated “The Spider” for 20-plus minutes before submitting to a fifth-round triangle choke. He lost his rematch with Silva in far more decisive fashion and then challenged Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 159 on April 27, 2013. Jones stopped Sonnen with punches in a little more than four minutes.
Though far from perfect -- a fact to which his 29-15-1 career record can attest -- Sonnen has fought a who’s who of all-time greats and former champions. Wins over Mauricio Rua, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami, Paulo Filho and Renato Sobral highlight his resume, which has long been overshadowed by his antics. The 39-year-old made an unsuccessful return from a three-year layoff at Bellator 170 on Jan. 21, submitting to a first-round rear-naked choke from the retiring Tito Ortiz.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Chris Leben, Matt Lindland, Paige VanZant, Nate Quarry, Pat Healy, Mike Pierce, Ed Herman