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Stephan Bonnar, Rinse and Repeat

"I couldn't believe I was stopped on the cut. I've been cut way worse than that before and never had a problem fighting on. The doctor's decision to wave that fight off just blew my mind."

UFC 77 Hostile Territory Stephan BonnarIf
you don't believe in the idea of acquiring victory in defeat, ask
Stephan Bonnar. He'd tell you there was little to celebrate four months
ago in Sydney but, despite a third straight loss, 'The American
Psycho', though typically bloody and battered, was somehow able to
conjure a smile.
Stopped in the third round due to a cut caused by a headbutt, Bonnar
was defeated by southpaw Krzysztof Soszynski and rendered a bloody
mess. Bonnar, of course, wanted to continue and finish what the pair
had started, but the combination of doctor and referee cut his plans
short that night.
As the proud American threw up his hands in disgust, turned to the
big screens and pointed to his eye, the Sydney crowd responded as one,
leaping to their feet and praising both competitors for their efforts
and, perhaps more importantly, their willingness to continue when it
would have been so easy to slip away with a care-free shrug.
“I felt like I was in the 'Twilight Zone' during the first fight,”
recalls Bonnar, who was competitive with Soszynski throughout. “The
head-butt happened right in front of the referee (John Sharp), and I
pointed it out to the referee when I felt the head land and open up my
cut. He saw it all play out in front of him. I shouted out 'head-butt,
head-butt', just so that the referee knew exactly what had happened.
There was surely no way he could have misinterpreted what had happened,
as both his eyes and ears knew the score.
Bonnar's biggest beef that night wasn't with opponent Soszynski or
the referee for stopping the bout, but was directed at the official
decision which went against him at the conclusion. Despite it being
clear to everybody in attendance and at home, Soszysnki's accidental
headbutt was ignored and Bonnar was handed a stoppage loss.
“I couldn't believe they awarded Krzysztof the victory,” add Bonnar,
14-7 in his mixed martial arts career. “Not only that, I couldn't even
believe I was stopped on the cut. I've been cut way worse than that
before and never had a problem fighting on. The doctor's decision to
wave that fight off just blew my mind. They showed the replays over and
over and everybody could see the cut was caused by a head-butt, yet
they still made the wrong call and announced an incorrect decision. It
all felt like a bad dream.”
Having faced men like Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans,
Keith Jardine, Mark Coleman and, the new kid on the block, Jon Jones,
Bonnar is only too aware of his own pain threshold and ability to
withstand punishment. Although the predicament looked gruesome to
outsiders in Sydney that night, Bonnar was adamant he could continue
and finish the fight. Whether he'd of got the stoppage himself, or
walked away with a decision on the cards, we'll never know.
However, Bonnar was able to comfort himself in the knowledge that,
unlike other recent losses, his defeat to Soszynski had been a
competitive slugfest and unquestionably one of the highlights of the
UFC's first venture down under. The fans voted with their feet at the
end of the bout and Bonnar couldn't have been happier.
“The fans definitely wanted to see more at the end of the fight and,
if it had been up to me, they would have done,” says Bonnar. “Australia
is a fighting country, and I like to think the fans respected Krzysztof
and I for going out there and putting on a show. It was great to be
involved in a fight like that and to do it in front of such passionate
and loud fans. They clearly appreciated a good stand-up war, and a
little bit of blood thrown into the equation always helps.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish it.”
Blood-free and with four months to heal and reassess, Bonnar and
Soszynski now get the chance to do it all over again when they meet on
Saturday, July 3rd at UFC 116. The doctor, referee and judges will
hopefully remain spectators this go-round, as Bonnar and Soszynski look
to settle the score on their own terms. The rugged light-heavyweights
expect a far more satisfactory ending to bout number two, but
anticipate a similar brawl beforehand.
“I've watched the first fight a bunch of times, and I definitely see
the rematch being something similar,” assures Bonnar. “I did pretty
well the first couple of minutes, and felt I got off to a solid enough
start. I think my hands and defence could have been a little better as
the fight went on, though. I got a little sloppy in places, and allowed
Krzysztof to get off with some shots. I need to move my head a bit more
in the rematch and not be static so much and in range of punches. I'm
aiming to not get hit quite so much by his power-punches this time
around.
“Preparing to face an opponent I've already fought is definitely a
positive, as I'm already familiar with Krzysztof's style and know what
he's all about. I've already spent nearly three rounds in his company,
so I have a good idea of what he can and can't do by this stage. I'm
not going in there blind.”
The complexities of Soszynski's southpaw stance, combined with 'The
Polish Experiment's rough edges, presented Bonnar with a few headaches
in February, as the 33-year-old struggled to get to grips with his
left-handed foe. Although boasting a wealth of fighting experience
going into the match, Bonnar admits Soszynski's different dimension
caught him by surprise.
“We've brought in a pretty good southpaw to work with this time
around, which was something I lacked before the first fight,” admits
Bonnar. “We were previously using orthodox right-handed fighters and
turning them into southpaws, and that wasn't exactly ideal. This time
we've made sure we got hold of a natural southpaw and figured out how
to deal with the style.”
With preparation improved ahead of their July clash, Bonnar is ready
to provide a continuation of their showdown in Sydney. The two
light-heavyweights have been ready for this bout since February and the
moment a referee and doctor combined to remove Bonnar from the original
bout with Soszynski. A swift gentleman's agreement sealed the deal on a
second affair, as both Bonnar and Soszynski immediately expressed a
desire to do it all over again.
“This rematch just seemed like the right thing to do,” explains
Bonnar. “Krzysztof's a fair and honest guy and he saw what happened in
the fight. He knew that they got the decision wrong at the end of it
all. There was only one thing we could do after that fight and that was
to set up a rematch and do it all over again.
“Even though the contracts weren't signed for a couple of months
afterwards, Krzysztof and I agreed on the rematch as soon as the first
fight was waved over. We both wanted to do it again. I wanted to finish
the fight, and I'm sure Krzysztof felt unsatisfied with the way the
fight ended and the manner in which he received the win.”
Having lured Soszynski into a repeat performance, Bonnar now plots
his downfall, armed with knowledge gained from time spent in his
rival's company in Australia. Through the blood, sweat and tears ufc110_04_soszynski_vs_bonnar_008of
premature defeat, Bonnar feels he saw enough of Soszynski to warrant
utter confidence ahead of bout number two. He expects a similar
narrative to unfold at UFC 116, but is also open and prepared for many
more twists in the plot.
“There's been talk of Krzysztof fighting the same way and going for
a 'Fight of the Night', but that tells me he might be looking to try
and take me down and win it another way,” admits Bonnar. “Perhaps he's
bluffing, I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me if he tries making it a
little easier on himself and attempts to take me down. Maybe he thinks
he can get on top of me and steal rounds here and there with takedowns.
I'm kind of thinking that's what his tactics are in the back of my
mind, but we won't really know until we stare opposite one another in
the Octagon.”
Whether it's a case of double-bluff or not, Stephan Bonnar has no
ulterior motive or ambition to overhaul his style or game plan. What
you see it was you get with 'The American Psycho' and, given the
reception both received in their first fight, Bonnar isn't in any rush
to change things on Saturday.
“I'm ready to have a brawl,” insists Bonnar. “I don't know what
Krzysztof's planning, but I'm planning on brawling and throwing punches
from the first bell. Maybe we'll both get a little more technical and
clever in there but, ultimately, we'll still be in there throwing hard
leather.
“No matter how technical he tries to make it, there's a good chance
we'll both revert to type at some point. If I come out there
all-guns-a-blazing, Krzysztof will have to deal with it. He's got to
try and keep up. If I make this fight a brawl, it's going to be a
brawl. Don't worry about that.”