Two of the biggest recent legends in MMA history will clash in almost two months, reminding their greatest moments in sport besides all their past in UFC. Both are already veterans, fighting for a future title shot into the light heavyweight division, with the actual champion being Ryan Bader – a man who just shook the world knocking out Fedor Emelianenko, one of the greatest fighters of all time. In this article there will included many information about both athletes, their past, fighting styles, Bellator development and much more!

In June 14, Madison Square Garden, in New York, NY, will be again the official host of Bellator promotion, now for their 222nd edition. In the main event, Chael Sonnen, born in April 3, 1977, out of Oregon, U.S., faces Lyoto Machida, from Brazil’s Curitiba, born in May 30th, 1979. The “Dragon” can be considered the favorite, a least for a small reason, if you look back to his last three fights in comparison with “The American Gangster”.

Lyoto collected three straight victories last year against Eryk Anders, legend Vitor Belfort and former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho, while Sonnen comes just from two fights in 2018, defeating first Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in January, then losing to Emelianenko in October. Even though age should be a difference, Machida is only two years younger and both had been in action lately.

Comparing fighting styles and plans, the Brazilian has more of a defensive stance, with Shotokan Karate being his major base. His jiu-jitsu is also in a level of excellence, being a black belt under Walter Broca. With a record of 25-8 Lyoto Machida has just one submission win in his career, while the most are from decisions – showing a good resiliency into fights – and knockouts. But they aren’t just common KOs… most of them were achieved from great counters, which were always considered his biggest weapon.

Chael Sonnen, on the other way, has a complete different background than his opponent. The 42-year-old veteran is a NCAA Division I Greco-Roman Olympic wrestling champion and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which means that Sonnen always looked up for takedowns and ground and pound, sometimes using as well his grappling abilities. With much more losses in his record, Chael holds a 31-16-1 mark, including hellacious battles against Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, Jon Jones, Mauricio Rua, and much more, not forgetting to mention his epic feud with Anderson Silva.

In his defense, “The American Gangster” also brings to the cage a strong mental game that includes plenty of trash-talk and lack of respect for many of his opponents and their histories. And don’t think that is some kind of weird topic, because it is true that a good psychological condition before the fight, during training and day-to-day preparation is extremely important. Bringing a predator and offensive mindset to the game sometimes can work.

Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen will clash in June (Bellator)

In his defense, “The American Gangster” also brings to the cage a strong mental game that includes plenty of trash-talk and lack of respect for many of his opponents and their histories. And don’t think that is some kind of weird topic, because it is true that a good psychological condition before the fight, during training and day-to-day preparation is extremely important. Bringing a predator and offensive mindset to the game sometimes can work.

In his story with Anderson Silva, Sonnen challenged and faced the MMA legend into a UFC middleweight championship bout in August of 2010, almost being crowed as the new belt owner from the organization. In the last of a 5 rounds war, the North-American left his arm exposed by the end of the fight and “Spider” caught him with a triangle arm bar. Two years later, in July, Chael would have another opportunity, but this time, ended up knocked out into the second round.

After his unsuccessful hunt for the middleweight gold, Chael Sonnen got back to the light heavyweights just to chase Jon Jones and the division biggest prize on April, 2013. Besides being beat down by “Bones” in a pure wrestling showdown in the first round, Sonnen actually became less than 30 seconds away from winning it all. That’s because the champion suffered a severe toe injury into the fight, and during the first break, the doctor could have given him a TKO loss.

Some months after that, it was announced that “The American Gangster” would be one of the main coaches for The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, rivaling up with Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva. Both of them were supposed to fight in 2014, however, UFC`s president Dana White took the decision to postpone the event due to Silva hand injury during a brawl against Sonnen into the program shootings. Wanderlei, a bit later, failed to submit a drug test and refused to undergo a random one later, being replaced by Vitor Belfort.

Later, the same would happen with Chael, now failing the tests for the second time in his career, and announcing his retirement from MMA. Two years later, in 2016, the North-American reported to sign a contract with Bellator MMA, debuting in 2017 against legend Tito Ortiz in a very heated pre-fight feud. Then, his attention would turn into the Heavyweight Grand Prix, reaching the semifinals until the fast TKO loss to the “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko.

Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen facing each other after the weight in (Bellator)

Besides all of that great history and fight background, Sonnen has a tough matchup in Lyoto Machida. That’s because “The Dragon” also has a good past, running undefeated through his 15 first fights with a solid and long stint into UFC organization. Holding the light heavingweight belt in 2009, Machida went through a tough battle with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, in a controversial victory by unanimous decision. Months later, in 2010, Rua would beat him by knockout, becoming the new division champion.

After that, the Brazilian athlete would split some wins and losses to other sport legends and tough rivals like “Rampage” Jackson, Randy Couture – giving him the knockout of the night award after a remarkable karate front kick, which popped away his opponent tooth –, Jon Jones and Ryan Bader, that he could face next for the Bellator maximum award in a scenario of a victory against Chael Sonnen.

While young, “The Dragon” had some good fights against other MMA strong names, like B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar, with Tito Ortiz being the biggest challenge of his life back then, in 2008. Lyoto is a one-time UFC light heavyweight champion, defeating Rashad “Sugar” Evans in May of 2009 to be crowned as the champ. Machida would have two more “golden shots” in his career, the first at the same division, defending his belt against Jon Jones, and the other into the middleweights against Chris Weidman – he was defeated in both events.

After his last fight in White’s company, in May of 2018, Lyoto Machida signed with Bellator MMA and fought former champion Rafael Carvalho, emerging victorious in a tough split decision result. Among the Machida bloodline, Lyoto’s brother, Chinzo Machida, had a decent MMA record with 5 wins and 3 losses, the last in June of 2017 against the irish prodigy James Gallagher. So now, Madison Square Garden will host the great showdown between both legends.

Even though Lyoto and Chael are above the forties, physically speaking both seem to be in a similar level, so one of them gassing out early is unlike. This might happen to Chael considering his aggressive wrestling style and how good Lyoto is protecting and defending himself. Sonnen may never forget that the Brazilian is a good grappler and his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu can be a tough weapon.

Sonnen going for the ground and pound against Anderson Silva (Getty Images | Jon Kopaloff)

Neither of them are striking specialists, considering how many times “The Dragon” won just by avoiding fighters and finding a breech to explore. The Brazilian athlete rather go on dodge and protect mode than to start a brawl in fights, and this applies to his opponent too, because “The American Gangster” is not a good striker, so abusing on a Greco-Roman path seems much more realistic for him.

Analyzing the combat by itself, there are high possibilities of a three round bount, considering how resilient Lyoto Machida is and Chael natural instinct to take everything to the ground. Since Sonnen pretty much have only one solid “plan”, the Brazilian could be more aggressive into the last round with an already tired opponent. That’s a strategy. Otherwise, “The Dragon” can just try to hold Sonnen into the ground and the cage, resisting from a good ground and pound.

It’s pretty much unlikely that the Brazilian will turn to takedowns, simply because it was never his way to fight and it’s his opponent territory. Wait for Lyoto to cool things down, focusing on Sonnen’s errors and lack of striking abilities. Who will be the better fighter? The winner probably is going to earn a title shot against Ryan Bader into a close future, so… stay tuned for more information about Bellator 222 card and event for more information, news and articles!