UFC 153 will feature one of the most unlikely main events in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as middleweight champion Anderson Silva moves up to 205 pounds to meet Stephan Bonnar on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Sherdog.com administrative editor Jordan Breen sat down with news editor Mike Whitman, associate editor Tristen Critchfield and European correspondent Tomasz Marciniak to discuss the event, the chaos preceding it and what the MMA landscape might look like following it. Their conversation follows:
Breen: Team, UFC 153 is upon us. We have arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history taking on a guy best known for his hair and tangential connection to MMA history. First, we should probably have a quick memoriam for the fights we lost in the process of getting to this one. Any takers on when we actually see Jose Aldo-Frank Edgar?
Whitman: I imagine we will see it as soon as Aldo heals. That will give Edgar time to most likely beat somebody meaningful and make weight once before he takes on the big dog. That’s a fight coming sooner rather than later, don’t you think?
Breen: Has to be. Aldo’s got no challengers anyone really cares about yet. Edgar was the dream scenario and fell right into their lap with a little bit of arm-twisting.
Critchfield: If “Scarface” can avoid any more scooter mishaps, I think it would look good on a pre-Super Bowl pay-per-view or as an early 2013 Fox headliner. Of course, that is all contingent on Aldo’s healing process.
Breen: My favorite news story of UFC 153 press week in Rio: Jose Aldo says he’s done with motorcycles. Hopefully, it limits the scooter mishaps. Will Ribeiro wasn’t enough.
Marciniak: Well, none of them are big draws in the United States. I can clearly see the UFC pushing another show in Brazil in early 2013 so it can at least make money from the gate and draw in a big Brazilian TV audience. Also, Erik Koch has to be casting worrying looks on the career curve of Josh Grispi.
Whitman: Poor Grispi. I still have nightmares about that George Roop body shot.
Breen: Grispi, who was inadvertently saved from the beating of a lifetime ... by getting a beating of a lifetime. Quick picks on the we-hardly-knew-ye Glover Teixeira-Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Vitor Belfort-Alan Belcher bouts?
Marciniak: I’m really disappointed that the Belfort-Belcher confrontation fell apart. I wasn’t really looking forward to another stop on the “Rampage” Retirement Tour, but Belcher had a real chance of getting that signature win to better push his case as a serious contender.
Whitman: I think the Glover fight would have been a tough one for “Rampage” to win. He has made a habit of voicing his opinion about MMA fighters and their unwillingness to fight pretty much exclusively with their fists, but I think this would have been a serious case of “be careful what you wish for.” In my opinion, Glover’s speed would have been too much for him.
Critchfield: Teixeira-“Rampage” really could have gone a couple directions. The UFC was trying to give Jackson a swift kick out the door, but I think that “Rampage” might have had a vintage [expletive] you type of performance in him. He would have enjoyed tarnishing one of the promotion’s new golden prospects before the hype train could really get rolling. With that said, “Rampage” might have been just as capable of pulling another tank job. Either way, I would have liked to see it.
Breen: Glover could have just leg kicked him for 15 minutes. Speaking of the hopefully-not-soon-to-be-Josh-Grispi-2.0, anyone have a decent opponent in mind for Koch? Remember, this dude hasn’t fought in 13 months now.
Marciniak: Diego Nunes comes to mind.
Critchfield: I would be into Ricardo Lamas or Dustin Poirier.
Breen: I think Koch beats Poirier, and after watching Poirier break down after the Chan Sung Jung fight, I’m not sure my heart could handle it. I like the Lamas or Nunes idea.
Whitman: Lots of dudes there, but Lamas sounds right to me.
Breen: Speaking of picking opponents ... Silva has done a good bit of it for a while and is finally starting to get called on it, though most people’s stance seems to be that he has paid the cost to be the boss and that’s OK. Thoughts?
Whitman: I don’t have a serious problem with it. Champions and their management are going to be given special leniency in that regard. I also think he may have earned a few points by taking the Bonnar fight, although the way I heard it, it was as beneficial for Anderson as it was for the UFC.
Marciniak: It cuts both ways. I will always enjoy watching Silva fight because in my opinion he is the best fighter MMA has seen thus far. With that said, he isn’t getting any younger. I can cut him some slack here and admit Bonnar is “a fun fight,” I’d also like to see him get serious challengers to uphold his status in MMA.
Critchfield: I didn’t truly know the definition of “fun fight” until Anderson said his training camp diet consisted of Burger King, Pepsi and ice cream. I think to a certain extent he has earned that right, and it’s not like he was asking for a mid-level light heavyweight. Silva is facing Bonnar as a favor to the UFC, although he does look like a hero in the process. I don’t think he’s exhausted all the possible options at 185 pounds. If he gets by Bonnar and then a potential super fight with Georges St. Pierre falls through, give him the Michael Bisping-Chris Weidman/Tim Boetsch winner sometime in 2013. By then, he might consider Weidman a worthwhile foe.
Whitman: Can anybody confirm that this is Anderson’s last fight on his contract? Just something I heard through the grapevine: Anderson and his team jumped at the Bonnar matchup because it was the last fight on his deal, and he will then be free to renegotiate for what should be his final contract with the company and the potential GSP super fight. Keep in mind that this is rumor and speculation.
Breen: It’s consistent with his pressure tactics when a contract negotiation comes up. It’s just too bad Roy Jones Jr. is too faded now.
Marciniak: Is it worth speculating on what kind of pandemonium will happen with an upset in the main event?
Breen: How quickly does shock turn to violence?
Whitman: I think we could probably avoid an ECW-style chair pileup, don’t you? Are we not men?
Breen: How good would Joe Rogan be in the post-fight interview if Bonnar was freaking out and crying about beating Anderson, and people started hurling beers and throwing haymakers? It sounds callous to act like the HSBC Arena is going to get razed by Chael Sonnen-esque “crazy Brazilians” if Anderson did lose, but let’s be real: every UFC, no matter how mundane or important, has fights over nothing. What are the odds at least some people, more than usual, don’t freak out?
Critchfield: Sonnen rips off his jacket in the Fuel TV studio, revealing a Punch Buddies T-shirt with Bonnar battering Silva on it. Dana White has to do serious damage control at the post-fight presser, and, hopefully, Bonnar hired The Expendables to help get him out of the arena.
Whitman: Speaking of odds: Anderson is about a 10-to-1 favorite. Bonnar is around a 7-to-1 underdog. Those look right to you guys or are they out of whack?
Breen: I think it gets to a point where it’s hard to quantify. I mean, should Bonnar really be any bigger of an underdog than, say, Thales Leites? It’s just because it’s Bonnar.
Critchfield: We definitely don’t have to worry about Bonnar extending the fight by pulling guard.
Marciniak: Maybe the right way to phrase this question would be at what prices would you be encouraged to bet Anderson or Bonnar? Myself, I’m not interested with the current lines.
Whitman: Naturally, since none of us are betting men, this question is purely hypothetical, but it depends on the size of the bet. If it’s a $10 bet, then Bonnar might be worth a whirl; at a $100, not so much.
Breen: I know that this makes zero sense mathematically, but I feel like I wouldn’t bet Bonnar unless he was, like, +2000, and that’s even conceding the fact that I think he deserves better real odds than that. Just for kicks, predict the ending of Silva-Bonnar as crystal clear and clairvoyantly as you can.
Marciniak: Bonnar makes it through the first round, losing clearly, and then has his “No Mas” moment in the first part of round two, succumbing to Silva’s strikes. I am holding out hope for a bicycle kick knockout.
Critchfield: “The Spider” catches Bonnar moving forward with a counter and then finishes the job with strikes on the ground in round one. I really can’t see Bonnar faring any better than Forrest Griffin did against Silva. I think the longer people have to think about a fight, the more wishful the thinking becomes. Bonnar just isn't quick enough.
Whitman: The way I heard it, Bonnar plans to come out aggressive, which, in my opinion, is a much better strategy than giving Anderson a chance to feel out distance. When you give him that opportunity, you wind up like Griffin. Provided Bonnar throws caution to the wind, I think he gets out of round one and we’re looking at a second-round knockout off a counter. Bonnar goes out on his shield, though.
Breen: Aggression is necessary. Upsets don’t happen without it. Where would Matt Serra be if he laid back and just tried to throw counters? When you see teams pull off upsets in March Madness, they’re not running half-court offenses and controlling the ball. They press, they shoot threes and they go ham. That’s why I give Vitor Belfort credit for throwing up an armbar and then pulling guard and getting his head bashed in by Jon Jones. He tried to win for real with some crazy tactics that maximized his chance to actually pull it off.
Marciniak: Bonnar is the guy that went tit-for-tat with Krzysztof Soszynski in the striking realm.
Breen: I love not having to double check Tom’s spelling on Polish names.
Whitman: Pudzianowski ... nobody ever gives me love for stuff.
Breen: The only tangible goal of this fight is to further Silva’s hold and appeal in Brazil and, if what Whitman hinted at is true, contract leverage. In light of that: what’s the most realistic Anderson-in-Brazil fight we get before he hangs up the gloves? If GSP did happen, that’s in Vegas. If it’s Bisping, do they go soft-spot-for-Euros and give it to the UK as an olive branch?
Critchfield: Is Cowboy Stadium officially out of play for Silva-GSP?
Breen: That’s the only way that’s not in Vegas, unless they did another stadium.
Critchfield: Don’t know if this is realistic, but how about Silva-Rashad Evans in Brazil? It’s a big-ticket foe for “The Spider,” and Rashad gets a jumpstart in a new weight class.
Whitman: This is a seriously good question. Middleweight doesn’t yet have that dude with any kind of mystique to warrant an explosive reaction. I think Weidman is going to turn into that guy, but it will be down the road. Provided Anderson takes care of business and continues to go Megatron all over everybody, I think the timeline might line up.
Breen: Rashad is a good balance of prestige and peril for Anderson. Evans is an underrated dude who I think history might smile upon better than people realize. However, he’s unlikely to tap Anderson even if he gets dominant positions all day, whereas Rashad has gotten rocked in a billion fights and Anderson might turn Stanky Leg Redux into a full-blown meme.
Critchfield: The thing that intrigues me about Rashad is the speed factor. He could very well get rocked, but I don’t think Silva has faced anyone like that recently. With that said, I’d still favor the champ.
Breen: Thought exercise: best Brazilian-versus-Brazilian fight that actually makes sense to have in Brazil.
Marciniak: Fabricio Werdum vs. Junior dos Santos.
Breen: Agreed, but those two have to win out. Mauricio Rua-Lyoto Machida 3 in Belem, or is it too late?
Critchfield: You read my mind. I think “Shogun”-Machida 3 has more relevance in Brazil than anywhere else.
Marciniak: Would the UFC be willing to run Belem? Rio de Janeiro gets blasted for its security risks in the run up to big sporting events in 2014 and 2016, but Belem, as I read, is actually a seriously dangerous place to live right now; not to mention the north is much, much poorer. I was puzzled when the UFC floated the idea of a show in the Sambodromo in Manaus.
Breen: Geronimo “Mondragon” dos Santos fights there and brings out thousands of people. Lyoto would be great business, and he doesn’t even have Hepatitis B antibodies. Belem is the second best fight city in Brazil after Rio, at least in terms of frequency and proliferation of shows and the bulk and caliber of talent.
Whitman: Regardless of where they do it, I would dig watching “Shogun”-Machida go at it one more time. Naturally, it will have to line up in terms of their respective performances leading up to it, but I think more folks than just Brazilians would like to see a stamp put on that one.
Critchfield: Gabriel Gonzaga-Thiago Santos.
Breen: We’d end up with the worst nut shot in history.
Whitman: “Big Monster” won’t be out of the hospital for another nine months, you know?
Breen: One last thing: next time the UFC comes back to Brazil, it’ll be the first quarter of 2013. What’s our main event going to be?
Whitman: Aldo-Edgar all the way, yeah?
Marciniak: Aldo-Edgar co-sign.
Breen: I’m glad we’re in agreement. We’ll just hang out and wait for those two. Quick bonus question: if Aldo-Edgar gets postponed again, what does Aldo injure?
Whitman: Turf toe sustained during an indoor soccer tournament.
Critchfield: Wrist or hand injury playing “Guitar Hero: Brazil.”
Marciniak: Try as I might, I can’t outdo Mike on this answer.
Breen: I can: Aldo loses his smile.