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.

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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.

Saying Goodbye to the Janitor: How the MMA News Cycle Denied Vladimir Matyushenko His Due

Maybe the camo was too effective?

Maybe the camo was too effective? photo via legendashow

After a 17-year mma career, Vladimir Matyushenko still can’t get any respect.

The Janitor concluded his mma tenure by tapping out to Joey Beltran and ceremoniously leaving his gloves in the Bellator ring.  As a pioneer who has fought in the UFC, Bellator, the IFL and Affliction, Matushenko is well-respected by his peers, training partners, and former opponents.  While he may not have been a legend in the game, Matyushenko was a measuring stick for competition, whose resume boasts wins against Yuki Kondo, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, and Pedro Rizzo. Unfortunately for the Janitor, Mayushenko’s swan song and career retrospectives were sandwiched in between the calls for Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira’s retirement and the announcement of Ronda Rousey’s next opponent at UFC 175 late Friday evening.

Pundits spent the last three weeks contemplating the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of a Rousey/Carano match.  On April 9th, Rousey made a surprise cameo to the UFC 173 press conference and fielded Gina Carano questions. Gina Carano made the late night talk show circuit commenting on her fighting career. Even last week, the chatter about Carano’s meeting with Dana White left many mma gurus resigned to the fact that Rousey/Carano would be happening.  All the build-up was there.  Then on Friday, in the shadow of Fight Night 39 and in the wake of a Friday night Bellator card, the UFC announced Alexis Davis as Rousey’s next opponent.  Not to a bang, but to a whimper. Insert sad trombone music.  Davis may not have been the sexy pick, but she was the right pick. If only the announcement of Alex Davis had warranted as much coverage as Gina Carano.

The timing of the announcement was perfect from a PR perspective.  After all, Fridays are a great day to deliver bad news.  Someone needs to be fired?  Friday is the day to do it. Negative company news to release that could affect investing?  Friday is your day.  People are out and starting the weekend and less likely to be aware of the news anyway. It’s garbage day.  In the case of the Rousey/Davis announcement, the UFC hit the trifecta: fight analysts writing and filing their Fight Night 39 stories, the broadcast for the Bellator card, and the media prep for Bradley/Pacquiao.

The effect was just what the UFC hoped for. The announcement bridges the gap of coverage between UFC Fight Night 39 and the Ultimate Fighter: Nations finale, it kills the Carano story (thereby cutting off the “contender illegitimacy” talk) after generating a lot of buzz for all parties involved, and it takes the air out of the competition’s fight night.  Poor Bellator.  It couldn’t even keep its PR machine going past its own broadcast time despite the ridiculous announcement of Alexander Shlemenko challenging Tito Ortiz, proving that even in his own promotional backyard, Valddy can’t catch a break.

Three days removed from his last fight, and the Janitor is buried beneath the fallout from UFC Fight Night 39, Alexander Shlemenko calling out Tito Ortiz, Alex Davis named as Ronda Rousey’s next opponent, Manny Pacqiauo’s mother conjuring voodoo hexes, Chael Sonnen and Wnaderlei Silva’s onset fight on TUF, Chael Sonnen calling out Rich Franklin, and the press for this Wednesday’s Ultimate Fighter: Nations premier.  And just like that, Vladimir Matyushenko is once again the last one in the building.

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.

UFC 173: The Understudy’s Last Gasp – Can Rich Franklin Rescue the UFC One Last Time?

Embed from Getty Images

Well, at least the poster for UFC 175 is set.  But what happens with UFC 173?

News came down yesterday evening that UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman will need to undergo “minor” knee surgery and that the original fight date of May fight against Lyoto Machida will be postponed until July.  The matchup will now be featured on UFC 175 in July.

That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of extra time, and while it appears on the surface the injury to Weidman isn’t too severe, it does leave a hole in the main event for UFC 173. Some of the possible matchups being battered around by pugilist pundits include:

  • Lawler vs. Diaz II (assuming Lawler is healthy enough to go by then)
  • Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
  • Hendo vs. Daniel Cormier

The Diaz/Lawler match is the most intriguing of the bunch because of the participants and because of the wake from UFC 171 and the glut of contenders at the welterweight division. This of course assumes Diaz is in shape and Lawler isn’t hurt.  There is no title on the line, and there is little in the way of significance other than if Diaz wins, suddenly he has a credible win that advances his cause at a title shot against Johny Hendricks.

With Aldo/Mendes, there is a guaranteed title shot, and Aldo seems to think Mendes is next in line, anyway.  Whether or not fans will tune in to buy the fight remains to be seen.  Mendes has been on an outstanding tear through the division since they last met.  However, due to the convincing nature of Aldo’s win during their last dance, there would likely need to be a lot of build-up.  Also, during Mendes’ time in Dallas for UFC 171 and during a Q&A with fight club members he mentioned that he would be Anthony Pettis’ wrestling coach for the Ultimate Fighter TV show. That could coincide with the prep needed for a main event slot at UFC 173.

As far as Cormier and Hendo, there is too much of a gap between both athletes and where they are in their careers for this to be competitive.  It gives Cormier a nice feather in his cap with a win over a legend like Hendo, but does it advance his quest for 205 gold? Conversely  a Hendo win means he’s beaten a fighter who is 1-0 in the 205 division.

All of these pairings seem to make sense given the situation and the state of everyone else’s schedules, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any one of these matchups happen.   However, if there is a true dark horse, if there is one fighter who has been known to go to bat for the UFC time and time again, saving main events, rescuing PPVs, single-handedly juicing vegetables and fruits, it’s Rich Franklin.

Franklin has been on hiatus after starting his juicing company and hasn’t been too interested in getting back to the Octagon. Recently, Franklin turned down an offer to fight Lil Nog, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, in Franklin’s home of Cincinnati because he is very focused on his juice bar business.  Furthermore, Franklin has gone on record about his next fight likely being his last.

But if you are familiar with Franklin or the UFC, you know that Franklin has been the company’s go-to, tactical stop gap when injuries take down main eventers and PPVs are on the line.  Franklin stepped in for an injured Tito Ortiz and fought Chuck Liddell at UFC 115 in Liddell’s last fight.  He also stepped in for an injured Vitor Belfort and fought Wanderlei Silva at the main event for UFC 147. He moves between light heavyweight and middleweight depending on the fight the UFC presents him, and he’s fought several times at a catchweight between the divisions just to ensure an event has a main eventer in place.

Perhaps Franklin could be inclined to leave the trappings of his juice bar business for one last fight if the UFC made an event out of it.  Give him the proper send-off by making this a big event and changing the narrative to honor the man.  Whether it’s against Little Nog or someone like Ryan Bader, a UFC 173 main event slot could serve as Franklin’s swan song, allowing him to ride off into the sunset by main eventing one last time on one last card in the UFC’s own backyard.   It could be a real symbolic passing of the torch since Franklin is the last of the UFC’s earliest breakout stars from the transitory pre-TUF/post-TUF era.  And, it would just be a classy thing to do.

It’s a longshot for sure, and whether or not he gets the nod, Franklin definitely deserves some major recognition from the promotion and from fans at some point considering how many times he’s shown up for the UFC in the past.  There’s a reason he’s a fan favorite, and there’s a need from the fans to see him recognized.