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The art of winning without winning

Before we begin let’s just get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way. This is a fight and anything can happen in a fight, anyone can win, and blah, blah, etc. We all know that shit already. Ok, now let’s get down to business.

Stephan Bonner is going to lose Saturday night, and lose badly. Sensationalist promotional videos aside, this is hardly in dispute. However, even in defeat he can pull out some measure of victory. Anderson Silva is without question the greatest fighter the sport of MMA has even seen, and as such is held to a different standard. The question isn’t if his opponent is going to win, its how well is he going to do before Silva gets all ninja and fucks his shit up. See Silva/Sonnen I. Sonnen lost, yet that fight made his career.

Until this opportunity arrived, Bonnar had been burnt out on this whole fighting thing, despite enjoying a three fight win streak, and even hinted that he was pondering retirement and would only accept “big fights” against guys who had more Twitter followers than him. Well he got his wish. Bonnar has about 56,000 followers, Silva has 2,615,770. By the power of combinatorial mathematics, that means Bonnar has about a 1 in 52 chance of winning, or roughly 2%. But that’s just the technical mumbo jumbo. To emerge with a whiff of victory, even if he leaves minus a few limbs and a nose looking like a half-eaten pulled pork sandwich, here’s what Stephan Bonnar must do, and not do:

DO NOT clinch. As the larger man, this may seem a natural strategy, and even though Muay Thai coaches suddenly came into high demand the day after Silva dismantled Rich Franklin’s face and fighters have mostly caught on to the whole Thai plum thing, it’s still not wise to wade into shark infested waters unless you’re attempting to save your first born, and even then it’s ill-advised.

DO NOT stand for very long. This is a no-brainer. Standing in front of Silva in the futile hopes of landing something big is the sum of a very poorly conceived cost/benefit analysis. Silva is just better than everyone else in this area.

DO NOT get knocked out with a jab. Unless Bonnar wants to join his buddy, Forrest Griffin in the highlight Hall of Shame, getting knocked out by a jab is simply unacceptable.

DO NOT wave off the fight on your own and then run out of the cage. See above for reference.

DO take it to Silva. Fighting tentatively against Silva only gives him more time to calibrate the distance from his fist/elbow/knee/shin/foot/sack to Bonnar’s chin, and that’s bad. Silva is a slow starter. He likes to feel his opponents out in the first few minutes. This is a three round fight. Winning one third of it would definitely allow Bonnar to emerge “victorious.”

DO take that mother fucker down. Again, a no-brainer. But it’s not that simple. Bonnar isn’t the greatest wrestler in the world, so he’ll have to set up his attempts with his striking. Timing is everything here, but he’ll have to enter the danger zone to pull it off. This is also where the clinch can be utilized, but cautiously. If Bonnar can tie up Silva against the cage he can quickly change levels and go for a takedown. This is also where his size can help. Once on top, he must stay alert. Silva CAN tap a fool out. But a couple of takedowns and some active ground and pound is about the best Bonnar can hope for.

And no matter how busted up you are, if you’re conscious, DO get your ass up at the end and walk off with your arms raised. And if you’re feeling so inclined, jump up on the Goddamn cage and declare yourself king of the world. The appearance of victory is just as important as the actual victory, especially when we’re talking about winning without winning.

Any semblance of victory here may very well help Bonnar find that fire he’s been missing, and maybe keep him around for a couple more years. And anything that keeps a tenacious, entertaining fighter like Stephan Bonnar around longer is good.

God speed, American Psycho, we’re pulling for you.