As we crack the top three on the 2011 World MMA Welterweight Scouting Report, we've began to delve into the more well-rounded prospects on our list. Our #3 ranked prospect, Team Nogueira's Erick Silva (12-1), is one of the most skilled fighters not yet signed to a major promotion, but a recent victory over prospect Gil de Freitas during his run to capture the Jungle Fight welterweight crown should put him in line for a berth in the UFC.
Offensive Skills: Silva is probably one of the few prospects with a complete skill-set. He has shown an improving stand-up game that is much more technical than most of the competition, and his ground game is good enough to submit even solid grapplers such as Gil de Freitas. He also happens to be one of the more paced fighters among all of the prospects, almost never coming out at a quickened pace.
That calmness may be the one weakness in his offensive game, but it's tough to categorize it as a weakness as he normally has the gas in his tank to crush opponents late in bouts. It's one area that he truly excels in over anyone he's fought. It could also be his undoing as he moves up the ladder.
Defensive Skills: Silva is equally solid in the defensive department. He's shown good ability to sweep opponents when he's put in bad positions on his back, and he gets tagged far less than most of the competition he's faced. His offense has served as a good defense for the most part, but as aforementioned -- there is a lack of urgency in his style.
Progression: Silva's early bouts were a bit sloppy, but as expected -- his continued progression as a fighter has tightened up the areas of his game that required technical acumen. His striking has certainly been his most improving attribute, and he's added some diversity in spinning kicks and nicely set up head kicks.
His ground game continues to be effective, but it's probably the one area in which he can improve much more in his offensive abilities. He has good sweeps and top control dominance, but I imagine a wrestler who can avoid submissions and control him from the top would have an advantage over him. But Silva makes his opponents work hard, and look no further than his recent bout with Gil de Freitas to see his takedown defense in action.
Environment: Silva was a former team member of X Gym before the camp split due to a falling out between the owners and the Nogueira brothers and company, hence the existence of Black House. He now works with Pro Fight and Team Nogueira exclusively after the parting of ways. He works with the who's who of Brazilian mixed martial arts, which includes some of the best grapplers in the world in Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, the Nogueira brothers, Andre Galvao, and Anderson Silva. While that doesn't happen on the regular basis, he has the contacts in the US to make the transition and he gets top notch training with Team Nogueira.
Potential: Erick Silva was a prospect that we disagreed on when we ranked him against Douglas Lima. I felt he was a solid top three pick while smoogy felt Lima edged him out. In retrospect, I think it's much closer than I had ever anticipated as Silva's lethargic style at times made me think twice about placing him at #3.
In the end, Silva's more diverse skill-set gave him the edge over Lima in my mind, and his flashes of explosiveness in combination with all of the skills he possesses in winning fights should put him on Joe Silva's list. My only concern is his lack of urgency, and that is probably a plus for a fighter working his way through the ranks as Silva is currently doing under the Jungle Fight banner. Pacing is a skill that's normally learned after a bad performance, but Silva seems to have mastered it quite early. It's a big part of his success, but that doesn't change the fact that powerful wrestler could out work him over three rounds.
All of those traits don't take away from my initial feeling from watching Silva perform. While I think his pacing is a great asset, he still shows some signs of getting tired late in fights. His opponents are normally gassed out by then, and Silva takes advantage. Unfortunately, the UFC isn't going to do him any favors in that department as the welterweight division features a plethora of athletes with infinite amounts of cardio. There in lies the intrigue, and I'm interested to see Silva tested very soon. Look for him to sign with the UFC in 2011.
Erick Silva vs. Henrique "Negao" Oliveira
Erick Silva vs. Jose "Zezao Trator" Gomes de Ribamar
Erick Silva vs. Igor Fernandes
Erick Silva vs. Julian Soares