It’s easy to write off Stephan Bonnar well before he ever sets foot in the Octagon to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 153 in Brazil on Saturday night. In fact, most oddsmakers, fans, and pundits already have.
With Silva sitting as the reigning UFC middleweight champion, holding a 32-4 record, winning 16 consecutive bouts, and knocking out both of his previous light heavyweight opponents, it’s easy to see the logic.
Time and again, Silva has shown a Matrix-like ability to outdo his opposition, finding a finish for 25 of his 32 victims.
But there’s always the Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson or Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre upsets to point to and say, “It’s fighting. Anything can happen in a fight.”
UFC president Dana White knows it, Anderson Silva knows it, and most importantly, Stephan Bonnar knows it.
“I know a lot of people are counting Stephan Bonnar out and this fight is a joke and everything else. He’s never been knocked out; he’s never been submitted by anybody,” said White recently.
“This is going to be a tough fight for Anderson Silva. If Anderson wins this fight, even though he’ll never get the credit for it, it’s another huge notch in his career.”
It’s not like Bonnar steps into the fight out of obscurity.
His record may stand at a merely respectable 14-7, but over his seven-plus years in the Octagon, Bonnar has taken the likes of Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, and even current UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones the distance.
The only times he has been stopped were due to a cut in a fight with Lyoto Machida before either’s UFC days and another cut caused by an accidental head butt in a bout with Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 110.
He hasn’t lost since, avenging the loss to Soszynski and backing it up with two more victories.
“Stephan Bonnar, he’s a great athlete, part of the history of the UFC,” said Silva in a recent UFC 153 media conference call. “He’s a very dangerous guy. He’s good on his feet; he’s got good groundwork and good defense.
“We’re the greatest fighters in the world and, Stephan Bonnar, it’s an honor to be fighting him. He’s a great champion, he’s done a lot in his career and it’s definitely going to be a great challenge.”
Even as much as White and Silva know that a fight is a fight and you can’t just write Bonnar off, the undertone is that Anderson Silva – tough fight or not – is supposed to win. A Bonnar victory would put him on the level of Sylvester Stallone’s famed movie character Rocky Balboa.
Bonnar is a smart man, keenly aware of that fact.
His last bout having been in November of 2011, Bonnar was resigned to the idea that he may not get another opportunity to set foot in the Octagon again at all, let alone face the most highly regarded fighter on the planet.
“It really came by surprise, honestly,” said Bonnar. “I campaigned for some big fights and I couldn’t get them. So in my head, I was really trying to get over the whole fighting thing.”
That fact, coupled with Bonnar’s overall philosophy towards fighting, could just lead to the perfect storm for an epic upset.
Let’s be real. No one thinks it’s going to happen, but when a fighter has nothing to lose and hasn’t built his career around belts in the first place, it makes you take a step back and think, “It could happen.”
“I was going in there and fighting people and winning and doing my best and, just, it’s a challenge; that’s how I always felt about fighting,” Bonnar said as he summed up his approach to his career. “You just did it for fun, not really for any belts, and now I’m fighting the greatest pound-for-pound guy, who’s been a champion for a long time, and it’s not for a belt.
“And you think if I pull off an upset against Anderson Silva, it’s not going to be as sweet because it’s not for a belt? Hell no! It’s going to be the greatest moment of my life.”
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