Chael Sonnen has a pretty basic first step in his plan for victory over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in their opening-round bout of the Bellator heavyweight tournament, and it’s one I hope we all subscribe to: Don’t get punched in the face.
Easier said than done—Rampage has 16 victories by way of knockout or technical knockout in his career. He’ll also have about 40 pounds on Sonnen, who’s weighing in at roughly 220.
“His power worries me,” Sonnen said in advance of the Bellator 192 fight, which will take place in Inglewood, California, on January 20. “Boom, that uppercut. Boom, that hook. He’s a mean guy. Even when he looks like he’s not in shape, I’ve never seen the guy quit. If I could just find some video of him on Twitter somewhere [quitting], I’d feel better about it. He doesn’t quit and he’s gonna punch hard. I don’t know if he’ll prepare as properly as I will, but he competes really well.”
According to Sonnen, a beast on the ground, he’ll win if he can keep the fight on the mat.
“He’s gonna show up and if I’m gonna beat him I have to stay on top of him for 15 minutes. Because sooner or later, he’s gonna land one of those shots.”
Sonnen, 40, has never been knocked out in an MMA bout. It took 20 years as a fighter for him to experience even his first knockdown, which came at the hands of Wanderlei Silva in his most recent fight, at Bellator 180, in which “The American Gangster” still claimed victory.
“That’s the biggest thing, if you were to say what worries me most,” Sonnen said. “I have never been knocked out in my career. I had never even been knocked down. In my last fight, I got knocked down by Wanderlei. It was a very scary feeling, because I had no control.”
Rampage, 39, recently expressed disappointment in his fighting another wrestler, but Sonnen believes the former UFC heavyweight champ is being coy.
“You never know when those veterans say stuff like that,” Sonnen said. “They could be hustling. ‘Aw, you’re really good at those takedowns.’ You never know. He said he doesn’t want to fight wrestlers, well he beat Matt Lindland, who’s one of my coaches. He beat Dan Henderson, that’s one of the guys I looked up to. Those guys were pretty good wrestlers. He knocked out Kevin Randleman. These guys were pretty good wrestlers. I don’t quite know where this ‘Rampage’-doesn’t-like-wrestlers thing comes from. I know he’s working that angle, but I don’t know, man. I’m not falling asleep on this guy. He’s been around too long.”