This weekend the UFC traveling bandwagon heads to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where possibly the greatest mixed martial artist of all time and hometown hero Anderson Silva will face light-heavyweight journeyman Stephen Bonnar at UFC 153.
In what could be a real life Rocky Balboa story Bonnar is a 10/1 underdog going into the fight with many fans wondering how the UFC came up with such a matchup. With the organisation emerging from a summer where they had to deal with an unprecedented amount of injuries forcing removals of many of their marquee fights as well as the complete cancellation of UFC 151, this bout seems to be UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva getting together one night and saying “What the hell. Why not!?”.
Bonnar could be mistaken for an accountant - albeit one that wears over ten years of repeated broken noses and smashed cheek bones – but he is a brawler who has never been knocked out or submitted, he is someone who always comes to fight and as MMA evolves into a more tactical sport that values the mentality of not losing rather than going for the win this fight could see the UFC make a brief yet welcome return to it’s roots.
Bonnar, ever the fan favourite, has even made promotional videos mocking his own chances in the fight
Bonnar cemented his legacy in 2004 during his very first appearance in the UFC Octagon. Struggling financially the UFC created their own reality TV series to try and breakthrough to a mainstream audience. The live finale featured Bonnar against fellow light-heavyweight Forrest Griffin in a three round bloody battle. The bout was an incredible back-and-forth brawl and created stars of the two men and turned millions of new fight fans onto this emerging sport.
Griffin went on to briefly hold the light-heavyweight belt whereas Bonnar never reached those heady heights, spending his career hovering just outside the top ten rankings with a 14-7 record. Silva on the other hand has on more than one occasion cleaned out his own middleweight division, he hasn’t been stopped since 2004 and has knocked out guys in two different weight classes so it would take a very brave person to see anything other than a Silva win this weekend.
Bonnar, ever the fan favourite, has even made promotional videos mocking his own chances in the fight, sitting across a table drinking coffee with his old foe Griffin - who himself was soundly beaten by Silva in 2009 - Bonnar asks for his advice going into the fight. Throw a kick? Cut to Silva catching James Irvin’s kick and breaking his jaw with a counter punch. Throw a punch? Cut to Griffin wildly swinging two, three punches as Silva effortlessly dodges before knocking Griffin down with one of his own. Talk trash? Cut to Chael Sonnen taking a vicious knee to the chest. Be nice? Cut to Rich Franklin getting soundly beat.
What Bonnar does have is his almost Homer Simpson-esque ability to keep going while absorbing endless punishment
We all love an underdog and he may be dismissive about his chances in public but what Bonnar does have is his almost Homer Simpson-esque ability to keep going while absorbing endless punishment and perhaps even more dangerous is that he has absolutely nothing to lose. If he gets beat by the greatest fighter of all time? So what. If he does the unthinkable and comes out victorious he will have beaten the legendary Anderson Silva in his own backyard.
There may not be a title on the line in Rio on Saturday night but we could see Bonnar, a fighter that represents the guts and glory underdog story the UFC was founded on, cement a career with another inspiring bookend that can rival anything Hollywood could produce.
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