If you hate a good underdog story, then it’s likely you don’t possess a heart. From the iconic Hollywood story of Rocky Balboa to a new mordern-day incarnation in the form of Stephan Bonnar, the underdog story has always pulled at the heartstrings.
MMA has witnessed several upsets throughout time. Matt Serra’s jaw-dropping title victory over the dominating Georges St-Pierre remains the barometer as far as shocks are concerned, but the UFC has proved over the years that every dog can indeed have its day.
Who gave Keith Jardine a chance against Chuck Liddell, when “The Iceman” was arguably still the best light heavyweight in the world? No one did. And then there’s Frankie Edgar, who has built a career on being the prevailing underdog, until he recently lucked out against Benson Henderson (albeit in controversial circumstances, twice.)
Saturday’s main event at UFC 153 presents a different tale entirely, but with the same underlying themes as a huge outsider, Bonnar, steps into the Octagon to face the red-hot favourite Anderson Silva. MMA fans have given their verdict on the fight and its unanimous.
Some are putting it nicely, saying, “Bonnar has zero chance of winning” whereas others refuse to hide sentiment, stating “The American Psycho” will be annihilated and seriously hurt by Silva. Some have gone as far to say that Bonnar will perish in Brazil when Silva decapitates him in front of a hometown crowd.
The only thing missing was an appearance by Thalia Shire (Adrian in the Rocky series) at the press conference, roaring, “You can’t win” at Bonnar. As far as pre-fight hype goes, this has been, erm, different.
But no one, absolutely no one is even speaking about the possibility of Bonnar emerging from the HSBC Arena as the man who ended Silva’s unbeaten run in the UFC (15-0).
It’s as if talking about Bonnar winning is a taboo subject amongst the MMA community. Maybe in the darkest corners of the Internet, or in late-night chatrooms with five registered users, it is being discussed, but openly, anyone who whispers the notion is lambasted immediately. Such folly is not tolerated, as it’s inconceivable.
As we know in MMA, anything is possible, but nine times out of ten, those impossible scenarios rarely come to fruition. Remember when people built a case for Dan Hardy against GSP and made others believe he could keep the fight standing? It didn’t happen.
More recently, some proclaimed that Jon Jones had lost his focus going into the Vitor Belfort fight and that “The Phenom” could capitalize on Jones’ lack of concentration to score an upset. It didn’t happen.
But once, every few years, a Serra-type victory of monstrous proportions makes us believers again. It’s a fight between two men. A slip, a mistimed feint, a sudden lapse in concentration, or a whiff of overconfidence could lead to Bonnar scoring the biggest win of his life and knocking Serra down to second place in the overall rankings when it comes to upsets.
Theoretically, Bonnar doesn’t have a chance. He’s slower and more banged up than Silva, and we have not even took technique into account yet. Silva has ruled the 185lb landscape with two iron fists for six years now. He has the longest undefeated record in UFC history; ten consecutive title defences; and was successful – twice – on jaunts to the light heavyweight division.
He is perhaps the greatest fighter of the modern era and he’s still at the top of his game as we witnessed at UFC 148 when he dismantled Chael Sonnen after the challenger made a mistake by going for a spinning backfist, which Silva pounced on.
Then again, nobody gave Fabricio Werdum a chance against Fedor Emelianenko but he proved that even “The Last Emperor” falls on his sword every now and again. Silva and Fedor are two different fighters and Werdum’s win came against an aging giant of the sport, but still, these type of victories can only motivate Bonnar, who is walking into a proverbial lion’s den, knowing the world has come to watch him fail miserably.
Bonnar has talked about having no fear and a desire to fight until the finish. It’s admirable, considering no one is even giving him a puncher’s chance. But for every MMA fan out there, there’s an underdog love story they always yearn for. As a wily veteran, Bonnar doesn’t exactly fit that profile, but his story is just as romantic as anyone who ever found themselves in a similar position.
So, God speed Stephan Bonnar. This Saturday, you have 15 minutes to make history and make us all believers of the unexpected again. Even the king of the unexpected, Matt Serra, would not begrudge you this victory.