Chael Sonnen's Submission Defense on Display... Again

Whenever Bellator hosts a big main event, social media blows up with accusations of a work. As soon as the main event of Bellator 170, a light heavyweight contest between Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen, ended Twitter went crazy. This time traditional fight conspiracy theorists were joined by UFC-fighter-turned commentator Dan Hardy.

In a now deleted Tweet, Hardy said, “The #Bellator170 main event was more choreographed than a Brittany Spears music video. Shame really… It might have been a fun fight.”

The case for calling the fight fixed is that Ortiz easily transitioned to Sonnen’s back and secured the submission hold. The thought process is, how could a skilled and accomplished fighter like Sonnen fall victim to a choke so easily? Well, the answer is quite clear, and it has nothing to do with a fix.

In fact the truth is much simpler. Sonnen has terrible submission defense. For his entire career, Sonnen’s calling card has been bad submission defense. During his 18-fight UFC/WEC career, Sonnen allowed his opponents to attempt 21 submissions, and he lost via submission five times. Allowing 21 submission attempts does not seem terrible until you realize that FightMetric only counts submissions attempts that fully locked on or close to soliciting a tap.

To put these numbers into perspective let’s compare Sonnen’s submission attempts allowed per minute and submission losses (taps) per minute to all light heavyweights and middleweights in the UFC rankings. Compared to that group, Sonnen is third worst in both categories behind Anthony Johnson and Nikita Krylov. The following data includes only fights from UFC, Strikeforce, WEC, Pride and Affliction.

Fans and pundit should not surprised that Sonnen tapped in the first round. As he ages and his physical tools decline, his technical weakness in the submission game will show even more. Expect more submission losses for Sonnen even when the fix is not in.