It took Chael Sonnen several years and two different promotions to get Wanderlei Silva in the ring.
He finally got the match he wanted against the former PRIDE 205-pound champion Saturday night in the main event of Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden.
And while the fight might not have been an artistic success, Sonnen did what he needed to get the win. The pride of West Linn, Ore., used his wrestling to smother the rusty Silva and earn a unanimous decision. The judges’ scores were 30-26 and a pair of 30-27s for Sonnen.
Sonnen got the best of the opening round, scoring a takedown early and working Silva over for much of the round. But Silva had his moment, too, as he connected on a right hand just above Sonnen’s left ear and dropped him to the mat. Sonnen regained his senses, though, and reversed position before the round was out.
In the second, Silva caught Sonnen in a guillotine as the latter shot for a double-leg takedown. After a stalemate for more than a minute, referee John McCarthy made the unusual move of calling for a standup during a submission attempt. Sonnen soon thereafter took Silva down and held him there from top position for the rest of the round.
In the third, Silva landed a punch, then Sonnen went right back to this wrestling base, scoring a takedown and working from top for the rest of the round.
The rivalry between the two really kicked off three years ago on the set of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, in which they were opposing coaches. They were scheduled to fight at UFC 175 in Las Vegas, but both were suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission for failing drug tests.
In the meantime, both fighters signed with Bellator, finally leading to this bout.
Sonnen (30-15-1), who snapped a two-fight losing streak, called out Fedor Emelianenko after the fight. Silva, fighting for the first time since a memorable win over Brian Stann in Japan in 2013, fell to 35-13-1 (1 NC). He shoved Sonnen on his way out of the cage.