Stephan Bonnar was on the verge of retirement when he got the last minute call to fulfill his final career wish: fight someone with more Twitter followers than him. Wish granted as Anderson Silva has over two million of them. The only issue is that Bonnar now has to face MMA's best and most accomplished active fighter even if it's at a weight class more familiar to 'The Ultimate Fighter' veteran.
Can Bonnar pull of the impossible and get the biggest win of his career? Will the return of Minotauro Nogueira prove successful? Is Jon Fitch still a top welterweight contender? I answer these questions and more with predictions for Saturday's event.
Where: HSBC Arena, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Saturday, the two-fight Facebook card starts at 7:00 p.m. ET, the four-fight FX card starts at 8:00 p.m. and the six-fight main card starts on pay-per-view at 10:00 p.m.
There really isn't much to say about this. Short of Silva having an injury or Bonnar fighting in a way I don't think he's capable of fighting, this should be a runaway for the middleweight champion. Even if Silva hadn't corrected for many of his game's shortcomings that were problematic over the years (takedown defense being one of them), I'd still heavily favor him over Bonnar. That he's studiously worked on his game makes anything but a pick for Silva insane.
Too many ways to win. That's the reality Herman faces regarding Nogueira's chances. Nogueira's health worries me a bit, though. For a fighter as tough as he, I do wonder about his fragility after all these years, injuries and recuperative periods. Still, he's a reasonably accurate boxer, experienced as a tactician and has enough offensive jiu-jitsu to keep Herman on his toes. I was a big believer in Herman as a prospect, but one wonders if his progression is stalling out.
I know some fans are excited about this match-up. They believe the boxing - and especially the body punching - of Maldonado will ultimately clash nicely with Teixeira's own brand of brass, pocket presence striking. Maybe, but I'm still leaning Teixeira. His offense is far more well-rounded and I frankly believe he's a different class of opponent. Most notably, he also fights with a much greater sense of urgency. Maldonado is tough, but I can't see an interesting but limited style of striking offense being enough to get the job done.
Were this 2008 and were it not for the time off, I'd go with Fitch. But it's 2012 and Fitch has been inactive. Conversely, Silva's been on a roll. To be sure, this fight presents a stylistic match-up that makes for certitude in forecasting foolish. This is anyone's fight. But even if Fitch controls with the takedown, which is by no means a given, he's going to have issues putting Silva away. Leaving an explosive striker like that in a fight for a full 15 minutes is simply too much risk for me to overlook.
I picked Davis the first time these two were matched up and I was less than impressed with Davis' early game plan, though not as critical as some on the FUEL TV broadcast. Either way, not much changes for me. Once Davis begins to secure the takedown, I don't see Prado having the skills to be able to deal with him.
I'm not sure what to make of Rick Story. After defeating Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves, I thought he'd finally arrived as a contender. A ruthless body puncher with good offensive takedowns and overall durability, he had many of the tools to be a big success. But against proactive fighters like Martin Kampmann and Charlie Brenneman, he seemed to fade. I'm still not sure about Maia's chances at welterweight, but he's nothing if not relentless. If Story decides to press the action, take center of the Octagon and force Maia to fight backing up, things could get interesting. But from what we've seen lately, that role will likely belong to Maia.