Heavyweights form the centerpiece of Friday's UFC on FX 5 event, as the quasi-unbeaten Travis "Hapa" Browne (13-0-1) collides with leviathan Antonio Silva (16-4). The clash is the main attraction atop 3 other match ups on the free card, which airs at 8:00 p.m. ET on the FX channel after a sturdy 8-fights transpire on the preliminary card beforehand.
The "quasi" part of Browne's undefeated portrayal is a draw at UFC 120 against French marksman Cheick Kongo. It was an unusual bout: Browne took the 1st round, Kongo the 2nd, and the clinch-heavy 3rd round was marred by excessive shorts-grabbing from Kongo (a foul) ... he did it a few times and was warned by the ref; he did it again and the ref deducted a point; amazingly, Kongo continued to fondle Browne's shorts like he was surrendering to an irreconcilable addiction and the ref curiously transitioned from barking warnings to slapping Kongo's culpable hands off Browne's attire.
Though somewhat secondary to the gratuitous wardrobe groping, the actual combat that transpired in the 3rd round was fairly balanced -- it could've been scored for either fighter or a 10-10 -- but all 3 judges scrawled a 10-9 for Kongo. Factoring in the point deduction modified the 3rd-round tally to 9-9 and the final score to 28-28 for the draw. Excluding that mess, Browne's record is flawless and replete with 9 crowd-pleasing TKOs and 2 submissions. Besides Kongo, the only opponent he didn't flatten was Rob Broughton at UFC 135, wherein Denver's oxygen starved elevation inflicted more grueling punishment than the competitors.
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Silva is a 7-year vet once stamped with the Next Big Thing label. Hailing from American Top Team and sporting black belts in BJJ, Judo and Karate, Silva vaulted off to a 13-1 start before merging with Strikeforce's loaded heavyweight roster. Despite dropping the first (Fabricio Werdum) and last (Daniel Cormier) of his 5 turns with the promotion, a trio of rousing victories sat betwixt those losses: a decision over former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski, a hard-earned TKO over Mike Kyle and the galaxy-rending upset over former #1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
Silva tackled another former UFC champion for his Octagon debut in Cain Velasquez, who buzz-sawed "Bigfoot" with a swarm of vicious punches. Now, Silva seeks to reclaim his prestige and snap a 2-fight losing streak by halting the growing momentum of Browne, who seems destined for the division's top floor.
Continued in the full entry.
Much of the hype surrounding Browne can be attributed to his diverse package of skills: he's a perilous striker with explosive, heavy-handed boxing, a repertoire of high kicks that are uncorked with atypical grace and speed for a heavyweight and a functional submission grappling game. The catch is that Browne is a towering 6'7" tall but moves more like a middleweight when launching his weapons.
Browne's last outing against Chad Griggs exemplified how dynamic he is. "Hapa" went airborne early in the 1st round with a double flying knee that clipped Griggs, he enveloped him in the clinch and power-slammed him from the body lock and then slithered around his neck to secure an arm-triangle. A 6'7" monster landing a Jose-Aldo-style double flying knee alone is worth noticing, but Browne's capable wrestling and submission acumen cement him as the most intriguing up-and-comer at heavyweight.
Silva has brought his boxing along nicely but it's progressed from average to decent. The fearsome ingredients are his tremendous reach (82") and considerable power, especially when he needles his 1-2's straight down the pipe. Though not a traditional double-leg guy, Silva's takedowns are highly effective because of his size and Judo background. While he's not the most agile or fleet-footed specimen, Silva does move pretty well for lugging around such a hulking physique but will face a substantial deficit in the athleticism and agility department against Browne.
In fact, as their skill-sets are somewhat comparable, Browne's ability to cut angles or slice in and out of the pocket while emptying the chamber should be the big difference maker. Bigfoot is a basic boxer who generally looks to center up on his opponent and crack long jabs and right crosses but his elementary technique has gotten him in trouble against quicker opponents with striking capabilities, such as Mike Kyle in the 1st-round, the blazing marksmanship of Cormier and Velasquez in his last turns and his first career flaw against the quick-fisted Eric Pele.
Browne can surely replicate the speed-based salvo those fighters relied on to crumple Silva -- with the disclaimer that Browne has to remain cautious of over-committing. Silva's aforementioned losses were all delivered by blistering handiwork from the fringe whereas Browne tends to charge into contact range with aggressive combinations. That strategy is what resulted in Kongo's ability to neutralize his offense with a stifling clinch assault which, in turn, is something Bigfoot is quite capable of. Silva also represents a formidable threat with his high-level submission acumen if he can ground "Hapa."
Inevitably, I think Browne's footwork, agility, speed and striking will keep him out of Silva's clutches and he's probably game enough to withstand short spurts on the mat. The size, simple but savvy boxing and proven submission prowess of Bigfoot is a dangerous medley, but Browne's athleticism, diversity and superior striking arsenal should propel him to a convincing win here.
My Prediction: Travis Browne by TKO.