Tuesday, June 23, 2009

End of the Road for The American Psycho?

The finale of The Original Ultimate Fighter is widely regarded as one of the best fights in UFC history and rightfully gets credited with helping bring Mixed Martial Arts to the mainstream.

While Forrest Griffin has since gone on to win the Light Heavyweight title, become one of the most popular fighters in the UFC and pen the recently released Got Fight?, his opponent that night hasn't had the same success.

At a time when the UFC is routinely trimming their rosters and in a division brimming with talent, could a loss at UFC 100 mean the end of the line for "The American Psycho" Stephan Bonnar?

Maybe the better question would be, "If Stephan Bonnar hadn't been in the finale of the original Ultimate Fighter, would he already be gone from the UFC?" Let's look at the evidence before rendering a verdict.

Bonnar has had eight fights since his epic slugfest to wrap up Season 1 with Forrest Griffin, going 5-3. Taking a closer look, three of those wins are to competitors that I would deem lesser talents; fights that Bonnar clearly should have won. Not to take anything away from Eric Schafer, Mike Nickels or Sam Hoger, but they aren't the upper echelon of light heavyweight competition in the UFC.

Truthfully, neither is James Irvin, another of those wins in Bonnar's record. In fact, "The Sandman" has dropped down to middleweight now, leaving a win over Keith Jardine as the lone prominent win on Bonnar's record.

That win came more than two years ago. Since that time, Bonnar is 2-3, with the aforementioned wins over Nickels and Schafer, to go along with defeats at the hands of Rashad Evans, another beating from Forrest and Jon Jones.

Are those quality fighters he's lost to? Absolutely, as both Griffin and Evans have had gold around their waists and many believe Jones will at one point or another down the line. But a lot of good fighters have gone by the wayside after a better stretch than Stephan Bonnar is on, so why is he still around?

For example, Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald got the pink slip after going 5-5 since making his UFC debut in October 2006. Those five losses? Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia, Wilson Gouveia and Nate Quarry. Dropping fights to these guys has to be on par with the losses Bonnar has taken, and wins over Chris Leben, Ed Herman and Jason Lambert have to at least be on par with Sam Hoger, Mike Nickels and Eric Schafer, don't they?

Which brings us to UFC 100 and Bonnar's fight with Mark Coleman, the first man to be crowned UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Truth be told, I don't think Bonnar is in any kind of jeopardy on July 11th. Coleman was clearly gassed in his UFC 93 fight with Shogun Rua, leading Joe Rogan to deliver the highly-comical and perfectly true description of Coleman looking like "a confused old man." So long as Bonnar can make it through Round One, he should be fine.

But still, what does a win over a fighter clearly beyond his expiration date really prove? And where does he go after this win? Clearly, Bonnar is not in the mix for a title shot and the division is easily the deepest and most talented around. In fact, he's not even in place as a gatekeeper, though he did beat the man who currently holds that distinction, Keith Jardine.

That means Bonnar falls into the same divisional purgatory that Joe Stevenson currently inhabits at lightweight; too good to be fighting the new talent, not quite good enough to compete with the best in the division. Basically, he's a light heavyweight version of Jason MacDonald, minus the walking papers.

When it's all said and done, I think the truth about Stephan Bonnar is this:

He's a smart guy who is a great interview. Whenever he steps through the cage door, you get an entertaining fight, win or lose and because he was the other half of the fight that propelled the UFC into the mainstream, it's going to take a lot for Stephan Bonnar to lose his place on the UFC roster.

Fair? Probably not, but unless you're name is Tito Ortiz, Dana White looks after the people who help bring his business into the big time and Stephan Bonnar is one of those guys.


  1. Bonnar also dealt with a kneee injury prior to his fight with Jon Jones, which kept him out for 10 months. Not to mention that shortly that He dealt with the loss of his trainer, Carlson Gracie. These may also have all had some influence his recent performances.

    He's a talented fighter and certainly capable of bouncing back. To my knowledge, he's never been KO'd. I think the fight with Coleman is a good one for him to get back on track and build back some confidence. Coleman is certainly not a pushover and what he lacks in stamina, he makes up in mental toughness and a willingness to fight till the end.

    I'm not sure where he's currently training, prior to the Jones fight he was training at Floyd Mayweathers boxing gym. Perhaps a change would help if he hasn't already done so. He needs to continue evolving as a fighter in order to compete at a higher level.

    As for his future with the UFC, I recall seeing him in one of Dana White's blogs shortly after his loss to Jones. He looked clearly upset about his performance and Dana walked over and thanked him for a good fight, reissuring him that he had a place in the UFC because of what Forest and him did for the UFC. If Dana White holds true to his word, it shows lots of class and a real commitment to his fighters.

    If Bonnars career ends with him only being known for that one fight, it's not a bad way to go out. It was a hell of a fight and helped define the sport. People often compare it as being the Gatti vs Ward fight of MMA. Bonnar and Griffin set the standard high and the sport owes lots to both of them.

  2. That's a massive comment... I LOVE IT!

    The easiest way to respond is this - you're 100% right and Bonnar is going nowhere.

  3. End of the Road are you kidding? What is with this sport and everytime someone loses talk of retirement or whatever comes up. People said Alistair Overeem should retire after PRIDE 33, look at him now. Same with Frank Mir.

    Bonnar is a very skilled guy and yeah he'll probably never be champion, so? Neither will a lot of people but Bonnar has the skills to hang in the LHW division and just because people on the internet say he can't be champion doesn't mean he should stop trying because you know what stranger things have happened. They said the same thing about Forrest actually.

    Also Dana fucking loves Stephan, he'll always have a home with the UFC.

    And for you to say Bonnar is going nowhere is absolutley disgraceful. He's already achived so much and can always achieve more, in fact if it wasn't for him and his fight with Griffin you probably wouldn't be here on your little blog on google blogspot saying he's the one that's going nowhere

  4. the overreem reference is a good point. same with other guys that have found new life after switching camps, different training partners, change of scenery etc. he's had a tough stretch, he also had food poisoning when he fought Sam Hoger....the guy's a regular Joe Riggs: bad luck and things beyond his control affecting his career. Jones had an unorthodox skill set and took him by surprise. not to make excuses, but if Vanderlei can go from UFC to Pride and back again, Bonnar has some life left in him.


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