To many, Stephan Bonnar is a staple in the UFC but hasn't been thought of as a either a contender or an important figure in today's scene. In a lot of ways, he's just "a guy" competing in the middle ranks of the light heavyweight division and not an impending threat for a title shot.
But on Saturday at UFC 139, he pulled off something he hasn't done in the Octagon in over five years: win his third consecutive fight.
His unanimous decision victory over Kyle Kingsbury was as dominant as you read about with Bonnar taking Kingsbury wherever he wanted to go, grinding him out in the process. It wasn't pretty and the fans booing at the conclusion showed their displeasure at the lack of forceful action when the fight went to the mat. As Bonnar said in his post-fight interview, he's not used to that. In actuality though, it didn't matter. A win is a win and for 15 minutes, Kingsbury had nothing for him.
Although that was his first fight of the calendar year due to injury, Bonnar now has wins over Kingsbury, Igor Pokrajac and Krzysztof Soszynski -- a long time removed from his three-fight losing streak in 2009-2010 that had detractors questioning his future in the UFC. The 34-year-old who will forever be tied with the resurgence in MMA thanks to his 2005 slugfest with Forrest Griffin now is experiencing his own resurgence.
But on this post-event Sunday, where does his UFC 139 win put Bonnar in the UFC's 205-pound division? For a while, he's been saying he wants shots at top contenders and has repeatedly mentioned Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as a desired opponent. While that seems like a big jump in name value at first blush, further evaluation has this writer believing that would be the right fight for both men at the right time and especially for the promotion's return to Japan in February.
Coming off a loss to Jon Jones in September and being a former PRIDE star, Jackson seems earmarked for the Japan event and while a bout against "King" Mo Lawal would be media gold, you have to wonder if Dana White wouldn't give the nod to a guy that has been in the UFC since the start of the boom period. Fans know Bonnar and he would make for a tough opponent for Jackson.
For the UFC, it's a no-lose situation. With a win, Bonnar would become an interesting name in the upper reaches of the division and someone White can sell as making "the run" at the title for the first time in their career. With a loss, he would return to the middle of the pack where he's spent much of the last few years anyway.
Regardless of whether it's Jackson, fellow UFC 139 winner Ryan Bader or perhaps Forrest Griffin for a third time, Stephan Bonnar is on a surge at a time when the 205-pound division is still in a bit of flux. With him turning 35 in April, it couldn't come at a better time for him either.