Light-heavyweights punctuate the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 6 in Macao, China, as undefeated Bulgarian Stanislav Nedkov makes his sophomore effort in the Octagon against fierce Brazilian striker Thiago Silva. The card is headlined by elite kickboxers in Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le and airs at the unfortunate hour of 9 a.m. ET on the Fuel network.
So, I can't help but liken Thiago Silva (14-3) to an angry Sith Lord after his trio of performances against Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans and Brandon Vera. He swatted Jardine's head into the nosebleeds with a crushing left hook and then stood over him with a menacing, Fonzi-esque finger point. (I'm usually not a fan of post-knockout disrespect, but that one worked for me.) Drawing one of the division's best functional wrestlers in former champion Evans, Silva gradually got the hang of stuffing his takedowns -- Rashad nailed 4 for 4 in the 1st, 3 of 7 in the 2nd and 1 of 5 in the 3rd -- but lost the first two frames.
Clearly frustrated, Silva started mocking Rashad's over-exaggerated head movement; a curious choice being down 2 rounds, but much more acceptable after he put Evans on roller-skates with a pair of vicious hooks. Even if Silva did enough to warrant a 10-8 mark in the 3rd, you'd have a better chance of seeing a talking unicorn than the judges actually rendering that score and he ended up dropping a unanimous decision.
Against Vera, a fighter who's long been touted as having an unappreciated Greco Roman wrestling game -- which was on full display in his clinch-fest with Randy Couture -- Silva just utterly steam-rolled him. He rag-dolled Vera with a takedown in each round and proceeded to pound on him mercilessly while enjoying it way too much, and even dropped back for a leg lock and threw in a double Mongolian Chop from back control for added style points. However, the win was overturned when Silva pissed hot for banned substances. Though none of those bouts count for a win on his record, they all thoroughly impressed me, as did Silva's recent outing against Alexander Gustafsson.
I feel the opposite about Bulgarian monstrosity Stanislav Nedkov (12-0). Realizing it's strange to criticize a fighter who's never been beaten, Nedkov was chewing on a good deal of leather before he turned out the lights on Luis Cane in his Octagon debut. That is by leaps and bounds his most impressive win, with a TKO over Travis Wiuff and a split decision over Kevin Randleman being the only other worthwhile mentions.
Having never been clear on his background, I found the following passage from the Bio section of Nedkov's website:
Stanislav Nedkov was born December, 1981 in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. At the age of 10 he started studying in the "Gorgi Rakovski" sports school in his hometown, where he became practicing freestyle wrestling with the sumostar Kotooshu (Kaloian Mahlianov). At that time he won many championships in Bulgaria and Europe.
In 2005 he started his preparation for MMA by learning jiu jitsu. December the same year he wins the national grapling championship, April 2006 - he wins the European grapling championship, which took place in Sofia Bulgaria, the preparation of which was under the guidance of Gokor Chivichiyan. Only two weeks after that was his first MMA bout which he wins via TKO 1:40 minutes in the first round. For less than 3 years he had more than 16 pro and amteur matches in Europe, including in Shooto, which he all wins.
2008 he gets black belt in BJJ and December the same year he is invited to compete in Pancrase, Japan against Masayuki Kono. He wins via TKO 1:35 m. in the first round.
Obviously a wide-bodied and imposing physical specimen, Nedkov reminds me a little of Karlos Vemola for his size, wrestling and the way he heaves out nasty, waist-level haymakers with both hands. He's a pure berserker who trades technical finesse for frenetic outbursts of powerful home-run punches.
Nedkov's raucous fight pace and obscene aggression create a bit of the old-school Wanderlei Silva dilemma: it's easy to sit back on the couch and point out all the holes and openings that a precision striker could exploit, but actually stepping inside his violent wheelhouse to do so is an entirely different story. In fact, that theme was exactly what played out in Nedkov vs. Cane, as the Brazilian dotted him up liberally with straight punches before Nedkov pulled his plug with an overhand bazooka.
Silva is also exceptionally aggressive and more of an effective brawler than a technical Thai fighter. However, his striking is proven at the top level and he still retains a large amount of sound fundamentals whereas Nedkov goes full-on caveman with his bent-armed whirlwind of charging rights and lefts. Nedkov, who should be the stronger fighter, typically falls back on his wrestling if the stand up is not to his liking, which is where Silva's sturdy takedown defense will come into play. Even if Silva does find himself underneath Nedkov, he's a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and fully capable with offensive submissions, sweeps, and creating scrambles to escape.
That really leaves Nedkov with a chance to land the good-night punch but, even then, Silva's chin has been astounding and Lyoto Machida is the only fighter to finish him with strikes. On paper, this is all Silva, whom I expect to counter Nedkov's blitzes with pivots and hooks while holding his own in the wrestling department and attacking the Bulgarian's neck with choke attempts in the clinch.
My Prediction: Thiago Silva by TKO.
Old Nedkov gif: http://cdn0.sbnation.com/imported_assets/789532/nedkov100_medium.gif