The Ultimate Figher season one runner-up Stephan Bonnar (12-7, 6-6 UFC) meets Croatian fighter Igor Pokrajac (22-7,1-2 UFC) in what many fans are deeming as an "easy" fight for Bonnar to keep his job in the UFC. While that thought is conveyed by the matchmaking in this showdown, Bonnar's inconsistency and Pokrajac's proven power over the course of his career doesn't make this a "gimme" fight for Bonnar.
Bonnar enters this contest following two bouts with Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 110 and UFC 116. The first battle was marred by a controversial decision to end the fight due to an accidental headbutt in the third round of action. The decision was appealed, but nothing came to fruition as the athletic commission in Australia blindly ignored what actually happened. The UFC responded by giving Bonnar a shot at redemption, and he came through by knocking out Soszynski in the second round at UFC 116. Fresh off the win, Bonnar will look to secure a continuance to his fighting career with a victory over a relatively unknown Pokrajac on Saturday.
Pokrajac will be fighting for his UFC career as he's currently 1-2 in 3 career bouts with the promotion. He was defeated by Vladimir Matyushenko in his debut at UFC 103 via decision and knocked out by Aussie James Te Huna at UFC 110, but he came back from those bad performances with a win over James Irvin at UFC on Versus II in August.
As I mentioned previously, this isn't an easy fight for Bonnar. Pokrajac has shown accurate strikes on the feet while mixing in power with combinations. His takedown game is a bit above average, and his grappling game is respectable enough to threaten if he can gain the dominant position. Pokrajac's biggest obstacle has been in the strength department, and both James Te Huna and Vladimir Matyushenko proved that strength can neutralize Pokrajac's attacks, especially if he's being dumped to the ground continuously or eating heavy blows.
It's debatable whether Bonnar can present that challenge to Pokrajac. He looked solid at the weigh-ins yesterday, but Bonnar has a tendency to fade as the fight wears on. If his physique is any indication, he's been training hard for this bout, and we should see some improvements in his game.
I'm not a big fan of this match-up since it has no real relevance in the division. Bonnar will never challenge the apex of the division, and he's perfectly fine with that. Pokrajac hasn't shown the skills to make a run either, but the match-up should be entertaining to watch. Both guys love to strike, and both can threaten on the ground. Bonnar should have the edge in the jiu-jitsu department, but I'm struggling to pick a clear winner on the feet. Bonnar will eat punches to deliver the knockout blow, but Pokrajac's accuracy is quite good when he's firing from distance. Bonnar won't want to play that game for too long, or he'll be too tired to mount any sort of offense late.
I'll go with Stephan Bonnar, although Pokrajac might be a nice underdog pick for those of you betting. Bonnar's ground game should keep him out of trouble on the ground, and if he can sweep Pokrajac when he's put in bad situations -- he'll have a much higher probability of finishing the Croatian. In my mind however, Pokrajac is going to want to keep the fight standing to exploit Bonnar's stand-up game. I'll bank on Bonnar edging out Pokrajac over three rounds.