Bell Sounds. Krzysztof Soszynski--raw, but dedicated--fairly blitzes a startled Stephan Bonnar. "The Polish Experiment" is intent on imposing his rhythm early, and he swarms with heavy punches at range and in the clinch. It's a rocky start from which Bonnar never quite recovers. Though he might enjoy an advantage on the mat, scrambling for submissions, Bonnar cannot wrestle Soszynski to the ground. Instead, Soszynski is keen on a brawl, and Bonnar is forced to play catch-up through the first round.
Bonnar improves in the second. Heavy elbows along the cage's edge and a takedown in the frame's closing seconds suggest a change in momentum, but we don't get to see how it plays out. An accidental headbutt early in the third opens a cut on Bonnar's forehead, and the ringside physician halts the fight. Victory by TKO (doctor's stoppage) for Krzysztof Soszynski.
The verdict is, of course, unjust. With the end of the fight coming on the heels of an accidental foul, the bout should have been ruled a no-contest or, more appropriately, gone to the judge's scorecards. Indeed, had they been consulted, the judges would have ruled the bout a majority draw, with likely the first round going to Soszynski and the second (on two of the scorecards) to Bonnar. With the fight's result mired in such clumsy officiating, both men have since gladly agreed to a rematch, but I remain frustrated. Not because of the loss on Bonnar's record, but because I suspect Bonnar was on his way to losing that fight regardless, and because I'm not sure that he will return any more capable of running the cage, though I still sorely wish he would.
If we look back on Stephan Bonnar's time in the UFC, we would find a career distinguished by grit and determination. By a thirst for throwing down, and by a certain good-natured charm, buoyed by a soft-spoken, dry sense of humor, that gives his fights the atmosphere not of some malicious bloodsport, but of high-stakes roughhousing. For all his virtues, however, we might be troubled to find that Bonnar seems to deliver more or less the same performance each time out. Though his jiu-jitsu is excellent, Bonnar's wrestling has yet to improve to the point where he can consistently dictate where the fight goes. And while he gladly exchanges in any wild volley of punches, his striking arsenal remains a little spare, with speed, power, and precision seemingly unchanged. As a fan, this apparent stagnation is a little puzzling. After nearly five years in the Octagon, we wonder: why isn't he getting better?
It's a question we can only begin to answer with more questions. Did he ever recover from the death of his mentor, Cesar Gracie, Jr.? Does he need a new training camp? How might things have been different if he had won that fight at The Ultimate Fighter finale? Does Dana White's promise of perpetual employment hurt his motivation? Does such security lead to complacency, does it make Bonnar less hungry, and should he really take White on his promise? What are his goals? Is he content? If I had any definite answer, I might not be so wound up. It's frustrating to watch one of my favorite fighters stumble time again, but it's even worse not knowing why.