Bellator Casts Stephan Bonnar in American Psycho 2

 

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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.

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WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 4

“All I guarantee is violence.” Wanderlei Silva

"I once caught a fish this big."

“I once caught a fish this big.” Photo via TeamRKS

Wanderlei Silva is/was one of the most beloved fighters in MMA with one of the most dedicated fan bases.  And then he fell victim to the bad guy.  After years of waiting for a showdown with Chael Sonnen (and vice versa), Silva decided he couldn’t wait any longer and jumped the gun… and Chael Sonnen.

It’s not too shocking to imagine that this would happen given Silva’s roots in luta livre and bare-knuckled fighting in Brazil. The guy is a vet who has been fighting before there were rules.  So, when a fighter with the nickname the Axe Murderer says the only thing fans and opponents can count on is violence, it comes off like Jules Winfield quoting the gospel.  It should be no shock then that Wanderlei Silva threw down in an on-set brawl with Chael Sonnen during the taping of Ultimate fighter: Brazil. What ended up surprising everyone was the reaction to the brawl. Fans, Brazilian fans in particular, began to disavow Wanderlei.

Silva blames the reaction on the editing of the TV show for the public’s negative perception of him; however, Silva’s actions, much like his words, speak for themselves. Despite the events of the last few months and the goings-on in the Ultimate Fighter set, Wandy is still a fan favorite among die-hard MMA fans.

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What the impromptu fight showed fans more than anything is that the dichotomy between Silva and Sonnen is so tiny, if you squint hard enough, something comes into clear focus: Silva and Sonnen may as well be brothers from another mother.  For Silva, there may be honor in defending his country’s reputation against the “mean words” used by Sonnen, but his valor is doing double duty and helping to sell their fight.  As for Sonnen, he’s never been shy about the fact that what he does is take advantage of opportunities, and in the case of the on-set tussle, he gets the chance to re-brand himself as the fan-favorite and sell the fight and himself.  It’s no different a tactic than when Wanderlei says things like “All I guarantee is violence.” It sounds “like some coldblooded sh*t to say” to an opponent that sells one’s self and the fight.

Wanderlei may be offended to hear it, and Sonnen will never admit it, but Wanderlei Silva is the original Chael Sonnen.

Forget Irritating, Michael Bisping Is Tough to Defeat

Michael Bisping faces off against Denis Kang.

Michael Bisping faces off against Denis Kang.

It’s difficult to like Michael Bisping if you’re looking at him through the lens of his stint on The Ultimate Fighter (as either a coach or participant).  Being seen in a certain light due to the skillful editing of a TV show can do that.  Even though it’s been eight years since Bisping was on the show as a contestant and five years since he was a coach on the show and later suffered a brutal KO at the hands of Dan Henderson, time has done little to sway the perception some UFC fans have of Bisping.

Despite the excellent work he’s done as an MMA analyst for Fox, despite the fact that he is still fighting for the same organization for almost a decade, despite that he always seems to be ranked in the top 10 in his division, for some, Bisping will always wear the black hat.  In fact, Bisping rather relishes the attention his opponents lavish on him and the brush with which they attempt to paint him.  “Really in some ways I should thank him [Kennedy]. And of course, it’s motivated me as well,” Bisping said of Tim Kennedy in an open workout on Sunday before the two square off for The Ultimate Fighter: Nations finale.

For the most part, every time Bisping is booked, his opponents do the same thing: they poke the bear. Through challenges and bets, through videos, through interviews, his opponents blast the insults like buckshot hoping to be just as much of an irritant to Bisping as he is to them.  They pick and prod and nudge him into a war of words before the fight takes place because they believe, in addition to helping sell the fight, the barbs will get under Bisping’s skin enough to affect his performance. In that respect, they have already lost because Michael Bisping so needs to have the last word, he never relents.  To his credit, he usual gets the last word.

Consider the following tweet:

On the surface, this is true (even if Bisping himself has been out for a year dealing with an eye injury). None of the opponents Michael Bisping has beaten are a part of the UFC’s active roster.  Let that sink in.  Question the quality of wins over guys like Chris Leben, Brain Stann, Jorge Rivera, Alan Belcher, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and any of Bisping’s other wins as much as you’d like.  None of them are on the UFC’s active roster.  Bisping still is. Very few fighters have that kind of shelf life, especially with one organization.  This should be Tim Kennedy’s motivation for beating Bisping—the people Bisping beats don’t tend to stay in the UFC.

Every time I pick against Michael Bisping, the Count makes me look silly, much like the opponents he faces.  I fall into the same trap that his opponents fall into—I get distracted by the brashness and bravado and I forget that the only thing one can assume about a guy who has been around a long as Michael Bisping is that the man is a survivor.  Few fighters have been able to best Bisping’s ability to build the pre-fight hype to a kettle-pot boil. Fewer still, only five to his ledger, have been able to actually best him where it matters.  Count out The Count at your own peril.

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TS: TUF AND STUFF – THE WOMEN ARE CARRYING THE RATINGS

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You heard it here last week.   It’s not an anomaly.

Whether it’s because the fights are more compelling or the stories are more compelling, the TUF ladies are killing it. Question the quality of fights if you want, but the numbers don’t lie.

 

TS: TUF and STUFF – The Ultimate Fighter 18, Episode 4 Reaction

Roxanne Modafferi is such a breath of fresh air from the usual ridiculous TUF choices to come out of central casting.  She draws.  She teaches Japanese to fellow competitors.  She does arts and crafts.  Well, I guess she’s not the first to do arts and crafts in the TUF household, but she is definitely unique, and that makes her so endearing.  It also makes it that much harder to watch the ending to her fight against boxing vet Jessica Rakoczy.  Unfortunately, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen to the Happy Warrior:

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Does a fighter need to be aggressive and have a mean streak to be successful?  I don’t know.  I’m a fan of Roxy and appreciate that she is who she is.  What I do know is that it is hard to watch someone who is genuinely likeable get clobbered.  Also, adding some salt to the wound is the fact that, like Shanya Baszler, Roxanne is a seasoned vet.  She is someone who has worked hard and fought all the toughest competition to get where she is.  Unlike Baszler, however, Roxanne comes off as very humble, so to see her get mauled by Jessica Rakoczy was hard to watch.  Injury was compounded by insult when the referee, who could clearly see Rakoczy grabbing the fence repeatedly, apparently had a stroke and lost his vision and could not see that Roxanne was in no position to defend herself after she received a slam that eerily resembled Sarah Kaufman’s finish against Roxanne in Strikeforce.

Al Powers/Zuffa LLC-Zuffa LLC

Seeing Baszler and Modafferi consoling each other was a pretty epic sight.  It says a lot that two of the most experienced fighters in the house have been defeated, seasoned vets who have fought around the world.  It says there are no guarantees.  But does it say that the time for these vets has passed?  Does it say that these pioneers in women’s MMA, who have been toiling in promotion after promotion making their bones and reputations with any fight they can get, are closer to the downside of their careers?  Or does it say that the younger fighters coming up, those looking for UFC success and those within Invicta who have based their training in MMA as a discipline on to itself, owe their success to their foremothers in the sport?

It would be a shame to think this is the last we’ll see of Modafferi and Baszler in the UFC, and hopefully, both can find themselves on the UFC’s roster when this is all said and done, if for nothing else, at least for the finale.  The UFC’s women’s division is threadbare and needs quality fighters to fill out the division and make things more competitive.

In any case, the story behind this season’s TUF, and the women’s fights in particular, continue to compel, and I look forward to seeing the next women’s matchup and how the vets handle being in the house when nothing else for them is on the line.