Anderson Silva is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. That title won't be on the line Saturday when he takes on Stephan Bonner in the main event for UFC 153. Neither will his UFC middleweight title, which will sit safely on the sidelines as Silva competes in his third UFC light heavyweight bout.
However, there is still a lot at stake going into UFC 153.
It's the shot of a lifetime. It's something Bonnar has readily admitted.
Bonnar was semi-retired and could only be tempted out of his slumber by a "big name." Even he wasn't prepared to hear Anderson Silva's name called when he made such a demand.
A win propels Bonnar into the proverbial "mix" as UFC President Dana White so often says. What that mix will be a blend of is hard to say. It seems unlikely that Bonnar would receive a title shot but should he beat Silva wouldn't any fight that doesn't involve a belt be a step down in competition?
Bonnar has asked for a Forrest Griffin trilogy fight for years. Would it still be high on his wish list or would Bonnar want a bigger fish to fry?
A Jon Jones fight would be a rematch for Bonnar and Bonnar was the only man other than Rashad Evans to take Jones the distance in a UFC fight. Given Jones' recent penchant for turning down opponents he doesn't deem "worthy" would he even consider Bonnar as an opponent?
There is always the (strong) possibility Bonnar wins and rides off into the sunset. As a competitor could you think of a better moment to end on than getting your hand raised after beating Anderson Silva on his own turf? On the flipside, as a businessman could you turn down the dollar signs sure to accompany your next fight in the UFC?
Silva stepped up to take this fight because UFC 153 needed saving. It's on his home turf against a (seemingly) inferior competitor and a good chance to add to his legacy and highlight reel. It doesn't hurt that it tremendously pleased his boss, UFC President Dana White, who wouldn't have been a fun person to deal with right about now had UFC 153 been cancelled the same way UFC 151 was.
Silva will be a hero in everybodies eyes come Saturday, except the fine folks in Bonnar's corner and those pinning their hopes and betting fortunes on the upset of all upsets.
Despite having the odds stacked in his favor, Silva still has some obstacles to overcome in this fight.
It's still a short notice fight outside of his weight class where all the expectations are firmly planted on his shoulders. It's his responsibility to make this event fun. It's his name, despite Bonnar's own popularity, that is expected to promote the event, get people to buy and have them leave happy.
There is also a chance Silva comes into this fight too loose. He knows he's a 14-1 favorite fighting in front of his friends and family and that Bonnar doesn't have the same pedigree as himself. That's not to say Silva will take Bonnar lightly but things happen and it wouldn't be a crazy thing if Silva viewed this fight as less than any of his title defenses.
Think about any situation you've had where you knew you were doing your boss a favor, like covering a fellow employee's shift because they got sick. You might be naturally inclined to take that shift easy, believing your boss couldn't possibly expect much from you because afterall, this particular spot in time wasn't your responsibility in the first place.
In the fight game, against an opponent like Bonnar, that could be dangerous. Silva didn't get to his perch by being a lazy bird but he has had goofy performances in the past against opponents he didn't think were up to snuff.
A loss would take away any potential mega-fight with Georges St-Pierre, dent his earning potential with Nike (a deal that just went global) and put him in a situation only B.J. Penn has been in, having to defend his title in his next fight after coming off a loss in another weight class.
Would a loss to Bonnar be enough to force Silva into wanting a fight with Jon Jones?
Right now Silva is a man with nothing to prove. He might feel differently if Bonnar beats him. Maybe he would see a potential Jon Jones fight as the only way to reclaim his top spot in the MMA pecking order.
Afterall, Jones is the likely candidate to surpass Silva in the current pound-for-pound rankings and in the future as the GOAT.
It's not likely that Bonnar will beat Silva. But this is the fight game, where anything can happen.