by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Of all the matches upcoming this Thursday’s Ultimate Fight Night one stands out as having the most title contention implications in its respective division. That fight would be the middleweight showdown between Chael Sonnen and Trevor Prangley.

With Rich Franklin on the sidelines recovering from surgery, everyone at 185lbs is jockeying for position to be his next challenger. With some speculating it could be Nathan Marquardt, others contend that it’s a more open race.

So with that thought in mind, depending on who wins between Sonnen and Prangley we may just have our answer to who faces Franklin next.

For Chael Sonnen especially this is not only a fight to determine his place within the division, but it may also determine his remaining with the UFC and the continuation of his fight career. As prior to heading into this fight Sonnen made it clear that his future lies with the UFC or not at all.

It would be a shame to see Chael out of the UFC and MMA should he lose. His athletic accomplishments have spoken multitudes over his life.

Starting in college where Sonnen became a two-time NCAA National Wrestling Champion, Chael has used his outstanding wrestling abilities to quickly establish himself as a light-heavyweight in MMA, winning six pro fights.

Since then things have been a mixed bag as Sonnen has experienced both multiple fight winning and losing streaks going up against naturally larger opposition. However each time out Sonnen has fought his hardest and is coming off a patch where he’s won three of his last five, losing only to UFC vets Terry Martin and Renato Sobral.

And now in order to stay in the company and avoid a possible retirement Chael must beat a fighter he has been unable to in two previous bouts as an armature and professional, Trevor Prangley.

When it comes to his fight against Sonnen, Prangley knows this is a chance to put his last fight –a controversial decision loss to Jeremy Horn – behind him and establish himself as one of the best fighters in the 185lb weight class.

Like Chael, Trevor started out in the light-heavyweight division where his well-rounded skills forged from the famed Lion’s Den allowed him to fight as equally as strong standing as on the ground. This helped him win his first six in a row, including a win over Sonnen in the pro ranks (Prangley had defeated Chael as an armature years earlier).

Invited to participate in the IFC’s 2003 landmark 205lb tournament along side fellow future UFC vets Horn, Sobral, Griffin and Pride’s Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Prangley lost his first fight ever to Sobral in the quarter finals.

Refusing to let the loss set him back Trevor quickly went on another tear winning his next five fights in a row, including two in the UFC over Curtis Stout and Travis Lutter. This lead to a showdown against Horn at UFC 56 with a possible title shot on the line.

Unfortunately for Prangley things did not go as well as he would have hoped as after three rounds of hard-fought action where it appeared he was getting the better of Horn, Trevor lost the fight on a close judges’ decision.

So now Prangley must rebound with a win over Chael Sonnen in order to lay his claim to a future title shot against Rich Franklin when he returns from injury.

With Sonnen’s superior wrestling skills going up against Prangley’s harder striking it is conceivable that Chael will want to take Trevor down and not exchange at range. Thus this fight could very well come down to who is better on the ground and who has the stamina advantage.

The winner of this fight could be one step closer to Franklin whereas the loser could find themselves out of the UFC for a time and forced to fight in smaller organizations. For Sonnen this is especially important considering his words retirement should he be out of the UFC.

They say third time’s the charm and for Chael Sonnen and Trevor Prangley this is very much a fight that could determine their future, so having luck on one’s side could be an advantage, even if just purely psychological.

Either way with so much riding on the line both fighters will give it their all and when that happens it’s usually the sign of what could be the fight of the night.