Chael Sonnen spoke openly throughout fight week of the danger in standing right in front of him in former UFC champion Lyoto Machida in Friday’s Bellator 222 co-main event.
Then he found out firsthand.
Machida (26-8) improved to 2-0 under the Bellator banner by relying on a jumping knee to the face that floored Sonnen in each of the opening two rounds. The second one left Sonnen (31-17-1) in a bad way before Machida followed up with hammer strikes to force the stoppage at 22 seconds inside New York’s Madison Square Garden.
After the fight, the 42-year-old Sonnen laid his gloves down in the center of the cage to signify his retirement after a colorful 22-year career. The former two-time UFC title challenger turned out to be one of the most important free-agent signings in Bellator history when he ended a four-year layoff in 2017 to lend his star to the promotion.
“I got one thing to say, I had a hell of a lot of fun,” Sonnen said. “I had a good run and [Bellator president] Scott Coker gave me a five-fight deal and those five fights are over. Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate the memories. Good bye.”
Sonnen, who fell to 2-3 under the Bellator banner, predictably mirrored his aggressive reputation by seeking a takedown throughout. The strategy left him open to Machida’s unique style of counter striking karate.
Machida, 41, set Sonnen up with a trio of hard kicks to the body before flooring him with a flying knee to the chin late in Round 1. Sonnen was lucky to survive the barrage which followed on the ground and received a loud cheer from the MSG faithful when he eventually regained his feet to close the round.
The second round, however, was a mirror image of the first and an early takedown attempt from Sonnen saw him dropped by a similar flying knee to set up the finish.
“I felt really good tonight. I really appreciate Chael for coming here and fighting me. He is a true gent of a guy,” Machida said. “I didn’t expect Chael to make it [out of Round 1]. He made it and he’s really tough because I put my knee really strong and he took it really nice.”
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A former 205-pound champion in UFC and a title challenger at middleweight, Machida secured his fourth straight win and remains a viable contender in both divisions with Bellator.
For complete results from Bellator 222,.