Opinion: Stephan Bonnar’s Top 5 Career Moments
By Tom Taylor
At UFC 153, Stephan Bonnar made a valiant attempt at conquering the pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva. While he was unsuccessful in this bid, losing by first-round knockout, there is no questioning the resolve it took to step into the cage with a monster like Silva. Bonnar had hinted at retirement before, and most expected his fight with Silva, regardless of the outcome, to be his last appearance in the legendary octagon. According to UFC president Dana White, this is in fact the case.
“Yes, Bonnar will be retiring now,” said White. Bonnar confirmed White’s statement with his own goodbye on Twitter.
“Huge thanks to every UFC fan out there. All I ever wanted was to bring ya’ll some fun…hope u were entertained. Peace, love, & violence! #ufc”, Bonnar said.
Outside of the cage, Bonnar made it easy for fans to like him. He was a fighter who showed extreme loyalty to his handler, Carlson Gracie, and if you watched The Ultimate Fighter’s debut season, you remember Bonnar hilariously tearing a strip off Diego Sanchez for eating only the top parts of the house’s asparagus supply. While his likable personality outside the octagon earned him a loyal following, it was his in-cage, go-for-broke, brawling style that won Bonnar most of his fans. Throughout his career he had a take-on-all-comers, brawling style that made him a staple of UFC Fight Nights and pay-per-views. While he never reached the top of the mountain, his was a career that is undoubtedly worth honoring. With his farewell fight in the rear view mirror, let’s take a look back at the best moments of Bonnar’s exciting career.
5. Stephan Bonnar vs. Jon Jones
It didn’t mean much at the time, because when Stephan Bonnar entered the cage with Jon Jones at UFC 94, Jones was a young, relatively unknown prospect. But at that time, Bonnar would give the future light heavyweight king one of the most competitive rounds of his career. Although Bonnar lost his fight against Jones, and was the first in-octagon recipient of Jones’s patented spinning back elbow, he brought the fight to Jones in a way most of Jones’s subsequent opponents were unable to replicate. Sure, Jones was young then, but he still is, and has finished the likes of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort in recent memory.
4. Stephan Bonnar vs. Keith Jardine
Once Bonnar had secured himself a spot in the UFC, following his time on The Ultimate Fighter Season 1, he justified his presence in the organization by racking up back-to-back wins over Sam Hoger and James Irvin. From there, Bonnar went on to challenge a standout from Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter, Keith Jardine, at UFC Fight Night 4, in April 2006. Jardine had not lost a professional fight since 2002, and while he was by no means being talked about as championship material, he was certainly well-regarded. From the opening bell of his fight with Jardine though, Bonnar made the cage his own, outclassing his opponent to win a clear-cut unanimous decision. The win was Bonnar’s third in a row, and proved that he was, without a doubt, deserving of his employment by the UFC.
3. Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski II
When Bonnar fought Krzysztof Soszynski for the first time at UFC 110 in February 2010, he needed a win. Bonnar entered the fight with back-to-back losses to Jon Jones and a rapidly declining Mark Coleman in his wake, making the result of his fight with Soszynski extremely important to his staying relevant in the 205-lb division. Unfortunately, things didn’t go Bonnar’s way that night, as he lost the fight by doctor stoppage in the third round. The stoppage however, was due to a cut Bonnar sustained after an illegal, albeit accidental head butt by Soszynski. Luckily for Bonnar, this resulted in a rematch between the two men, and at UFC 116 in July 2010, they met again. This time, with three losses casting a dark shadow over him, Bonnar refused to let the fight slip away. From the opening bell Bonnar charged forth, battering Soszynski with everything, including the kitchen sink, until the second round when Soszynski could take no more. While the win did not move Bonnar very far up the rankings, it was much needed at the time, and was so entertaining that he and Soszynski were awarded fight-of-the-night honors.
2. Stephan Bonnar vs. Anderson Silva
It’s not often that fighters are admired for their losses, but when Bonnar agreed to step into the cage with reigning middleweight champ and pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva, he was putting it all on the line. Before his fight with Silva, Bonnar had been openly considering retirement, and given that he was riding a three-fight win streak at the time, he could have easily retired on a high note. Instead, Bonnar opted to step up and help the UFC save a card that had been badly damaged by fighter injuries, and take on a man who hasn’t lost since 2006. Things, as we know, did not go Bonnar’s way, as he was essentially chewed up and spat out by Silva, but the lionheartedness he showed in challenging Silva is difficult not to admire. There was no belt on the line, Bonnar merely wanted to give himself one final and ultimate test in the twilight of his career. He came up short, but winning, as they say, isn’t everything—even in the fight game.
1. Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin I
Although it is probably surprising to very few, the top spot on this list goes to Bonnar’s fight with Forrest Griffin at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter’s inaugural season. Again, it is strange that we remember Bonnar’s career for a fight he lost, as he came up short to Griffin and failed to win the show, but what a fight it was. Largely credited as the fight responsible for MMA’s ascension into the mainstream, this battle saw Bonnar and Griffin battle like dogs for three rounds, leaving literally nothing in the cage. With a UFC contract on the line, this is not surprising. Although Griffin won the fight by unanimous decision, the heart and first-class violence that Bonnar demonstrated throughout the fight was enough to convince the UFC president that he too was deserving of a contract with the promotion. From there, Bonnar’s career was characterised by ups and downs, win streaks, loss streaks, highs and lows, but above all, with his career now relegated to the MMA history books, we’ll remember Stephan Bonnar for the grit and doggedness he brought into the octagon every time he entered it.