It will be a battle of two generations of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) this Saturday night (November 19, 2011) as rising TUF season eight alumni Kyle Kingsbury takes on TUF season one legend Stephan Bonnar in the opening bout of the UFC 139 main card.
Kyle Kingsbury, an avid fan of 80's music and fanny-packs, has improved drastically before our eyes in the past few years. Once on the brink of losing his job, he's now won four straight fights which includes a 21 second technical knockout and two "Fight of the Night" bonuses. He's hoping to keep the good times rolling against one of the UFC's most popular fighters.
Stephan Bonnar's fight with Forrest Griffin was over six and a half years ago, but if he can score a victory on Saturday night, he'll be right back onto Griffin's level in the light heavyweight division. He's not as active in MMA as he once was, with a clothing line and his work with MMA Live on ESPN, but he will still be very relevant if he can defeat Kingsbury.
Will "Kingsbu" keep his momentum rolling with another big win? Does Bonnar have what it takes to weather the early storm and fire back? What does each TUF alumni need to do to earn a "W" on Saturday night in San Jose?
Follow me after the jump to find out:
Record: 11-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 4-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Tom Lawlor (Ultimate Finale 8), Tony Lopez (KOTC: River Rage)
How he got here: Kyle Kingsbury had a rough start to his UFC career. He lost two fights on The Ultimate Fighter season eight but would be brought back for the finale, where he would drop a decision to Tom Lawlor. Despite four straight losses dating back to 2007, he was given one more bout with the UFC and he would award the UFC's mercy with a split decision victory.
With a new lease on life, Kingsbury came out a man possessed in his next fight, a show-stealing battle against Jared Hamman that won "Fight of the Night" honors UFC Fight Night 22. Kingsbury would follow up his excellent performance by arriving in the best shape of his life at UFC 126 and destroying Brazilian submission specialist Ricardo Romero in just 21 seconds with some will-breaking knees to the body.
With his solid performances, Kingsbury earned a main card fight against Brazilian boxer Fabio Maldonado earlier this summer and would earn a unanimous decision once again winning "Fight of the Night" honors. Now on a four fight winning streak, he'll be stepping in against a fan favorite in Stephan Bonnar this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Kingsbury needs to utilize his strengths, and his biggest strength in his last couple fights has been his Muay Thai. He's incredibly strong and if he can utilize the clinch. Bonnar does not utilize body punches like Fabio Maldonado, so as long as Kingsbury can keep him in the Thai plum, he should be able to go to down with knees to the body and then to the head if Bonnar drops his hands.
Stephan Bonnar has never been stopped in his career other than getting cut a few times, so Kingsbury will need to be prepared for the long haul. Even that famous spinning elbow from Jon Jones could only keep him down for about half a second.
Kingsbury has a football and wrestling background and while his shot is not the greatest, he could be able to put "The American Psycho" on his back if he can catch him off guard during a combination. They key will be to pace himself as with the ridiculous amount of muscle he carries around, he's prone to get tired in the third round.
Record: 13-7 overall, 7-6 in the UFC
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 94), Forrest Griffin 2x (UFC 62, Ultimate Finale 1), Rashad Evans (UFC Fight Night 5)
How he got here: You all know the tale by now, but for the uninformed, Stephan Bonnar was an original castmember of The Ultimate Fighter season one. After making it to the finals of the competition, he had one of the most famous fights in UFC history against Forrest Griffin in the show's finale. It was a fight that saved the UFC and helped them get a broadcast deal on Spike TV. UFC President Dana White has said he's forever in Bonnar's debt.
Since that legendary bout, Bonnar has had an up and down career, routinely stepping in against some of the best light heavyweights in the world, he's fought six times against UFC champions.
After a rough three fight losing streak which was capped off with a TKO loss from a cut due to an accidental headbutt to Krzysztof Soszynski, Bonnar would bounce back mightily, earning "Fight of the Night" honors in his rematch with Soszynski in a thrilling bout at UFC 116 last year that saw him come back and score a technical knockout victory of his own. He followed that up with a decision victory against Igor Pakrajac that saw him utilize his wrestling.
Now on a winning streak for the first time since 2007, Bonnar will battle a light heavyweight on the rise in Kingsbury.
How he gets it done: There are three things that characterize Bonnar's fighting style. His terrific chin, his gas tank and his willingness to brawl. He'll need all three to be in top form if he wants to beat Kingsbury on Saturday night.
The first thing he'll need to do is to try to keep this fight in the pocket. "Kingsbu" is a powerful puncher, but Bonnar has the ability to absorb those strikes and land some of his own. Trading strike for strike is a winning situation for "The American Psycho" as his chin is elite and while he doesn't have a ton of "oomph" in his punches, it's probably enough to hurt Kingsbury if he can land enough to his chin.
Bonnar also has some decent kicks at his disposal from his background in Tae Kwon Do. If he can gauge the proper distance, Kingsbury is a slow enough target that he could be the perfect victim for a spinning back kick or some chopping leg kicks. If he can attack Kingsbury's legs and body, it'll slow him down even more and open up avenues for a late stoppage.
Fight "X-Factor:" The biggest X-Factor for this fight is time. Kyle Kingsbury's work with Victor Conte has turned him into a sculpted monster, but it also means he's going to tire out in the final round of a fight, at least as long as his opponent can push the pace. If Bonnar is unable to push Kingsbury to his limits in the early rounds, he's going to be in for a world of hurt. If he can force the Arizona State product to work hard, he'll definitely have a shot to win this fight.
Another big factor is speed. Kingsbury is a very deliberate fighter and he's still a bit stiff in his regular exchanges. Bonnar has enough experience that he might be able to take advantage of this if he can stay loose and utilize solid footwork on the outside. If he can get off with his punches and kicks, especially to the legs and body, Kingsbury could be a sitting duck at the end of the fight.
Bottom Line: This is a battle of two men who have been putting on solid performances as of late, with three "Fight of the Night" bonuses in their last five fights respectively. Both men like to go forward and trade big strikes so there is definitely potential for fireworks. Kyle Kingsbury has been on a nice roll with four straight victories in the UFC and if he can earn a "W" against a solid name like Bonnar, it will really push him into that next level. Bonnar wants to prove that he's still just as dangerous now as he ever was so this fight has some serious potential to be a crowd-pleaser.
Who will come out on top at UFC 139? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!