With another main event dismantled due to injuries, the UFC got a helping hand as none other than Anderson Silva volunteered his services to save the UFC 153 card. Dealing with the loss of Jose Aldo defending his Featherweight title against Frankie Edgar in Brazil, Dana White and company could not ask for a better replacement than Silva. But this fight won’t take place at Middleweight, where “The Spider” has dominated for years. No, Anderson Silva will once again make the jump up to Light Heavyweight to fight… Stephan Bonnar. Strange matchup? Indeed, but the circumstances surrounding this event led to such matchmaking. Before the fight, The Well Versed examines the hype, style and stakes behind this unusual UFC 153 headliner.
Anderson Silva has all but locked down his spot as the greatest mixed martial artist, but the reality is he will not be fighting for much longer. The Brazilian has admitted he only sees about 3 more fights in his future, so fans have to cherish these last few opportunities to watch him compete. Silva played savior for the UFC and their return to Brazil, yet his dance partner in this one comes via the unlikely choice of Stephan Bonnar A fan favorite since his epic battle with Forrest Griffin in the original TUF finale, Bonnar is always willing to give the fans an exciting fight. But he also realizes the uphill battle he faces in challenging Anderson Silva. The UFC even ran promos of Bonnar getting advice from the aforementioned Griffin on how to beat Silva, with the ultimate conclusion being he has no shot. It’s an unprecedented way to promote a fight, at least under Zuffa’s reign of the UFC, as company officials are essentially admitting this is a special attraction.
As arguably the most well-rounded fighter in MMA today, Anderson Silva has the advantage in almost every facet of this matchup. The intriguing part of this clash comes in Bonnar’s toughness, which could keep him standing through a barrage of Silva attacks. Bonnar will have a size advantage, but his penchant for slugfests does not bode well against a striker like Silva. The common opinion in MMA circles is that anyone who wants to legitimately challenge the Middleweight champion has to get the fight to the ground. But Bonnar is nowhere near the caliber of wrestler of Chael Sonnen, who used this strategy most effectively, and Silva is deadly off his back as well. Outside of Jon Jones, Silva is the most versatile striker in the UFC. Silva could exploit his range and kicks against the typically stationary Bonnar, or work his Muay Thai in the clinch. If Bonnar stands any chance in this one, it will be connecting with a lucky haymaker or an uncharacteristic use of Randy Couture-style dirty boxing against the cage.
What’s on the line for Anderson Silva in this one? To be frank, Silva has very little to gain here. Everyone expects him to demolish Bonnar with relative ease and is already focused on who he will fight next. Silva himself has admitted he is targeting the long-rumored bout with Georges St. Pierre in 2013. Of course, that possible super fight needs a lot of pieces to fall into the right places to even happen. On the other side, Bonnar has nothing to lose here. The TUF season 1 runner-up is nowhere near the title picture at Light Heavyweight and hasn’t fought any top competition in five years. In addition to that, Bonnar may not fight for much longer himself as he’s 35-years-old. If he somehow pulls off the upset, it would give Bonnar another signature moment in his career outside of his first fight with Forrest Griffin. A Bonnar victory could make for an interesting debate in the MMA world as to just how detrimental it is to Anderson Silva’s legacy. On one hand, Silva is fighting in a heavier weight division. On the other, Silva already made a joke out of Bonnar’s rival Griffin in his last trip to Light Heavyweight so why should he not be expected to do the same here? For Bonnar, his goal is to make that debate a reality. But from everything we have seen during Silva’s amazing 16-fight winning streak, it’s hard to see “The Spider” dropping the ball in front of his fellow Brazilians on Saturday night.