UFC 153: Real Fight Fans Looking Forward to Saturday’s Event

If you don’t watch UFC 153 this weekend, you’re not a true MMA fan.

There – I said it. That feels better.

Forget the price tag attached to the show, and forget that few of the bouts have any real divisional implications; you don’t always need those things to have an entertaining collection of fights. Sometimes, all you need is the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, a stubborn old cuss who thinks he can shock the world, and a collection of intriguing match-ups surrounded by a raucous Brazilian crowd.

That’s what this weekend’s UFC event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will be, and if you’re a true MMA fan, you’ll be tuning in.

The fact that Anderson Silva is fighting should be enough to sell people on this event, especially those who fly their “fight fan” flag proudly. Originally expected to take the remainder of the year off, “The Spider” has instead volunteered to step into a main event pairing in his native Brazil in order to help buoy this event after it – like every other event this year – was ravaged by injuries. While some will argue that Silva’s presence isn’t enough to warrant spending money on this fight card and a couple hours on the couch this weekend, I think those people are wrong.

You don’t pass up the opportunity to watch greatness on display, period.

[pullquote_left]
Anderson Silva
32-4, 15-0 UFC
Middleweight Champion
The G.O.A.T.
[/pullquote_left]

When Silva steps into the cage, something beautifully violent tends to happen. On the odd chance that it doesn’t, we’re still left with a performance that has the whole MMA world talking. Case in point, his confusing performance against Demian Maia at UFC 112. Either way, you can’t identify yourself as a fight fan and not watch the greatest fighter in the history of the sport do his thing. Regardless of opponent, situation, or circumstance, watching Silva fight is a must if you’re an MMA fan.

The fact that Silva is stepping into the cage with Stephan Bonnar should be an added selling point, not a knock against this card. While “The American Psycho” may not be at the top of the list of light heavyweight contenders, he is an oddly perfect dance partner for the dominant middleweight champion who is making his third trip to the 205-pound weight division here.

Bonnar has never been submitted or knocked out in his career, and that gutsy ability to stick around and absorb punishment has allowed him to be a part of some highly entertaining fights over the years. He’s also the naturally bigger man of this pairing, and having a size and reach advantage on Silva is a rarity. More than anything else, Bonnar’s approach to this fight is what makes him the right opponent and worth watching this weekend.

There are no delusions of grandeur; no belief that a win here catapults him to a new level of fame, fortune, and opportunity. Bonnar knows he’s been handed a lottery ticket and that the odds of him winning the top prize are slim, but he’ll take those odds, clinch his ticket with all his might, and see what happens. Chances are he’ll lose just like everyone else who has shared the Octagon with Silva over the years, but he won’t go down without a fight; he’ll step forward, take his shots, and stay after the indomitable Brazilian until he can’t continue or the final bell sounds, whatever comes first.

If you’re a true fan of this sport, the main event pairing alone is enough to draw you in. The fact that there are five other interesting fights on the main card is just gravy.

Glover Teixeira is someone UFC fans are going to want to quickly familiarize themselves with, as the 32-year-old Brazilian appears destined to be put on the fast track to title contention in the light heavyweight division. The fact that he was initially paired here with the exiting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson should tell you all you need to know about how highly the organization thinks of Teixeira. He has a well-round skill set that makes him dangerous wherever the fight takes place, and a wealth of experience that puts him ahead of younger fighters like Ryan Bader and Phil Davis in the chase for a championship fight. Adding a second consecutive impressive win in the UFC to his resume should carry Chuck Liddell’s long-time training partner into the title conversation.

Every fight fan loves a good heavyweight scrap, and UFC 153 has one, with Brazilian hero Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira returning for the first time since December to take on the division’s biggest enigma, Dave Herman. An gifted, creative striker – especially for a heavyweight – Herman is just 1-2 in the UFC, and seems content to see if his natural talents are enough to carry him through. It’s usually not, and it probably won’t be against a veteran like Nogueira who will undoubtedly be bolstered by the adoring crowd urging him on. Herman has said in the past that he doesn’t believe jiu-jitsu works, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see if the legendary grappler took him down and made him tap.

[pullquote_right]
UFC 153 Main Card:
A. Silva vs. Bonnar
Teixeira vs. Maldonado
Nogueira vs. Herman
Fitch vs. E. Silva
Maia vs. Story
Davis vs. Prado
[/pullquote_right]

Erick Silva has been a blur of talent and potential through his first three UFC appearances. This weekend, the Brazilian welterweight prospect gets his toughest test to date, a pairing with former title challenger Jon Fitch. Having passed all his last test against Charlie Brenneman with flying colours, the time is right to give Silva a far more difficult exam, and Fitch fits the bill. Stopping Brenneman’s takedown attempts and transition to the offensive is one thing; doing it against a suffocating wrestler with a perpetual chip on his shoulder is something entirely different. If Silva is able to get by Fitch, he’ll be on the fast-track to title contention as well.

If you’re a true fight fan, you remember the way Demian Maia ran through the competition to start his UFC career. He was submitting everyone, and doing it in such an impressive fashion that even those who dislike grappling had to like it. Now that he’s fighting at welterweight, I expect him to start doing it again. He looked poised to do so in his debut against Dong Hyun Kim, dragging the sturdy judoka to the ground in less than a minute before a freak injury ended the bout. Maia’s bout Saturday with Rick Story should tell us a lot about where each man fits in the welterweight division. My guess is that the Brazilian submission star emerges as someone to watch in 2013, and returns to his finishing ways.

The opening bout of the pay-per-view is a return engagement from earlier in the summer between Wagner Prado and Phil Davis. Their initial meeting ended in a “No Contest” as an inadvertent eye-poke rendered Prado unable to continue. The Brazilian Prado has made a quick climb to the biggest stage in the sport, arriving on the UFC stage inside of three years and without a loss on his record, but Davis is a different level of competition than he’s faced in the past. For whatever reason, Davis’ loss to Rashad Evans in January turned a lot of people away from the Penn State wrestling standout, even though he remains one of the top up-and-coming talents in the division.

* * * * * * * *

I don’t often play the “you’re not a real fight fan” card because I understand that everyone has their preferences and circumstances, but this is one of those events where it needs to be laid on the table. After a summer of injuries and underwhelming events, UFC 153 is a solid collection of main card fights that includes the best fighter this sport has ever seen.

If that isn’t enough to get you excited for this weekend’s event, I don’t know what to tell you other than you’re not a real fight fan.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance mixed martial arts journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. He's a frequent contributor to ufc.com, Fight Magazine and UFC Magazine, and is the creative force behind the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter: @spencerkyte