by Damon Martin
In a fight that will showcase two of the top light heavyweight contenders from the first season of the “Ultimate Fighter”, one fighter, Stephan Bonnar is out to show the world that his classic battle with Forrest Griffen wasn’t a fluke and everyone in the 205lb division should look out. For Sam Hoger it’s a chance to prove that he really does belong in the UFC. And for both fighters it’s a chance to once again take the main stage on national television for the UFC’s first full length fight card on Spike TV when “Ultimate Fight Night” debuts on August 6th.
In a match that fans, media and fighters alike were talking about as one of the greatest fights ever, Stephan Bonnar took everything that Forrest Griffen could dish out and still came out standing at the end of three rounds. Unfortunately for Bonnar, he didn’t walk out the winner of the fight losing a tough decision to Griffen. Regardless of the decision, Dana White and the powers that be knew that Bonnar gave them exactly what new fans of the sport wanted to see in that fight and instantly signed him to compete in future matches in the UFC. The fight with Hoger will be Bonnar’s first chance since the “Ultimate Fighter” finale to return to his winning form.
Stephan Bonnar was one of the top picks going into the show, but he was definitely an underdog when he stepped in against Griffen in April. His striking was solid but he was seen more of a ground fighter having come up under Carlson Gracie and the general thought was that he probably wouldn’t trade with Griffen on his feet. To the contrary, Bonnar slugged it out with his opponent for all three rounds giving as good as he got. Although both men were virtually drained at the end of the fight, Bonnar still managed to land some very damaging shots throughout the final round. When the decision was announced, Bonnar fell to the canvas knowing that he had just left everything he had in the fight.
Stephan Bonnar definitely didn’t have anything to feel ashamed about after his amazing display against Griffen and now he’ll be back in the octagon fighting another of his housemates from the first season.
Sam Hoger was a lightning rod for a big part of the time he spent in the house during the filming of the “Ultimate Fighter.” He was never seen as much of a team player, at one point even jumping ship on a training session to run with the opposing squad. Another boiling point was reached when many of the other participants accused Hoger of stealing some of their belongings. Hoger was somewhat outcast for much of the rest of the show, but he played the necessary game and without a previous fight on the show to his credit, he stepped in against Forrest Griffen in the team finals with the winner set to battle it out for the contract on the finale.
Although Hoger showed heart in his fight with Griffen, he eventually felt the fury of his opponent’s hands and crumbled against the cage. He was visibly shaken during the barrage that Griffen unloaded on him, but when the referee stepped in, Hoger jumped up in dispute that the fight shouldn’t have been stopped. Despite the loss to Griffen, Hoger didn’t let it get the best of him as he took on another “Ultimate Fighter” contender when he took on Bobby Southworth on the undercard of the show on Spike TV.
Southworth seemed to have a lot of ill feelings about Hoger throughout the show, but when the two met in the octagon, Hoger let it be known that he was the real deal. He controlled the fight pretty much from start to finish and walked out with a unanimous decision win. Hoger makes his return to the octagon on August 6th and will have the Miletich camp in his corner which is always a good spot for a fighter to be in.
On paper these two fighters match up pretty evenly, but the edge may to go with Bonnar with many critics if for no other reason than the unbelievable show he put on with Griffen in the “Ultimate Fighter” finale. Hoger is a very solid 205lb fighter, but is still a bit of an enigma when it comes to how he’ll handle the pressure that Bonnar is sure to put on him. Bonnar is a very aggressive fighter with great ground skill and now seems to be just as effective on his feet. The true pressure of this fight though falls squarely on Bonnar who has a lot to live up to after his performance in his last fight. Hoger has to know that if he loses this fight convincingly he probably won’t be asked back to the UFC for a while, so he isn’t free from the pressure either.
Hoger will be best served to see how Bonnar approaches this fight, whether or not he tries to take it to the ground or is just as happy to leave it standing. Bonnar will most likely be the one that pushes this fight so if he lands a few shots early, look for him to try to end Hoger’s night early. On the flipside of that argument, Hoger has been training with the Miletich camp since the show ended and he has a great group of light heavyweight and heavyweight fighters in his group to help him prepare for this match-up. Bonnar seems more well rounded but will the hype built up around him for his last classic cloud his perspective coming into this fight?
We’ll all find out on August 6th.