Bellator Casts Stephan Bonnar in American Psycho 2

 

Bonner

American Psycho 2: Electric Bugaloo

In 2000, Lions Gate Films released a theatrical version of the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho. Its modest $7 million dollar budget pulled in over $30 million dollars, and Lion’s Gate saw this success as reason enough to release a direct-to-video sequel American Psycho 2 starring a then unknown box office starlet named Mila Kunis.  Fans of the original film and the book saw the release of the sequel as odd (if not confusing), but Lions Gate simply saw an opportunity to make a quick buck off the surprise success of the original film.  In fact, a script for an American Psycho sequel didn’t even exist.  The production company found a script in its archives with a serial killer and worked in a scene with the main character from the original film (someone not named Christian Bale), and attempted to tie it together to the original by throwing the title “American Psycho” on it.  American Psycho 2 currently holds an 18% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving it’s difficult to follow up an original with a half-baked sequel, especially if it’s only released to be an ATM machine.

So when word broke this morning that UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar had signed a new contract to fight in Bellator, many MMA fans also cocked their heads sideways. No one outside of Forrest Griffin or Chuck Liddell has been as much of a UFC company man historically as Stephan Bonnar. In addition to fighting for the UFC, Bonnarwas a familiar voice to WEC broadcasts, calling the action cageside.  So to see him emerge from retirement and jump ship to rival promotion Bellator is as odd, at least as odd as seeing a sequel to a movie with a cult following and modest reviews.

The fact that Bonnar took his nickname The American Psycho from the title of the book & film of the same name is quaint, but when you consider the parallels in the movie’s sequel and Bonnar’s own follow-up to a post-UFC career, the nickname is suddenly more than apropos.  It’s uncanny.

Bonnar will always be linked to his showdown with Forrest Griffin, and that fight will outlive everyone involved in putting it together. Despite your feelings on the way they fought, there is no doubt it was a watershed moment in MMA. There is a pre-TUF/post-TUF demarcation in the history of MMA thanks in part to Stephan Bonnar.  Whatever your feelings are as to the rest of his in-cage bona fides, Bonnar can hang his hat on that, an accomplishment to which few can lay claim.

In the last fight of his UFC career, Bonnar lost to then-middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva in violent fashion.  To add insult to injury, Bonnar later tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone in said match with Silva.  Bonnar, quietly, retired shortly after the loss.  Still, Bonnar’s fight with Griffin in 2005 gave the UFC its identity and a huge audience, and Dana White announced that he was inducting both Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013, a huge feather in the cap for someone who never fought in a championship fight let alone won a belt for the promotion.

No one asked for a Stephan Bonnar sequel.  I’m not even sure Scott Coker sought out Bonnar specifically. This seems more of a move by Spike TV who remembers what Bonnar did for the channel back in 2005 when he and Griffin put on the fight that put the UFC (and Spike TV) on the map.  If Bellator plans to build its brand using former UFC fighters as the basis for its future, I doubt it has a long-term strategy in mind.  Having Ortiz, Rampage, Kongo, Couture, and now Bonnar as part of its smells more like a tactical solution than a strategic one. However, what most people may fail to realize is a tactical solution was exactly what the first season of The Ultimate Fighter was.  Tactical solutions can put a plateaued product on the right track as long as there is follow through, as long as there is an evolution into something more strategic. If nothing else, Bonnar’s signing begs the question what will Bellator’s follow through be?  That’s what makes his signing intriguing.

Sure, bemoan the matchups of Bonnar/Ortiz, Bonnar/Rampage, or Bonnar/King-Mo all you’d like. Bonnar himself has already started the promotion digs Tito’s direction in a Bellator press release.  Ready yourself for Tito bringing up Bonnar’s past steroid abuse and for Bonnar lambasting Ortiz’s chronic injury-prone body.  Much like American Psycho 2, Bonnar/Ortiz, Bonnar/Lawal, and BonnarRampage aren’t matchups anyone is clamoring for.  However, sometimes, those things that have the least demand end up delivering the most.  I’m not saying a potential Bonnar/Ortiz matchup will deliver more than a rematch between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler.  I don’t know if Bonnar has enough left to make a run at Bellator’s 205-pound title.  Bellator’s light-heavyweight roster is thin enough that a couple of wins may just find him on the path to title contention.

Bonnar should use Huey Lewis as walkout music.

What I am saying is that I’ve seen American Psycho 2, and it’s not bad.  If you watch it as a movie onto itself outside of the shadow of the first film, it’s a fun flick. If MMA fans can get out from under the shadow Bonnar cast in his UFC run, if they can make room for the possibility that Bonnar is at the very least an entertaining fighter, maybe they can make room for the possibility that Bonnar has a fun fight or two he can contribute under the Bellator banner.  Bonnar/Griffin 1 & The Ultimate Fighter was the avenue by which a whole generation of MMA fans entered the sport.  Stephan Bonnar’s follow-up to his UFC run may not garner the same attention, but it definitely will not go unnoticed. There are many reasons to produce a sequel. Here’s hoping that Stephan Bonnar and Bellator find the right audience.

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 7

“I’m right here in this octagon fighting for the freedom of mixed martial arts.” – Tito Ortiz

You just knew Tito had to make an appearance on this list.  The question is which of Ortiz’s many notable quotables would find its way onto the list. I thought about including the gem he uttered during his stint on Donald Trump’s on The Apprentice when he said of his Punishment Athletics clothing line, “I run a multi-billion dollar company.” Of course, any of his quotes from his work as a commentator for Affliction could also be memorable, like when he interviewed Renato Babalu Sobral in a post-fight interview, saying:

Here we are with Seraldo Babalu, you did an awesome job, saw why you’re a black belt in jiu-jitsu, getting an awesome submission there, I want to tell me what you see, let’s go ahead and see by the fight, what you saw, in the ring.

Honestly, I could likely fill up a top-ten list of ridiculous Tito Ortiz quotes and a list of top-twenty if I included the many excuses for losses. One, however, sticks out among most of Tito’s words of wisdom. In a UFC 51 post fight speech that included call-outs to both Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock, Tito started out by thanking the troops… and then comparing their fight to his own, saying, “…I was like fighting for one reason: I was fighting for our United States troops…they are fighting for our freedom… I’m right here in this octagon fighting for the freedom of mixed martial arts.” To prove it, Tito’s camp all wore camouflage Punishment Athletic shirts, and Tito ran into the audience waving a two-sided flag with Mexico on one side and the United States on the other. ‘Merica!

In retrospect, it’s easy to poke fun at Tito for not being the most articulate person on a microphone, and to compare a sports fight to that of a service person in active combat is a real stretch. However, Tito was a part of that original silver-aged MMA vanguard, and he was, to use his own metaphor, on the front-lines for a great deal of it. I respect him for that, but that’s what also makes it difficult to watch Tito the Showman cast a shadow over Tito the Fighter.

However, I think no one can sum up Tito Ortiz better than Tito Ortiz. Just this past Saturday in Bellator’s inaugural PPV event, and after a rare win, Tito added another infamous quote to the gospel of Tito Ortiz when he said in the post-fight press conference, “God put me on this earth to be a tool.”

We should all allow Tito Ortiz the last word regarding himself.

FIGHT PICKS – UFC 172: Jones VS. Teixeira

Finally giving Glover the attention he deserves.

The last time a UFC champion had a title defense was February 22 of this year when Ronda Rousey defeated Sara McMann at UFC 170, and the last time a title was on the line was in March at UFC 171 when a new welterweight king was crowned.  Since UFC 171, and in between UFCs 170 and 171, there have been six events total where the stakes were high, but the hardware was out of the picture.  Tomorrow, Jon Jones, one of the few uninjured UFC champions, will take to the cage to face Glover Teixeira, a man who hasn’t lost a fight since Chuck Liddell was the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion—three years before Jon Jones started his MMA career.

It’s no secret that Jones is the overwhelming favorite.  The big question going into Saturday’s light heavyweight showdown is whether or not any effects from Alexander Gustafsson’s mauling of Jones—either mental or physical—will linger. Leading up to the fight, Jones has been distracted, making excuses, and generally circling the wagons in his camp.  However, there has yet to be an opponent to have his hand raised against Jones when the fight is over.  Only Gustafsson has made Jones look human.  However, as Chris Weidman showed the world, once you make an MMA idol look human, once you’ve made a god bleed, other fighters smell the blood in the water. There’s no un-ringing that bell.

Glover Teixeira has been easy to overlook fight week, especially with the intense media glare reflected off of Jones, Dana White’s fetish for putting his foot in his mouth, and Hurricane Rousey. But make no mistake, Teixeira is a unique challenge for Jones.  As I mentioned yesterday, if Gustafsson represented a physical challenge (in terms of genetic gifts), if Machida represented a stylistic challenge, and if Shogun represented the veteran challenge, no one has yet to represent the challenge of brute power that Teixeira will issue.  We’ve seen Jones get hit and keep coming against Machida, but Machida didn’t have Teixeira’s power.  We’ve see Jones get hit repeatedly against Gustafsson, but Gustafsson didn’t have Teixeira’s power either. Of course, Teixeira has to get close enough to utilize that power

Given everything I’ve seen from both men, I think Jones still has the advantage and the arsenal to make quick work of Teixeira.  That being said, I’m picking Teixeira in the upset. Jones has proven he can get taken by surprise. Vitor Belfort caught him in a bad armbar.  Gustafsson surprised an 80% Jones and sent him to the hospital.  If Teixeira can surprise Jones, I think he might be able to pull off the improbable.  One of the few occasions I’m letting my gut overrule my brain.

In the co-main, Phil Davis has been trying too hard the last two weeks to stay relevant outside of the cage in the 205-pound picture.  He’s trying so hard to poke the bear that is Jon Jones, the only thing people are discussing about his opponent Anthony Johnson is whether or not Johnson will make weight.  The problem is that neither Johnson or Davos are doing much to sell their own fight.  Unlike the main event, this matchup should play out exactly as the betting lines expect.  Davis is the superior wrestler and has had a better quality of opponents while Johnson has been learning to adjust to his new weight class.  With Davis’s focus on Jones instead of Johnson, there is an outside chance that Johnson could level Davis; however, I’ve already got my upset pick set in stone.

As for the rest of the undercard, look for Jim Miller to have a stellar performance against a late addition in Yancy Medeiros. Miller is a handful for most everyone in the 155 pound class, and his armbar against Fabricio Camoes was so beautiful, it belongs in the  Louvre. I only hope he returns to Bad Moon Rising as the walkout song of choice.  The Hollies was a nice change up in his last out, but whenever I hear CCR I no longer think of American Werewolf in London.  I think of Jim Miller.

Solid card up and down.  I expect Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Takanori Gomi to be a fun fight and for Benavidez and Elliott to go a hard three rounds. As always, feel free to come back to ridicule my picks as I am proven wrong.

My “of the night” predictions:

  • Fight of the night – Joseph Benavidez/Tim Elliott
  • Performance of the night 1 – Jim Miller
  • Performance of the night 2 – Glover Teixeira

 

IN THIS CORNER: A PROFILE OF GLOVER TEIXEIRA

Glover Teixeira before his fight with Ryan Bader.

With Jon Jones focusing on Chuck Liddell, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, himself, and everybody but his opponent Glover Teixeira, it seems like now would be a good time to revisit just how Teixeira got to where he is, co-headlining a main event at UFC 172 and what Teixeira can expect from the champ.

ON PAPER

  • Teixeira started his MMA career in 2002 with a loss, believe it or not, in the WEC.
  • In fact, Teixeira fought 4 times under the WEC banner.
  • Since his MMA debut, Teixeira has only lost one other fight in the 24 matches under his belt.
  • In the 2+ years Teixeira built up his undefeated record in Brazil, only 1 of his fights went to decision.
  • In his 5 fights with the UFC, only 1 win has been by decision.
  • Teixeira has more wins on his record than Jon Jones has total fights.
  • Teixeira has never fought past the 3rd round.

BETWEEN THE NUMBERS

Teixeira is a quiet guy.  He doesn’t smack talk.  He doesn’t try to sell himself.  He doesn’t belittle his opponents. He’s a marketing firm’s worst nightmare.  Despite his affiliations with former champ Chuck Liddell, Teixeira’s climb to the contender’s position, while a quiet one, has been earned of his own merits, most of the time by decimating his opponents.

Much like Jones, Teixeira is a finisher with 12 wins via KO/TKO and 7 coming by way of submission. The quality of competition, however, is where both Jones and Teixeira diverge.  Jones has notable wins against Lyoto Machida, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Rashad Evans. For Teixeira, notable wins over Rampage Jackson, Ricco Rodriguez, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou strengthen his resume.  The two share similar wins against Ryan Bader and Rampage Jackson with Teixeira getting the slighter edge on the quickest time to finish their shared competition.

From 2007 through 2010, the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship title became a hot potato among Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Shogun Rua, with few of the title holders able to hold on to the belt for more than one defense.   Meanwhile, Teixeira was building his reputation in Brazil as a finisher. Often, viewers to UFC events would hear Joe Rogan opine about Glover Teixeira and the visa issues that prevented him from competing in the UFC and adding depth to its light heavyweight division.

When Teixeira was finally able to debut in the UFC, he was quick to impress, submitting Kyle Kingsbury less than 2 minutes into the first round. Since then Teixeira has shown has shown he is an intelligent and consistent fighter, for the most part.

THE BAD

Take his ridiculous fight against Fabio Maldonado in Brazil. Maldonado lured Teixeira into a brawl after Teixeira had dominated him on the feet early.  It was enough to get Teixeira’s attention, but the fact that Maldonado put him in a bad spot in the first place raises a red flag. Maldonado has one speed: zombie.  He moves forward. Much like a zombie apocalypse, it’s easy enough to plan for. To see Teixeira get lured into Maldonado’s kind of game is troubling even though Teixeira was able to get out of it ultimately.  It doesn’t fall into pattern though, until you look at his fight against Ryan Bader.

In the Bader fight, Teixeira was dominating on the ground until, as he did in the Maldonado fight, Teixeira got suckered, this time, into chasing his opponent. Bader lit him up, briefly, before being floored by a Teixeira bomb.  The question remains though: does being baited twice prove a pattern?

THE GOOD

In his fight with Rampage Jackson, Teixeira pressed the action and stood his ground.  When Rampage attempted to get close, Teixeira took him down at will.  With Rampage’s reputation as a hard hitter, Teixeira took no chances allowing him to find a range.  It showed his intelligence and dominance.  Using both in a fight is a hard rope to walk, and in his fight against Rampage, Teixeira made it look effortless. His controlling performance against Rampage aside, Teixeira has shown two things that happen when he does get into trouble on his feet:

  • It’s temporary.
  • He KOs/TKOs the guy who put him in trouble.

Maldonado was so crushed by Teixeira’s power, the doctor didn’t allow Maldonado to continue his fight against Teixeira. Ryan Bader pushed Teixeira against the fence and unleashed a barrage until Teixeira saw enough of an opening to touch Bader just once, forcing him to turtle up on the canvas.  That’s the power Teixeira wields.  It’s atomic.

THE UGLY

Of course, none of the people on Teixeira’s ledger have the physical gifts of Jon Jones. For Teixeira to get inside and touch Jones’s chin, he has to pass the miles of highway that is the Jones reach.  And that’s a long ride to reach the destination. He has to avoid the “oblique” kicks that Jones throws to keep his opponents out of range. He also has to be ready for the creative way Jones implements attacks.  They come from odd angles and at odd times.

In short, the things that Glover gets criticized for in his performances will likely be a non-factor in the championship fight with Jon Jones. Glover won’t get suckered into a brawl with Jones because that’s not what Jones does. Knowing that, does it give Teixeira carte blanche to make the fight ugly?  Does Teixeira attempt to bait Jones into thinking that Teixeira can be baited into a brawl, allowing Jones to get close enough to unload?  Probably not.  Jones scares the bejesus out of most people not named Alexander Gustafsson, and Jones’s opponents respect his abilities too much to allow him to get that close; however, that’s exactly the kind of blueprint that Teixeira’s mentor followed so well.  Chuck Liddell was a counter striker that used his wrestling to keep the fight standing, made his opponents wade into his range, and then uncorked on them with power counter shots.  Liddell’s success with that blueprint is one that might justify Teixeira going retro in his fight on Saturday and taking a page out of the past in order to beat Jones.  Jones, in his countless distractions leading up to the fight, has even been vocal about Chuck Liddell this week, going so far as to challenge the retired former lightweight champion, further endearing himself to MMA fans everywhere. Does Jones see something about Teixeira that gives him pause so much so that he’s sniping at Teixeira’s camp? Maybe Liddell, John Hackleman, and Glover Teixeira know something the Vegas oddsmakers don’t.

If Gustaffson represented Jones’s test against a physical threat, Machida represented Jones’s test against a technical threat, Belfort and Sonnen represented Jones’s test from the outside threat of smaller opponents, surely Teixeira represents Jones’s biggest test against the threat of raw power. The more Jones keeps talking about Chuck Liddell, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, and social media snafus, the more you have to wonder if he’s had adequate time to cram for the kind of assessment that is Glover Teixeira.  If not, here’s hoping he at least has planned an excuse.

Lessons Learned from Lion Fight 14’s Co Main Event & Why Cyborg’s Loss has No Bearing on a Potential Fight with Ronda Rousey

via AxisTV

via AxisTV

After Cyborg’s loss to Jorina Baars in last night’s Lion Fights 14 event in Las Vegas, some things became crystalized and other things got foggier.  While this was a Muay Thai fight and not an MMA fight, Cyborg looked sloppy and plodding, but she also showed she was equal parts powerful and gutsy.

Barrs’ striking looked exactly how one might expect someone who is 33-0 in Muay Thai to look: crisp, clean, and calculating.  However, she also looked out of sorts when Cyborg was able to get inside and throw big power shots overhead.  When Baars was being pushed into the ropes, she could only lift her leg to create defense.  When they clinched, and the flashes of MMA were seen in those clinches, Baars offered very little resistance and was tossed on her back with very little effort from Cyborg.

It’s apples to apricots to compare Muay Thai and MMA, sure, but all I could see was the ground openings for Cyborg to pounce and when Baars was tossed on her back. When Baars was on point, she fed Cyborg knee after knee, leaving Cyborg looking more human than cybernetic.  Still, despite being hurt, Cyborg continued to press forward, even if she didn’t have the best defensive strategy as Baars pushed back.  The fight was an entertaining five-round affair, some would argue even more entertaining than the last few women’s fights in the UFC.

Some things I learned while watching Lion Fights 14’s co-main event:

  • Jorina Baars is slick.  With her frame, her footwork, and her intelligence, she could give a lot of MMA fighters fits if they were only allowed to strike with her.  If she learned takedown defense and some submission defense, she could really shake things up in either Invicta or the UFC.
  • Cyborg can take a punch, a knee, a kick, even a shovel to the head. Usually, Cyborg doles out the striking punishment, but in last night’s fight, she absorbed quite a bit. And she was never really out of it.  She was lost to find an answer for Baars’ striking.  She was floored and stumped, but she was never really rocked.  I have yet to see a women’s fighter in MMA with the level of Baars’ striking outside of Holly Holm.  Not Ronda Rousey, not Miesha Tate, not Gina Carano, not any of the other players in the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC or in Invicta demonstrate that level of striking.  That being said, I’d put my money on any of the fighters in Invicta or the UFC’s women’s bantamweight roster in an MMA match over Baars on any day that ends in “y”. All of the fighters in the UFC and Invicta are likely well-rounded outside of the striking game.  They have to be.
  • Tito Ortiz knows as much about Muay Thai as I do, that is to say very little, yet he was there cornering Cyborg.  While Ortiz may not be Cyborg’s manager any longer his presence still casts a skyscraper-like shadow over Cyborg (no; that is not a shot about Tito’s head).  Cyborg already has a great deal of attention and a lot of expectations thrown on her as a result of her past and her potential within the sport.  To continue to keep a lightning rod like Ortiz around is to flirt with distraction.  Tito does not like playing second banana to anyone.  And Tito has proved time and again, he wilts under the media spotlight (see his gymnasium press conference and his post fight interviews with Alliction).  Maybe that can work out in Cyborg’s favor.  If everyone is focused on Tito being Tito and the brush fire he will ignite at some point, it allows Cyborg to stay in the conversation and Tito to be the distraction.  But with the questions around her weight cut, her campaign to get into the UFC, and her past PED use, the road is already a tough one.
  • I cannot watch Muay Thai or boxing matches without getting antsy.  Too many opens for a takedown.  Too much referee interference.  Too little time for any drama to build.  I’m spoiled.  I can appreciate watching the striking abilities of Baars and Cyborg’s heart, but I need to see more than one aspect to a fight.

What the fight proved more than anything was that when you take a multi-dimensional fighter from MMA and put boundaries around her, making her one dimensional, things are going to play out in the favor of participant who is 33-0 in that one dimension as opposed to the participant who is 3-0 in that dimension. It was the inverse of what people learned when James Toney fought Randy Couture—take away the weapons of someone like Cyborg, force her to fight with one approach, and the chances of her dominating a fight drop, making her look less like The Terminator and more like Johnny 5.

I know some will say this loss hurts Cyborg’s chances of getting the fight with Ronda.  And, Jeremy Botter said it best last night:

While I’m not convinced it will be a major hurdle, Cyborg’s loss will be the card that gets played the harder the negotiations play out.  Will it affect how the parties bargain during contract talks?  Sure.  Will it make it harder for Cyborg to get a fight with Rousey?  Not any harder than it already is.  Wins and losses matter when it comes to granting someone a title fight (at least they should matter), and I think this takes a little of the shine off of a title fight between Rousey and Cyborg.   But wins and losses don’t affect a storyline like the one that has been prewritten for Rousey/Cyborg. Title or not, the fight still should and will happen.

Wanderlei wanted to do more than just fight Chuck at one time.

For example, back in 2006, Dana White brought Wanderlei Siva into the octagon with Chuck Liddell after a lackluster Tito Ortiz/Ken Shamrock sequel and announced Chuck Liddell would fight Wanderlei if he were to get through Babalu Sobral, setting up a clash of titans between Liddell and Silva.  The fight didn’t take place until almost a year and change later, after both Wanderlei and Chuck had each lost twice before they finally squared off, after both had lost their respective titles.  The result when they finally were able to face each other was still a truly memorable fight.  A loss (or in the case of Chuck and Wanderlei, four losses) doesn’t diminish the fervor to see two of the best finally face each other (even if the title isn’t on the line).  It simply lowers the stakes and expectations.  And most MMA fans need to have their expectations tempered anyway. Rather than projecting the significance of the fight before it happens, rather than pushing the narrative of historical relevance of the fight before the fighters face each other, fans should allow the fight to happen and then reflect how it fits into the pantheon greatest fights ever.   I’ll step down from the soapbox.

Cyborg fighting Ronda for the title will be difficult to pull off. Movie careers stand in the way.  A weight class stands in the way.  Other contenders stand in the way.  However, there is too much money to be left on the table for a fight not to happen.  It’s simply a matter of when it will happen and where both fighters will be in their careers when it does.  Women’s MMA and the mainstream’s connection to women’s MMA is still in its courtship phase, and if the UFC is in it for the long haul, fans shouldn’t be distracted by the sprint if this is a marathon.

In the meantime, it gives Jorina Baars time to develop a passable ground game and try her hand at MMA.