I'm calling it now: Silva and Bonnar will deliver the Fight of the Year.
Why would I go that far? Have I lost my mind? Do I not know how Bonnar has looked in two of his past three bouts?
First of all, sanity is overrated, and it pays to go bold, prediction-wise. Second of all, nobody denies that Bonnar looked less than what some spectators consider his "normal self" in unanimous decision victories against Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury, but consider where Bonnar and Silva both stand right now.
Recent wins over Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury left a different taste in fans' mouths when it came to Bonnar, who exhibited a tendency to brawl in his early UFC tilts, but nonetheless, left fans wanting to see more of him in action, regardless of the outcome of his fights.
For whatever reason, the mentality he appeared to carry with him into fights appeared to leave Bonnar, who seemed ready to retire not too long ago. Give the man his due for hinting at wanting one big fight, as opposed to rolling down the welcome mat for prospects and re-surging legends, because Bonnar did want a big fight.
When that co-main event fell through due to an injury to Jackson, it only took an hour for the UFC 153 card to lose UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo to injury as well. With no other opponents deemed fitting for Frankie Edgar, who himself replaced Erik Koch against Aldo, Edgar found himself removed from the card altogether.
Enter Silva, who fought at UFC 148 a couple of months ago against Chael Sonnen and scored a TKO victory over his bitter arch-rival.
After the event, many fell under the impression that Silva would stay on the sidelines for the rest of the year and await a long-overdue-and-still-possible superfight with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, provided GSP defeated interim UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in Montreal.
However, when Aldo and Jackson were forced from the card, Silva took time out of shooting a commercial in Brazil to take a call from UFC president Dana White, offering him the chance to fight on his home turf once again, and the champ accepted.
Bonnar did his part to accept a spot on the Rio card, thus giving the main event a new headliner. Prematurely, this headliner already has attracted confusion from fans who still don't understand how Bonnar ever makes sense for Silva on any given day. In the same breath, fans anticipate Silva destroying Bonnar quickly and making it look easier than any first Silva ever took in his career.
Contrary to popular delusions, those premature misconceptions spawn from blind assumptions about what should happen based on the way both men have prevailed in recent outings.
These misconceptions overlook many aspects of the fight, but they especially overlook what will drive both fighters to bring out the best that we've seen out of either man in both of their respective careers, thus providing a true "Fight of the Year" candidate.
For Bonnar, he gets a chance to fight the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA today and arguably one of the undisputed greatest combat sports athletes of this or any other generation, and he gets the fight in his opponent's notably passionate backyard. To put it in perspective, Bonnar finds himself in a similar position to what Brandon Vera found himself in against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC on Fox 4.
How so? Well, if you recall, Vera's best chance to beat Rua on paper came by way of a terrible decision. Come fight night, however, Vera looked more competitive than he was supposed to look and nearly finished a healthy Rua.
Likewise, nobody is giving Bonnar the chance to give Silva some competition, but Bonnar wants to score the upset of the millennium against Silva while proving that he never lost a step. What better way to do it than to come into Silva's home country and defeat the champion after the champion came up to 205 when Bonnar could've requested a catchweight or a trip down to 185?
Silva's motivation became public once the MMA world came to grips with the fact that superfights against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and St-Pierre were Silva's only real challenges to tackle, outside of a bout with middleweight contender Chris Weidman.
Now, Silva faces another TUF 1 veteran and also puts his legacy on the line in his own backyard, which takes "fighting at home" to a new level of intensity. That intensity is conspicuous by the passion with which Brazilian MMA fighters exhibit when fighting on their home soil, as can be expected by anyone who fights in their own backyard, so to speak
Stylistically, this fight has the potential to go everywhere before it even happens. Bonnar does know how to lure good fighters into brawls when the time comes, in addition to his arsenal of takedowns and his ground game.
Silva will have to contend with the possibility of brawling with Bonnar as much as he will have to contend with the notion of Bonnar looking to finish Silva on the ground because it seems evident that Bonnar's skills are progressing somewhat in the latter.
That said, Silva presents the biggest threat to Bonnar's streak of having never been truly stopped in a fight. The Brazilian is a smart fighter who uses his movement and his length to his advantage in the majority of his bouts, and his pinpoint striking proves second to none in accuracy.
Also, he possesses an underrated ground game, which Bonnar may not defend for very long if Silva gets his way, as many touted grapplers will attest to.
At the same time, though, what if he could fend off Silva's submission attempts? What if Silva looks for the knockout and cannot get it? Silva himself must prepare for these possibilities, but on the flip side, Bonnar must look at it from his own perspective as well.
If Bonnar also cannot find the tap or the knockout against Silva, he could find himself in for a quicker night than he hoped and not in the way he would prefer.
So many questions must be answered on fight night, but rest assured, we will get those answers one way or another. Although Bonnar is unlikely to prevail, it is certain that he will aim to show the world that he can compete with the best in the world of MMA, just as Silva will aim to remind us all that he is one of the best athletes to have ever graced the combat sports world.
Plenty can change between now and fight night, but it holds immense importance to not write this fight off as a mismatch before it goes live.
In front of a noticeably pro-Silva crowd and millions watching at home, Silva will show why he has not faced defeat in his UFC career, thus far, as he tries to become the first man to finish Bonnar without controversy.
Just the same, Bonnar will fight like a man who wants to go down in history as a man who gave Silva everything he could handle and then some. The only real downside to this fight is that one man must face an official defeat inside the Octagon on Oct. 13.
If I were any of you, I'd kick back, relax and enjoy this fight until its closing moments as the two fight fire with fire in search of victory, validation and vindication. Why? Because I guarantee you, MMA world, that this affair will turn in the best fight that you will ever see this year in the sport of MMA, and you all will know this as the truth because none of you dared to see it coming before it happened.
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