The best fighter on the planet steps up a weight class to take on a Zuffa era pioneer tomorrow night (Oct. 13, 2012) as Anderson Silva takes on Stephan Bonnar in the main event of UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Anderson Silva is the current UFC Middleweight Champion. After going 15-0 inside the Octagon and defending his title for the 10th time, most recently against Chael Sonnen this summer, he did the promotion a huge favor by stepping up on short notice to headline this event in Brazil.
Stephan Bonnar has been competing in the UFC for a very long time, even before Silva debuted with the promotion. His fight against Forrest Griffin will always go down in history as one of the sports defining scraps. Now, he's looking to make a new memory as his career comes to a close.
Record: 32-4 overall, 15-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Oh boy, where do we even start? Anderson Silva got his start in the Chute Box camp, working his way over to Pride where he started strong, but actually got submitted a pair of times including one of the most amazing finishes in the history of the sport against Ryo Chonan.
Undeterred, Silva signed up with the UK's Cage Rage promotion where he leveled everyone in his path, becoming champion in his first bout and defending his title three times in impressive fashion. After a disqualification loss to Yushin Okami at Rumble on the Rock, Silva signed on with the UFC and began his historic run.
He massacred Chris Leben in his debut and was immediately granted a title shot against Rich Franklin, who he destroyed with knees to the body and face in the first round to become UFC middleweight champion.
He's never looked back since. Silva has defended his title a UFC record 10 times and his current run in the promotion some of the most amazing performances in the history of the sport like his front kick of Vitor Belfort or his embarrassment of former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Only Chael Sonnen has made him look vulnerable, although Silva still pulled off a miracle submission at the end of the fifth round. After defeating the likes of Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, Silva again silenced his critics by stopping Sonnen a second time earlier this summer, this time not letting the mouthy ex-realtor make it past the second round.
When UFC 153 began falling apart due to injuries, "The Spider" stepped up and filled in for the main event against Bonnar.
How he gets it done: For Anderson Silva, it's all about agility. He defends strikes and takedowns much differently than us mere mortals. It's almost like he's got a higher understanding of stand-up where his reflexes are so good he can see everything coming well before it happens and can get out of the way.
Bonnar has a terrific chin, so Silva has to be pinpoint with his accuracy and can't afford to screw around with goofy attacks like leg punches or some of his other unorthodox strikes he's showcased in the past. If he screws around, Bonnar could potentially close the distance and take him down.
Also, with how sturdy Bonnar's chin is, Silva has to be extra accurate with his blows. It's going to take something extraordinary to put "The American Psycho" down for the count.
If Bonnar takes him down, Silva can't just work off his back and look for the submission. If he sees an opening, sure, but if not, then he needs to immediately try to get back to his feet whether it's with a sweep or cagewalking. Anything is better than being forced to carry Bonnar's bulk for an extended period of time.
Record: 14-7 overall, 8-6 in the UFC
How he got here: Stephan Bonnar got his start under Carlson Gracie of all people, and he was actually more of a submission based fighter when he got his start. He went 6-1 in his first seven fights with his only loss coming to Lyoto Machida.
This earned him an opportunity to compete on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. During the season, Bonnar defeated Bobby Southworth and Mike Swick to advance to the finale, and we all know what happened there as Bonnar and Forrest Griffin put on the epic battle that now is spoken as the stuff of legends.
While Griffin would go on to become a champion, Bonnar has not had the same amount of success. He won his next three fights in the UFC including an impressive showing over Keith Jardine in his prime, but he never could win the big one, losing to Rashad Evans, Jon Jones and Griffin again in the rematch.
Since a fluke loss via cut from a headbutt, Bonnar has not been very active, but he's been winning. He's currently riding a three fight win streak in the UFC and while he was considering retirement when he couldn't secure a big fight, he finally got what he'd been asking for when Anderson Silva became available.
How he gets it done: To be completely honest, Bonnar doesn't have many avenues to victory. As evidenced by the amazing promo, he can't stand with Silva. Standing and trading would be a really, really bad idea primarily because he's only fractionally faster than Griffin. If he throws punches and kicks at Anderson Silva, bad things will happen to his face.
The best shot Bonnar has is to utilize his significant size advantage. He'll likely be around 20 pounds heavier than Silva come fight night and the only way to make Silva feel that is to close the distance either in the clinch, with takedown attempts or a mixture of both.
Bonnar won his last two fights by utilizing his wrestling and top control as opposed to his striking. If he actually sticks to a gameplan like that, while it won't be easy, he might have a shot at grinding out a decision.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be how seriously Anderson Silva is taking it. If he treats it like his previous fights, he's going to have no problem. If he takes it easy, then he could create an opening for Bonnar to put him on his back. That being said, even if Silva took it easy in training while preparing for this bout, he should still win. He's just too good to have such a major slip-up at this point in his career.
Bottom Line: While it may not be the most evenly matched fight ever, it should still be entertaining. Stephan Bonnar can take a shot and if he slugs it out with Anderson Silva, this fight could go down in history as one of the most violent ever. Bonnar's incredible chin is likely going to be tested and if he's actually able to get a few licks of his own in, the fight suddenly becomes something much more. You will watch this fight because you're either going to see the greatest fighter in MMA history do his thing, or you'll potentially see the greatest upset in UFC history. There's nothing wrong with that.
Who will come out on top at UFC 153? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!