Despite a lackluster start to his UFC career, lightweight Dennis Siver has turned on the afterburners.
He began with an entirely forgettable four-fight sequence: he was submitted by Jess Liaudin in his debut, he defeated Naoyuki Kotani on the undercard of UFC 75, then suffered consecutive losses to Gray Maynard and Melvin Guillard. He looked to be nothing but cannon fodder in the stacked 155 class.
Siver notched a first-round guillotine in a small German promotion, then returned to the Octagon with some serious swagger. Barely discernible behind a cyclone of wicked hooks, spinning back-kicks and a rock-solid sprawl, Dennis Siver has scorched six of seven opponents while establishing himself as a legit contender.
Upon his return, he finished three foes in a row, two of which were triggered by highlight reel Taekwondo action that won him "Knockout of the Night" accolades. In his only defeat along his recent streak, Ross Pearson looked sharper than ever, and the bout was still deemed "Fight of the Night". After upsetting Spencer Fisher, Siver blasted Andre Winner with a punch and pounced for the rear-naked choke, and the "Submission of the Night" honor was the fourth bonus check he'd received in his last six showings.
Siver's last outing was a methodical dismantling of hometown favorite George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127 in Australia, slicing the 10th Planet practitioner's eight-fight roll and extending his own to four.
We'll tackle Matt Wiman's grinding path to stay alive in the division and how these two stack up in the full entry.
Matt Wiman's UFC debut was extremely memorable, but not for all the reasons I'd imagine he'd prefer.
On a mere two weeks notice, Wiman stepped in to face a prime Spencer Fisher at UFC 60, stunning the audience with a quick takedown and a spirited display of his grappling prowess. Wiman passed Fisher's guard, took his back, mounted him, menacing with submission attempts along the way.
Perhaps a tad overconfident from his dazzling start, Wiman showboated in the second after Fisher connected with a combination -- stopping to smile and wave off the resounding cheers after the strikes landed -- but paid the price dearly.
Reminiscent of the infamous "Hello Japan" theatrics, Fisher launched forward with a flying knee just as Wiman transitioned from posturing to the crowd to dropping levels for a double-leg. Wiman would go on to redeem himself.
Taking a spot on The Ultimate Fighter, season five, Wiman submitted Marlon Sims and gave eventual finalist Manny Gamburyan fits in a close decision loss. After the show, "Handsome" proved he was for real with four in a row; finishing three, the last being the most encouraging, which was a second round thrashing of Thiago Tavares, and only the venerable Michihiro Omigawa lasting all three rounds with him.
Wiman sputtered in the two tastes he had of the division's upper echelon, dropping consecutive decisions to reputable contenders Jim Miller and Sam Stout, but has since pieced together three impressive wins over Shane Nelson, Mac Danzig, and Cole Miller.
The key to Siver's success has been to force everyone to negotiate on his terms, and the stocky kickboxer drives a hard bargain.
It's tough enough to lock down a consistent sprawl when you stick to the basics of boxing, but Siver has managed to funnel out a repertoire of sweeping, acrobatic kicks and still react quickly enough to defend incoming attacks.
Reinforcing the growing trend of adapting atypical kicks from traditional martial arts, Siver puts his Taekwondo black belt to work in snapping off roundhouse kicks, spinning back kicks, and wheel kicks, targeting the head, body, and legs.
The first trait that shines in his exemplary striking is the startling quickness with which he unhinges his kicks, as they come out of nowhere, thoroughly absent of any distinctive warning, with no shuffling of the feet, shift in stance, or detectable set up of any kind. The second is the graceful balance he maintains when unleashing such a wide variety of techniques, which enables him to confront the ingressing attacker and defend accordingly.
Increased aptitude with boxing -- especially defense -- and footwork have been the most noticeable upgrades to Wiman's system.
There was a bit of a buzz about his thorough grappling capacity before he emerged in the UFC, and his balanced blend of wrestling and submission knowledge was immediately apparent against Fisher in his debut, but his enhancements standing have made the difference.
I would liken Wiman's improvements to a past opponent of his, Michihiro Omigawa, as they both switched up their stance to a more open style, started holding their guard higher while shelling notably better, and amplified their head movement, angles, and use of footwork.
He always had decent boxing and power, but now those traits are actualizing more through tighter punches and a broader range of strikes in his combos.
Wiman's top game is murderous; a profusion of relentless ground-and-pound or tenacious scrambling to pass guard. He's quick to capitalize on the slightest mistake and sink his fangs in with a submission.
Breaking down his wrestling a little further, the critical aspect versus Siver is one area he hasn't necessarily shined, which is setting up his takedowns. It's not that he's done a poor job, it's just that he hasn't particularly dazzled in this finite area, and Siver's strength and punching power is unfriendly terrain to cross.
Standing, Wiman deflects strikes efficiently with a high, double-forearm guard, but he has to account for Siver's propensity to go downstairs. Rich Franklin finished Matt Hamill, who relies on the same style of striking defense, by swinging a roundhouse kick to the ribs. This particular style of guard is excellent for deliberate, straight-on attacks, but Siver isn't that kind of striker. In fact, most of his devastating strikes have been hooks or sailing in wide rather than straight through or up the pocket.
These animations versus Cole Miller have to be adjusted for Miller's length versus Siver's striking, strength, and footwork, but they do convey how Wiman presses with good head movement and quickness to pursue takedowns.
I think Wiman's grappling is under-rated, and that he'll wreak havoc on the mat if he can bring the fight there. He has the attributes to do it -- speed, agility, and adequate striking, defense, and takedowns -- but of course, the key is whether he can do it without getting tagged.
Siver's looked amazing, but Wiman is easily the best wrestler he's faced since Gray Maynard, and therefore has a better chance of implementing his diversity than Sotiropoulos, who is not known for his wrestling.
The lines range from even to a slight edge for Siver, and while this could go either way, I'll take Wiman to avoid Siver's homerun, hold his own on the feet, and rely on quickness and footwork to vary his attacks. Either could finish the other, but I'll guess that the judges will decide it.
My Prediction: Wiman by decision
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Wiman vs. Tavares gif from MMA-Core.com