It has been an interesting year for Chael Sonnen.
In February, Sonnen met Nate Marquardt at UFC 109. Although Marquardt was heavily favored to win the fight, Sonnen outwrestled his opponent en route to a decision victory.
With his win over Marquardt, Sonnen earned himself a title shot against dominant UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Again, Sonnen would be an underdog heading into his fight against Silva.
In the months leading up to his meeting with Silva at UFC 117, Sonnen mounted one of the most memorable verbal attacks on an opponent in the history of combat sports. In addition to insulting the ability of Silva, Sonnen questioned the significance of Silva's jiu-jitsu black belt under the Nogueira brothers.
Despite his controversial comments, Sonnen drew the adoration of MMA fans who were angered by Silva's prior title defense. In that fight, Silva spent the final rounds taunting his opponent, Demian Maia, instead of attempting to finish the fight.
In what was nearly one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, Sonnen dominated Silva for the first four rounds of their fight. In the final round, it appeared only a matter of time until Sonnen would be crowned the new UFC Middleweight Champion.
Then, Sonnen inexplicably allowed Silva to maintain wrist control, which led to a successful triangle armbar by Silva. Less than two minutes away from a historic upset, Sonnen tapped.
The events that followed his heartbreaking loss would prove even more detrimental to Sonnen's reputation. After UFC President Dana White announced that he would receive a rematch with Silva for his next fight, Sonnen's pre-fight drug test results were released.
A statement from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) regarding Sonnen's drug test read, "A sample from Sonnen’s August 6 drug test came back with a high T/E (testosterone-to-estrogen) level, which is indicative of anabolic steroid use."
As a result of the failed drug test, Sonnen received a one-year suspension from competition. Soon after, Sonnen announced that he would appeal the suspension. A prescribed treatment of self-injected testosterone headed Sonnen's appeal.
Ultimately, Sonnen's appeal was successful. On Thursday, an understandably reserved Sonnen met with the CSAC. After a three hour hearing, the CSAC ruled to reduce Sonnen's suspension to six months. The decision was made despite the CSAC stating that Sonnen failed to properly disclose his testosterone treatment.
With the suspension beginning on September 2, that leaves three months remaining until Sonnen is eligible to compete. Considering the main cards for the UFC's events in the next three months are essentially filled, the reduction of Sonnen's sentence has approximately the same effect as a repeal of the suspension would have had.
After showing his elite ability in his title fight against Silva, Sonnen could be one win away from another shot at the UFC Middleweight Championship. With this reduction of Sonnen's suspension, that second chance at the belt could be a possibility for late-2011.