The Curious Case of Stephan Bonnar

The Curious Case of Stephan Bonnar

The Curious Case of Stephan Bonnar.

Who doesn’t love Stephan Bonnar? Seriously, if you’re rooting for Anderson Silva this Saturday you’re either Brazilian, or an asshole. The American Psycho has had a fairly storied career, taking on names like Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Mark Coleman, Lyoto Machida, Krzysztof Soszynski, and let us not forget: Forest Griffin… twice. Now he’s adding the greatest of all time to that list. The Spider is looking to wrap the Psycho in a web of superior skill and drain the rest of his career’s lifeblood in a 3 round main event at UFC 153. It’s been marketed as the Rocky story of the year.

Hell, it’s the Rocky story of the century.

Bonnar’s big claim to fame is that he’s never been finished. Considering the names on his list that’s damn impressive. He’s managed to pick up his fair share of wins over some legit competition over the years. His role has been the perpetual gate keeper to the middle of the pack; the guys looking to rise into the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. It’s a role he’s held admirably too. Of the list of opponents he’s battled with, there are four champions, all of whom he lost to by decision. And honestly, my heart just breaks for the guy.

Stephan Bonnar is an extremely likable jobber. He puts in the work while other men get the glory. He takes the beatings and just walks on through like a cyborg from a nineties movie, (What up, Van Damme?) But I can’t help speculating on what might have been.

There’s a saying that I like to refer to, whenever I witness the misfortune of others: “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s my own way of remembering to be grateful for my circumstances, because things can always get a lot worse. It means in a different set of circumstances, anybody can share the same downfalls as another. It strikes me that this idiom applies in particular to Forest Griffin.

Everyone who is any kind of fight fan remembers the first Ultimate Fighter Finale. The three round battle between Griffin and Bonnar is the stuff of legends, and it was such an evenly fought war that the judges had to have picked the winner with a coin toss. That one decision probably impacted both fighters’ lives more than any other single event. Griffin came away with the decision, and was awarded his UFC contract as promised. But in an unexpected fit of generosity, Dana White proclaimed the match to be so good, that Bonnar would be taken into the fold as well.

As a quick aside, that was the moment my respect for Mr. White was solidified. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that the guy rewards the gladiators who show the most heart. I hope to hell and back that somebody writes a biography on that guy someday soon, it’d be an awesome story.

We all know what happened next. Griffin was given the big push, groomed with winnable fights and managed to pull some crazy wins out of his ass. I am still shocked that he ever managed to beat Shogun. Even an unhealthy Shogun. He even succeeded in becoming the UFC champion for a brief period of time. Actually taking out Rampage Jackson, of all people.

Who’d a thunk it?

Both of those names I mentioned are extremely dominant and terrifying athletes. This is especially true when considering their primes in Pride. And this humble hillbilly cop from Augusta, GA beat them both. Not taking anything away from Griffin, he’s a great fighter and always puts on an interesting, if not the most stable, sort of spectacle. However, I’ve always kind of seen him as a minor leaguer that was fighting above his level. He just kept managing to pull an unlikely win out of the fire. I mean, let’s be honest. Both of his marquee victories were against opponents who aren’t exactly known for consistency.

But back to Bonnar, while Griffin was haphazardly stumbling through the golden halls of the coveted elite, Bonnar was toiling away as the gatekeeping centurion to those same gilded galleries. I often speculate on whether, given a different decision at the first Ultimate Finale, the results would have been the same for the American Psycho? If Bonnar had received that push instead of Griffin, would he have enjoyed similar victories over Shogun, Rampage, Ortiz, Rich Franklin, and so on? Would he have won the rematch with Forest? What can one win do for a man’s confidence and skill? Could the wave of momentum that carried Forest to a championship, and later the lower end of the top ten status, have carried any man?

Obviously Griffin trained hard and clawed his way up the ladder like everyone else, but after the Finale he was groomed for victory. It was definitely good business for the first Ultimate Fighter winner to make it to that coveted number one slot. If you look at his record, his first major victory against elite competition (Shogun) was only one fight removed from a TKO loss to Keith f***ing Jardine. Now don’t get me wrong, Griffin absolutely earned every W on his record. He was a true champion in a very competitive weight-class.  Just not a particularly long-reigning one.

I assert that he was given the best available opportunities, and was simply in an excellent position to take advantage of the situations. I also assert that Stephan Bonnar could have done the same.

Now he’s got a second chance, an opportunity to go up against the best ever and possibly shock the entire world. If he gets a win over Anderson Silva at UFC 153 his career will be revitalized and his belief in himself would be unparalleled. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be champion, and it wouldn’t help him that much in the title picture at 205; but hey, let’s try to see the glass half full here.

Win or lose, UFC 153 will definitely be a defining moment of Stephan Bonnar’s career and one that I pray he takes full advantage of.