The Match Up:
One of the things overlooked about longtime mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Stephan Bonnar is that he has one of the best chins in the game. In a career where his biggest deficit -- wrestling -- has been the cause of many of his setbacks, Bonnar remains one of the most reliable commodities in the sport, win or lose. The guy can take a helluva beating and never quits.
Stepping in against pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva in a light heavyweight bout that will headline UFC 153 tonight (Oct. 13, 2012) from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Bonnar won't be facing a guy looking to take him down and lay and pray.
And that gives Bonnar as good a chance as he'll get.
Silva's ability to translate speed, accuracy and power in the standup game are unparalleled, and Bonnar's willingness to test foes and come forward will make it exciting while it lasts. Just probably not for him.
Silva, now 37, is on the tail end of a brilliant career, one whose consistency and high-level success may never be seen again. Now 15-0 in the UFC with a bevy of record achievements, to boot, the masterful champ has shown no signs of aging or deterioration. Fighting in Brazil, he isn't likely to lose focus, either. For Bonnar, his size advantage and the availability of getting Silva down - not an impossible task given the style matchup - offer a small but realistic window. He'll have to steer clear of big trouble on the feet, force clinches without getting sucked into Silva's vicious Muay Thai game, and plant Silva on mat and squash him, as Chael Sonnen did, while working enough to avoid a standup. This is all well and good until you realize that Silva has the best standup in the history of the game, along with frightening accuracy and an ability to completely demolish foes with virtually any kind of strike. If he took someone out with a chi blast, at this point, I don't think anyone would be surprised.
That being said, Silva's standup does freeze opponents, who suffer paralysis-by-analysis, loathe to make a mistake and give an opening. As such, the great Brazilian can become somewhat bored at times, playing games to goad opponents into challenging him with, as Mike Tyson famously sneered, "their primitive skills." Witness the kung-fu-master pose he struck prior to blitzing out Yushin Okami, and it makes you forget the embarrassing histrionics that marked dreary
decision wins over Demian Maia and Thales Leites. At his best, Silva is a performance artist, forever redefining our perceptions of how one man can separate another from his consciousness, and make it look cinematically pleasing, to boot. Bonnar's gameness is his best asset and the only thing that can win him this fight. It's also the exact thing that will bring him right into Silva's wheelhouse and get his block knocked off.
With 14-1 odds against him, I still think Bonnar's a decent value at that price. But then again, so was the Iraqi Republican Guard. Look for Stephan to come out willing to try out stiff one-twos and circle, hoping to gauge Silva's range, something Silva is very subtle about hiding until it suits him to do otherwise. What really makes Silva dangerous if you hit him are the fact that he might have the best chin in the history of MMA (with the exception of Mark Hunt) and he tends to get extremely pissed off when people dare to hit him. It's as though he were a man eating a meal in a fancy restaurant. It doesn't bother him at all to get nailed, and he never panicks in bad situations. He'll simply ride it out on the ground (as he did in both matches against Chael Sonnen) or get angry and unleash a tarrying, multi-technique barrage to set the record straight on who the better fighter is on the feet.
Silva has a perfect matchup here. Bonnar will be smart early and try circling and playing it safe while feeling the situation out. Silva will eventually get irritated with this and explode into action, drilling and dropping Bonnar several times in the opening round, prior to pouncing in for a ground-and-pound finish inside of three minutes. The only real fight for Silva at this point is Jon Jones, and it would be an epic statement if the UFC could make that match; in a way, a competitive Bonnar performance might make that less likely, so here's hoping Silva pulls some of his best mojo out to create a groundswell for the best fight that could be made in the sport.
Silva via knockout in round one
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Oct. 13, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:45 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
For all the latest "Silva vs. Bonnar" news and notes click here.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.