Anderson Silva will face Stephan Bonnar in an unlikely UFC 153 main event. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
If you were told a year ago that Stephan Bonnar would face Anderson Silva in an Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view headliner in Brazil, you probably would have responded with something sarcastic like, “Yeah, right, and I suppose Jon Jones defended his light heavyweight title against Vitor Belfort a month before.” Such is the plight of UFC President Dana White and matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby.
UFC 153 “Silva vs. Bonnar” on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will go down as one of the most injury-ridden pay-per-views in Zuffa history, and that is saying something. Still, it is about as good as a fight card can get when lacquered together with duct tape and safety pins.
How We Got Here: When your less knowledgeable buddy asks why this show is built the way it is, take a deep breath and memorize this next paragraph. Jose Aldo was booked to defend his featherweight title against Erik Koch, but Koch injured himself, leading to Frankie Edgar’s decision to drop a weight class and face Aldo in what amounted to a main event far superior to the one it was replacing. Aldo then decided to fall off a motorcycle and allow the resulting wound to become infected. That left Edgar to twiddle his thumbs and Brazilian fans who had purchased tickets looking for answers. On the same day, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson withdrew from his co-main event slot against Glover Teixeira. For good measure, Belfort was pulled from his scheduled bout with Alan Belcher so he could replace Dan Henderson on short notice and challenge Jones at UFC 152. Belcher then exited to recover from a spinal injury. Silva was offered the fight with Bonnar and agreed to meet “The American Psycho.” Teammate Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira apparently overheard the conversation and decided he wanted a piece of the action, so the UFC booked him in a bout against American Dave Herman. Fabio Maldonado drew the short straw and will take on Teixeira and his 16-fight winning streak. The John Hackleman-trained Teixeira was the only participant from the original top three fights to make it onto the revised card.
So Much for Home-Field Advantage: The first bout between Phil Davis and Wagner Prado at UFC on Fox 4 in Los Angeles ended abruptly when Davis’ finger accidently found its way into Prado’s eyeball, resulting in a no contest. Zuffa rebooked the fight for UFC 153. Put yourself in Davis’ shoes and imagine your fight involved sleeping in your own bed and driving your own car to a venue with which you were quite familiar. Now return to reality. You are flying to another hemisphere, where you cannot order familiar food or understand the language, all while fighting in front of a crowd that would like nothing more than to see your head figuratively punted into the eighth row. Leave it to “Mr. Wonderful” to find the bright side. “If they chant, ‘You’re gonna die,’ I guess they care that much about the sport,” Davis told the SiriusXM Fight Club. “I’m always a fan of someone who cares so much about what I do.” Oh, they care, Phil. They care.
Useless Fact: Bonnar and Forrest Griffin will be forever linked like the Wonder Twins thanks to their sport-saving slugfest at “The Ultimate Fighter 1” Finale. The connection apparently runs spouse-deep, as well. While Griffin was getting spanked by Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 134, his wife was in labor with their firstborn back in the United States. When Bonnar faces off with Silva at the very same venue, there is a strong possibility that his nine-months-pregnant wife may be in labor with their first child.
Say What: Griffin spoke to “The MMA Hour” about whether or not he would be in Brazil for UFC 153 and even weighed in on the idea of cornering Bonnar against Silva, a man to whom he lost in lopsided fashion three years ago. “I still have the smell of Anderson’s urine on me,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to sully up his corner. That’s crazy talk.”
Vai Morrer, Vai Morrer: Whether you are getting pelted by batteries from Philadelphia Eagles fans or beat up by Oakland Raiders diehards, there is no doubt that it is tough being a sportsman in enemy territory. UFC 153 pits eight Americans and a Sweden-based Iranian against homegrown Brazilians. The foreigners will need to dodge a gauntlet of flying beers while simultaneously blocking out the subtle, signature chant of Brazilian fans: “Vai Morrer!” or “You’re gonna die!” Imagine the final fight scene in “Bloodsport” unfolding in a 14,000-seat venue. If it was Chael Sonnen facing Silva, the American would need a Seal Team Six escort to get in and out of their alive.
Big Dog: Silva is a 10-to-1 favorite entering the main event against Bonnar, and some even think those odds are too generous for “The American Psycho” -- the biggest underdog in the history of UFC main events. Seriously, though, is there a more enjoyable way to blow $100 than by rooting against the best fighter in the world and pulling for an underdog who does not even belong in the cage with him?
The Long Haul: It is common practice to look at a matchup like Silva-Bonnar and assume the presence of a 10-to-1 favorite means the fight will end before referee Herb Dean can even get out of the way. That is not always the case, and I can offer up three reasons why the UFC 153 headliner will see the decision of three totally unbiased, uninfluenced judges. First, the fight is three rounds, so the two championship rounds of brutality are out of Silva’s reach. Second, Bonnar has only been finished twice, both times on cuts. And third, Silva has plenty of stoppages on his resume, but he rarely does it with just one strike. He prefers to extend his beatings over the course of a few rounds before mercifully allowing his opponent to leave the Octagon, sometimes under his own power.
Awards Watch: Davis-Prado can go one of two ways, resulting in “Submission of the Night” or “Knockout of the Night.” A quick takedown by the NCAA wrestling champion in any of the rounds will give him plenty of time to work on Prado with his Lloyd Irvin-honed submission game. Davis has been known to invent holds we have never seen before in UFC competition, so we could easily see him spring something unusual that is worth naming. Prado has eight wins and seven knockouts in his three-year career. His bludgeoning techniques of choice include punches, knees, kicks to the head and legs and pretty much any limb-to-limb bashing one can imagine. Prado must be licking his chops after Davis’ mediocre standup showing in a decision loss to Rashad Evans ... Nogueira-Herman is a potential “Fight of the Night” swirling with question marks. “Minotauro” at times appears to be falling apart at the seams. Herman is a physical specimen blessed with power and athleticism. On the flipside, “Pee Wee” gasses on a consistent basis and will never be confused with a master strategist. Anything can happen in this one.