Photo of Stephan Bonnar by Esther Lin
This weekend, Anderson Silva -- one of the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters ever -- will step up on short notice to save a UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event in his home country, Brazil. "The Spider" will take on a challenger who many consider undeserving, Stephan Bonnar. But that's precisely what makes it such a dangerous fight for Silva: Bonnar has nothing to lose.
Stephan Bonnar, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fixture since his iconic battle with Forrest Griffin in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1 Finale back in 2005, is set to collide with Middleweight king and all-time great, Anderson Silva, this weekend (Oct. 13, 2012) at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When Bonnar enters the HSBC Arena in just a few days, he will not only be a massive underdog, but he will be the sixteenth UFC fighter to get a crack at defeating perhaps the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter of all time.
Any advantage Bonnar may have, any tools he may be able to use to some degree of success, have been immensely overlooked. It's hard to blame MMA fans for doing that, because while Bonnar may be an exciting, gritty fighter, he is also unspectacular, while his opponent is anything but.
Why then, is the "American Psycho" the UFC 153 fighter to watch? It's simple, really: He has nothing to lose.
Bonnar's entire career has flourished from him being a tough, gritty fighter. He fights losing battles to the bitter end, and he'll give the very best fighters in the world some of their toughest challenges. His career path may not be defined by championship greatness like his upcoming opponent, but he's still iconic and well-known in his own right.
Months ago, Bonnar was looking at retirement. Unlike B.J. Penn or Matt Hughes -- serious "hang 'em up for good" retirement. While some fight fans didn't want to see him go, many others thought it was for the better, as it is always a good idea for a fighter to get out of such a dangerous on his own terms.
Now, with the sudden offer to fight the very best fighter in the world, he's right back in there, ready to give it his all ... and the Brazilian hell. Bonnar is just a fighter at heart, he knows no quit and shows no mercy. Maybe he isn't immensely talented or athletically gifted, but he has an undying will and nothing to lose.
Besides the fact that he has nothing to lose, and perhaps everything to gain with this fight, Bonnar does have tools that can present problems for Silva. For one, he's bigger, and likely stronger, which is something we don't see too often against Silva (and something he has occasionally shown weakness to, too). Besides that, Bonnar has a powerful clinch and ground game, punishing opponents from both of those positions.
His fighting style can occasionally be just too much for some opponents, withering them down in grueling exchanges that sap them of their energy and morale. His cardio is freakish, and when he runs out of energy, he runs on his fighting spirit alone. He also happens to take one hell of a mean punch, too.
Bonnar may be a nice guy, but on fight night, he'll do everything in his power to destroy or get destroyed.
At the very least, Bonnar will go out against Silva with the sole intent of hitting him in the face, which may be more than I can say of some of Silva's other opponents. We've seen it many times with Silva, where a very talented fighter comes in with the wrong mentality, and he suffers every minute locked inside a cage with the man. We saw it with Forrest Griffin, we saw it with Yushin Okami -- their mindsets before their fights ruined any chance of victory.
Bonnar will not come into this fight thinking that way.
From the start of his career, Bonnar has shown that he'd be something special. Maybe not in the sense of being a flawless fighter or a feared name, but he was never one to give up, and never one to be boring. His skill set leaves many things to be desired, but he compensates for that with the passion and heart of a fearless warrior who doubles as a crazed lunatic. He certainly isn't elite, but he's at least good at fighting.
Even if you're the better fighter, Bonnar will challenge you like no one else could, and he'll do it with a smile.
On Saturday, Bonnar -- a man born to be a fighter -- will take on this challenge wholeheartedly, and maybe, just maybe, topple this mighty king. Where Silva may be an unstoppable force, Bonnar may very well be an immovable object, and he'll be doing his damnest to make sure Silva remembers their encounter ... or erases his memory.
While it is more than likely that the huge favorite wins this fight without a hitch, we may see one of the biggest underdogs in MMA history topple a legacy that has stood for years and years. An underdog who has nothing to lose, everything to gain, and maybe even a little more.
Bonnar is -- and always has been -- an underdog who can win when he shouldn't. And that's the reason he's UFC 153's fighter to watch this weekend.