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Analysis: Chael Sonnen might just talk his way into a fight with Jon Jones

Sonnen faces Forrest Griffin on New Year’s Eve weekend, eyes Jones afterwards

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Sam Morris

Chael Sonnen stares down Anderson Silva as he enters for their bout at UFC 148 Saturday, July 7, 2012 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Sonnen calls out Jones

Chael Sonnen has zeroed in on Jon Jones’ only weakness.

The 25-year-old UFC light heavyweight champion is as close to perfect as anyone has ever seen in the octagon, a flawless combination of speed, grace and ferociousness. But he’s yet to fully develop a trait similar elite athletes widely possess — thick skin.

Jones can come off as emotional as a mother dropping her child off for the first day of kindergarten if rubbed the wrong way. Anyone remember the time Rashad Evans “ruined his special night”?

Well, Sonnen apparently spoiled an ordinary evening for Jones Tuesday. Sonnen, 35, ridiculed Jones as a “dork” and “little punk kid” — tame insults by the two-time middleweight challenger’s standards — while hosting “UFC Tonight” on Fuel TV.

Like a hungry rat in a rural warehouse, Jones ran right into the trap. He responded to Sonnen with a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon.

“The things you say about me hold absolutely no weight,” Jones tweeted, “you disrespected Anderson (Silva) and his country but fought like a child.”

“If you’re going to disrespect me out of nowhere, at least disrespect me to my face like a man.”

The cynic would say Jones saw an opportunity for a big-money bout somewhere down the road and decided to play Sonnen’s game. But that’s unlikely because it’s totally out of character for the champion.

Jones was notoriously uncomfortable in verbal spats with Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. In addition, he’s already got a championship defense lined up against Dan Henderson in three weeks at UFC 151 to promote.

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American Jon Jones, left, lands a kick on Brazil's Lyoto Machida during their World Light Heavyweight Championship bout during UFC 140 in Toronto on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011.

A bout with Lyoto Machida, and possibly a showdown with the winner of a UFC on FOX 5 fight between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander Gustafsson, is also lined up for Jones before any matchup with Sonnen could happen.

Selling a future fight doesn’t explain firing back at Sonnen, who most likely cackled with laughter somewhere after glancing down at his cellphone to see Jones acknowledging his barbs.

“Oh I plan to,” Sonnen wrote to Jones in regards to working his way up to a fight against him. “(By the way), how long did it take your parents to come up with your name, JON JONES..creative.”

All of these theatrics have overshadowed a large piece of news for Sonnen’s career. The former University of Oregon wrestler will officially move to Jones’ 205-pound division for his next fight, against Forrest Griffin on Dec. 29 likely in Las Vegas the co-main event behind Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez II.

Sonnen seeks revenge as Griffin submitted him with a first-round triangle choke nine years ago in Denver. If he puts on an impressive enough performance, Sonnen believes he can challenge Jones for the light heavyweight belt.

He can earn the unenviable distinction as the only fighter to lose to the two best mixed martial artists of all-time if it happens, assuming Jones stays consistent enough to someday reach Silva’s stratospheric level.

“Earn a title shot instead of trying to talk your way into one and I’ll be glad to hurt you,” Jones tweeted at Sonnen.

Confusing advice, considering Jones is making it much easier for Sonnen’s mouth to lead him to a title shot by answering the taunts. Expect to see Jones vs. Sonnen sometime in 2013 if both fighters win a couple contests.

Sonnen may batter the champion through the media until that point, but Jones will make up for it on fight night.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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