His work was over, briefly and crisply, as if he had more important matters to tend to, because he did.
With a chokehold that was as unexpected for him as it was for everyone who saw him execute it, Chael Sonnen’s fight with Mauricio Rua, the UFC’s first in Boston in three years and its first broadcast on Fox Sports 1, went from the night’s main feature to a short film.
A condensed history of violence.
There was no way for Rua to see it coming, not in any scouting he had done since Sonnen’s reputation was as a wrestler not an acrobat and certainly not in the octagon since Rua was straining just to shake loose from a double-underhook.
“I don’t think anybody saw that coming,” said UFC president Dana White.
But after Sonnen jumped, in the same motion clasping his legs around Rua and synching in a guillotine choke, all Rua could do was tap out.
Once Rua cleared the passageways in his lungs and picked himself up, Sonnen extended him the handshake that comes after every battle.
Then, he was handed a live mike.
There was, as there always is, something Sonnen had to say.
And he had to say it to Wanderlei Silva.
With the attention of a packed TD Garden, Sonnen called out Silva, a fish he had been trying to catch for a while. He said, “Until I met you I didn’t know they stacked crap that high.”
It was a line of classic cinema (“Full Metal Jacket”) from the sport’s preeminent showman. He had more.
“Wanderlei Silva drives me insane,” he said from the post-fight podium, a night’s worth of fights long over but the scent of combat still wafting through the air.
His chokehold earned him submission of the night from White and the $50,000 that came with it. Travis Browne and Matt Brown earned knockout of the night, Browne for landing a front kick that dropped Alistair Overeem — even though at one point he was on the canvas reeling — and Brown for rushing Mike Pyle in a flurry that Pile barely had a chance to respond to.
“I’m not trying to take anything away from my performance but we expected this,” Browne said. “We didn’t know I was going to get my butt kicked for the first few minutes, but everything else went like we thought it would. I was mentally there, but I’ve never had my body shut down like that on me. The referee kept saying he was going to stop it and I was telling him that I was OK. I was thinking about my sons and providing for my family, this is what I’m made of.”
But the night belonged to Sonnen, and he used the stage to get his point across.
“Wanderlei Silva tells the media that he wants to fight me,” Sonnen said. “I would love to fight Wanderlei. Wanderlei insists that fight has never been offered. That has been a big marquee fight for years. This company puts on big marquee fights. To believe that he has not been offered that fight is ridiculous.
“All I need from him is for him to say he doesn’t want to do it and I’m out. I’m not a bully and I’m not going to pick on him. But if he continues to say it, he’s going to continue to get me to respond.”
At this point, Sonnen understands that the volume of his words may be getting more attention than the substance.
But White, for one, said he’s more than just a megaphone.
“The whole, he’s all talk thing, it’s crazy,” White said.
With another win under his belt, Sonnen wanted his targets to see the same thing.
“I fought the No. 1-ranked guy in the world seven times,” Sonnen said. “I fought the No. 2-ranked guy in the world four times. I won all of those fights. I’ve fought 13 guys ranked in the Top 10 and I won 10 of those fights. I hear that about myself, too. I hear that Chael’s all talk. But I fight some very very tough guys. I’m very proud of my wins and losses but I’m not afraid to call out a guy.
“This is America, you don’t get anything that you don’t ask for. And there’s certain guys that I want to fight. If I can have the smallest hand in my own career, I see that as a wise thing to do. And that’s where the talk comes from. “