There's a lot to admire about Stephan Bonnar. He's a competent television announcer and a good storyteller who helps fans understand what it takes to compete inside the cage. He was a pretty solid fighter, too, combining with Forrest Griffin in the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter to let the world in on a little secret—MMA is awesome.
I've seen Bonnar described over and over again as "tough as nails." That captures his essence, for good or ill. He will never back down, that much is true. But unfortunately for the journeyman light heavyweight, it's mostly a nice way of saying Bonnar's good at getting punched in the face.
A fighter who all but announced his retirement after his last bout—that's what Bonnar is. What he isn't, however, is more germane to this discussion.
He isn't a great fighter.
He isn't going to suddenly become a major player at the box office.
And he isn't worthy of a fight with the greatest of all time, middleweight champion Anderson Silva who will step up a weight class to take on Bonnar in Brazil.
This fight is a lose-lose proposition for the UFC. Despite the addition of Silva, I don't think this card will perform well on pay-per-view. At the box office, it's already a lost cause. Fans expect Silva to decimate Bonnar, which is likely what will happen.
It's not the worst thing that could happen if you're the UFC, though. There remains an even more devastating option.
Bonnar, who opened as a +5,500 underdog courtesy of comedians on Twitter (meaning you'd win $5,500 on a $100 Bonnar bet), could conceivably do the impossible. With four-ounce gloves, anything can happen in the Octagon.
What if Bonnar manages to clip Silva? What if he slices him open the way fellow underdog Vitor Belfort once took the light heavyweight belt from Randy Couture on a fluke cut?
It's not likely, but the sport is designed for the unlikely to happen. A Silva loss would be nothing short of catastrophic for the UFC. The legacy he's built over the years? It won't disappear, but it will be tarnished if he loses to a never-was such as Bonnar.
Passing the torch to the next champion is one thing. Losing to a guy who never made it to the top of the sport? Ask Fedor Emelianenko how that works out for your place in history.
Supporting this awful main event is a light heavyweight fight between the relatively unknown Glover Teixeira (18-2) and Fabio Maldonado (18-5). Maldonado steps in for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who departed stage right due to an injury.
I love this fight in many ways. It should be a compelling scrap between two really tough guys. But Maldonado has actually lost his last two fights and sports a UFC record of just 1-2. Teixeira only has one fight in the UFC. One!
How likely are you to buy UFC 153?
I think both belong in the UFC, but putting them together in the co-main event shows in the starkest terms just how much injuries have reduced once-proud UFC matchmakers to simply putting together any two serviceable fighters and turning them loose in the cage.
As a television extravaganza in Brazil, there is little doubt this show is going to be a mega success. As a PPV, it is a disgrace. I can't imagine how hardcore a fan would have to be to watch a glorified sparring match between Silva and Bonnar, and a fighter in Maldonado, who is on a two-fight losing streak.
I'm not questioning anyone's competence or sanity. Injuries have left the roster in disarray, and UFC matchmakers have to work with the fighters they have available. It's a bad card, but it's understandably bad. But understanding isn't the same as hiding our heads in the sand—and it's hard to look at the top two fights at UFC 153, on paper, as anything but a new low for the UFC.