After a first rate UFC on Fuel card a week ago, it’s time to head back stateside as heavyweight MMA dominates the top of the card one more week in Minneapolis, MN.
Antonio Silva vs. Travis Browne
Fight Breakdown: If there’s been a heavyweight who’s fallen from grace as fast as Bigfoot Silva it’s hard to imagine. After destroying the myth that was Fedor Emelianenko emphatically, and being pushed as one of the best heavyweights in the world for a short while after those accolades, once he stepped into the cage with elite heavyweights he got freight-trained. Daniel Cormier gave him a vicious beating and then Cain Velasquez bathed in his blood this past summer. The thing this fight is going to show, above all, is one thing.
Is Silva elite … or did he get insanely overrated in the wake of his devastating win over Fedor?
Doing MMA Math the answer would be the former but being wrecked by both Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez isn’t something to be ashamed of, either. Cormier’s one final Strikeforce fight away from potentially being a title contender and Velasquez is facing Junior Dos Santos for the title this winter. Losing to elite fighters, even as poorly as he did, isn’t a bad thing. It just proves that Bigfoot probably isn’t a top five fighter in the division but isn’t necessarily a bad fighter, either. He just failed the “am I an elite fighter” test badly. Now he’s in rebuilding mode, career wise, and he gets a tough but winnable test.
Travis Browne is the UFC’s latest and greatest prospect trying to work his way up. He’s got a handful of good wins, and what should be a loss to Cheick Kongo, so far in his fighting record. The Kongo draw keeps him technically undefeated but he needs to be thrown in against a tough fighter. He was also down on the scorecards to Stefan Struve, as well, until a massive counter punch gave him a victory. At this point for him to make that jump out of prospect territory and into being a fringe contender he needs a big, dominant win against someone ranked ahead of him.
Silva is a physically bigger man than Browne, cutting to make 265, and has a first rate BJJ background as well. The key to the fight is going to be using that size to his advantage. Browne isn’t a small fighter, not by any stretch of the means, but Silva’s the biggest fighter in the division. Browne normally has the sheer size advantage over most heavyweights but Silva is the biggest guy at heavyweight in the division this side of Brock Lesnar or Alistair Overeem.
Silva needs to use his size and punish him with it. Browne has a good gas tank but if Silva can impose his size and get top control he can wear Browne out by making him carry his weight. On his feet he can duplicate what Kongo did and use the clinch to his advantage because of his size advantage.
Browne needs to pick his spots. Silva has shown to be a bit chinny in the past and suspect to two things: a right overhand and a left counter. Browne has power in both of these aspects of his striking and needs to keep it standing to win. Silva has better credentials and uses his ground game better than Browne does; sprawling and brawling is going to be his key to winning. He has to stay off his back at all costs; Silva is a large man, as well as a black belt in BJJ, and carrying that much on top of him isn’t going to be easy especially when he’s skilled at grabbing limbs.
Why it matters: Silva begins the rebuilding of his career as an elite heavyweight with a win here, especially a big one. Browne starts creeping into the conversation of being a Top 10 heavyweight, and a date with someone like Mark Hunt, with a win here.
Prediction: Browne via KO
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron
Fight Breakdown: This is a rematch, oddly enough, as Hieron/Ellenberger 1 took place on an IFL card back in the day when both were prospects trying to make their way up. Both fighters haven’t changed all that much since then, either; they’ve just gotten better at doing what they do. What happens when you have first rate wrestlers who can throw hands? Usually fun slugfests mixed between takedown attempts.
The key to the fight will be who connects first in the striking game and who can get the takedown. This will be more of the two sloppy drunks fighting behind a bar on a Saturday night style fight as opposed to a more technical striking match. Neither fighter is known for their striking prowess, more for their raw power, and expect this to be a sloppy boxing match with a lot of clinching, cage work and takedown attempts.
Why it matters: Both guys are in weird spots coming into this fight. When Hieron last fought in the UFC you’d have laughed if someone told you that Anderson Silva was the best fighter in the world and Jon Jones was just a teenager developing his wrestling at a junior college. When he fought Ellenberger for the first time it was as an undefeated rookie trying to find his way. He has found his way and now he’s an elite level talent; the way to look at Hieron is how much does he has left in the gas tank. A strong showing here and he gets another solid fight. A loss here and he’s going to be fed to a prospect.
Ellenberger is still young enough in his career where he could whether a loss to someone like Hieron and still have a championship-caliber ceiling to him. But it’ll make it that more difficult for him to make it back in what’s the most loaded division in the sport. A win here and he maintains his status; his loss to Kampmann wasn’t a bad one and is more remembered for Kampmann’s comeback than Ellenberger losing the fight. He still has a resume of high level work to fall back on, worst case scenario, but he has to win here to not be forgotten in the division. An emphatic win, too, and he’s still in the mix in the division.
Worst case scenario and we’ll be able to figure out how well Ben Askren should translate into the UFC once he makes that jump; he had an insanely close fight with Hieron that many scored for Hieron. A big win here goes a bit into people ranking Ben Askren’s place in the pecking order of MMA welterweights. Ellenberger is still elite for the time being; a win here and he’s not that far removed from being in the title picture sooner than later. Hieron wins and he suddenly becomes a fresh face in that weight class. Askren looks that much better, as well, as this fight is going to be one people base a lot of MMA math on.
Prediction: Ellenberger by KO
Josh Neer vs. Justin Edwards
Fight Breakdown: A TUF washout who’s found a niche as a hard-headed slugger against a multi-time UFC veteran who has a permanent journeyman ceiling to him. Kind of sounds like the future version of the former and that’s what Edwards vs. Neer is: Neer fighting a younger version of the man he’s become.
Just in Edwards had a nice run on TUF but never really shined as anything other than a guy who’ll have a solid run in the UFC, win a couple fights, and then lose once the competition steps up. Neer is his first step up and if he has any hope of elevating his ceiling he has to win and win impressively.
Why it matters: Josh Neer is never boring, at least, and Edwards is usually down to just scrap.
Prediction: Edwards by TKO
John Dodson vs. Jussier da Silva
Fight Breakdown: This is a fight that people who do play by play are going to hate. Why? Because both of these guys are fast, even for flyweights, as this is the biggest fight in card in terms of title implications. A win here and someone is getting “Mighty Mouse” Johnson for the UFC flyweight title. And it matches up two fights that probably would’ve taken place in Tachi Palace if the UFC hadn’t introduced flyweights.
Jussier da Silva is a Brazilian flyweight legend who held the Shooto title down there. Formerly the #1 ranked fighter in the world at that weight class, losing that distinction to Ian McCall in TPF, da Silva was the guy I was surprised wasn’t placed in the inaugural tournament. But he’s in the same spot he would’ve been if he’d been opposite Joseph Benavidez; one fight away from fighting for a title.
Formiga is a standout out of Nova Uniao and thrives on imposing top position. He gets it and he generally can win, though he had Ian McCall’s back early but wound up losing that fight. Whether he can get through Dodson’s takedown defense will be key.
Dodson is the ultimate hit and miss fighter. Before he jumped onto TUF he was a legit world class flyweight with remarkable athletic skills who never quite lived up to how good he should be. He would look spectacular one fight and the next he wouldn’t. Dodson is insanely talented, though, and maybe getting into the UFC the way he did will help him be keyed in for every fight. So far he’s looked like an elite flyweight. Dodson brings to the table explosiveness; everything he does have an oomph to it. His double leg is fast, he throws power shots quickly and his foot speed is perhaps the best in the division.
The key will be Dodson’s game plan. He can outwork da Silva but can he out-athlete him? Formiga is a tough out and he can’t out on the dreaded “Octagon jitters” to ruin his big night.
Dodson lost to Yasuhiro Urushitani in his second fight as a pro when the Japanese star was the consensus #1 fighter in controversial fashion, too. If he can harness that Dodson then “The Magician” can run through da Silva. If he can’t then this gets a lot closer a lot faster.
Why it matters: A win here and Demetrious Johnson has his next opponent lined up.
Prediction: da Silva by UD