Anderson "The Spider" Silva has moved up to Light Heavyweight on short notice to help the UFC fill a main event left vacant by injury. Stepping up to face Silva is Light Heavyweight gatekeeper Stephan Bonnar. On paper Bonnar is a huge underdog, so what can he do to have a hope of beating a living legend like Anderson Silva?
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is an intimidating fighter, his skill set is one that is geared solely towards finishing opponents and ruthlessly exploiting even the smallest of mistakes. Stephan Bonnar is a gritty, hard-nosed fighter who has brawling style of fighting. Clearly when comparing these two fighters Silva is the clear favorite, undefeated in the UFC, a champion and widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
When look at martial arts ranks and accomplishments, Bonnar and Silva appear similar: both are black belts in Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Silva has professional Muay Thai kickboxing and boxing experience, while Bonnar is a two-time Golden Gloves boxing champion, Silva is a black belt in Judo and Bonnar wrestled in high school. But having the skills only are part of the puzzle in mixed martial arts, the bigger issue is how the fighter applies and transitions those skills to a MMA context, and Silva is one of the best.
While a middleweight for the majority of his career, Silva has two fights at Light Heavyweight inside the UFC, one of which was against former Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. That fight has become one of the legendary performances in Silva's career, as he toyed with Griffin and knocked the former champion down three times in just under three minutes.
Bonnar, on the other hand, is know for his tough fights, many of them ending up being losses. To Bonnar's credit all but one of his losses have come to men who at one point in their careers have won UFC Championships, leading to him being labeled a gatekeeper. But Bonnar finds himself in a once in a life time opportunity to take on Silva and the challenge is imposing.
Silva is best known for his slick striking style. He uses a blend of Muay Thai kickboxing which uses hard low kicks, knee and elbow strikes with classic western boxing. While this is not an unheard of style, what makes Silva special is his counter-striking and defensive abilities, which are second-to-none. He uses elusive footwork and head movement to open up opportunities for hard strikes. Bonnar's brawling style of boxing plays right into Silva's hands.
The advantages that Bonnar have come from size and strength, but he will have to close the distance with the Brazilian and engage him with grappling to use his size. However, the standing clinch is not a safe place to be with Silva, his Muay Thai experience makes him a brutal inside fighter with knee and elbow strikes.
The most logical course is for Bonnar to follow Chael Sonnen's example and take Silva down, and unlike Sonnen Bonnar actually has a submission offense. If there is one weakness Silva has shown in his career it is in defensive grappling. It is something Silva has worked hard to shore up, but Sonnen showed that an strong grappler can take dominant positions on Silva. Bonnar has an outside shot of submitting Silva, but the biggest factor that keeps Bonnar in this is the fact that it is only three rounds long. If Bonnar is able to survive on the feet, he very well could take Silva down in two rounds, hold him down and claim the single biggest upset in UFC history.
The big obstacle is the speed of Silva, while not a great wrestler the Brazilian uses his footwork to control the distance so well fighters can't shoot for takedowns. Bonnar will likely get trapped on the feet at some point in the fight and as he tries to punch his way inside he will get caught, dropped and finished.
Want more technical breakdowns of UFC 153? Then be sure to check out Jack Slack's awesome breakdowns of Anderson Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on Bloody Elbow. (click the links to be taken to the articles)