The next UFC event is right around the corner and features a lineup that many will overlook simply because of the context of fight cards surrounding it. With the ridiculously stacked UFC 166 headlined by the heavyweight championship rubber match between the two biggest beasts in the UFC, JDS and Cain Velasquez just ahead, and the incredible FOTY candidate UFC 165 headliner of Jones and Gustafsson still creating shock-waves across the MMA universe, FS1’s fight night headlined by Maia and Shields is like an unsatisfactory slice of bologna between two incredibly edible pieces of bread. Like rye or sourdough. Yum.
Still, despite what looks to be a lackluster main event, there are some compelling match-ups on the card. The headliner is virtually guaranteed to be one of two things: an insanely active and complicated grappling chess game between two of the finest submission artists in the UFC, or an unwatchable snoozer of a fight where two blankets try to out-Fitch one another en route to a boring decision.
I’m a bit of a rational optimist, so personally I am hoping for the former, but expecting the latter.
The real story of this card is probably going to be the co-main, a match between perennial Korean contender, Dong Hyun Kim, and the consistently exciting prospect, Erick Silva. Silva is coming off of an impressive performance where he dominated Jason High before sinking in a submission in the 1st round of their tilt. Whereas Kim has won 2 of his last 3 via decision against notable names in Siyar Bahadurzada and Paolo Thiago.
This is an important match for Erick Silva in several ways. It represents a step up in competition from his last two fights, and it’s against the same style of fighting that stifled his momentum in his last loss via blanketing and ground and pound, faithfully delivered by Jon Fitch at UFC 153. Finally, an impressive showing against an opponent of Kim’s caliber could conceivably put Silva into the top 10 in the talent rich welterweight division.
Kim is one of those fighters who is always competitive, but just seems to get shortchanged by negative circumstances on a consistent basis. Either injuries, glass ceilings, or boring performances are always popping up on his record, and hindering his progress. His latest loss, comes as part of a very disappointing TKO due to a muscle spasm against top contender and headliner: Damien Maia. Kim’s keys to victory in this fight are getting the fight to the ground and quick. He needs to impose his judo clinch game, get on top and try to do as much damage as possible before Silva finds his rhythm. Because the young Brazillian has fight changing power that can be implemented at any time, but is so far been proven most effective early on.
Silva is a very heavy handed welterweight, and a proven finisher. His striking is well timed and versatile. He has solid offensive and defensive skills on his feet, and his grappling game improves by leaps and bounds in every outing. He’s actually a very difficult fighter to break down, because most of his fights end so quickly.
It will be interesting to see how his slick submission game will fare against Dong Hyun Kim’s Judo centered grappling attacks. Expect a lot of interesting exchanges from the clinch, and scrambles a plenty whenever this fight inevitably hits the floor. Silva is the kind of fighter who never has a boring match, and he’s far too explosive for Kim to completely neutralize, so while this fight should be competitive, and I do give a negligibly slight advantage in the grappling department to Kim, this should be Silva’s fight to lose.
The other fight on this card that I’m excited about features the return of the always tough and inspiring, Matt Hamill. The deaf ultimate fighter tourney champion faces a tough test in light heavyweight’s gigantic Muay Thai gatekeeper, Thiago Silva. Silva is a durable and relentless kickboxer with a hard chin and solid boxing. He’s also got a significant advantage in momentum, having just bested the highly touted Rafael Cavalcante in a devastating 1st round ko performance.
With only 3 professional losses on his record, (and a handful of NC’s due to failed or falsified urine tests,) Silva doesn’t usually drop w’s to anything less than elite competition. The only fighters able to defeat him being: Machida, Rashad Evans, and dark horse turned superhero: Alexander Gustafsson. Silva has, however, shown vulnerability against talented grapplers in the past, and that is Hamill’s bread and butter.
Regardless, I like Silva in this matchup. He’s got devastating power, exceptional ring awareness, and a way of casually walking down his opponents that spells trouble for the former D2 All-American. I say this for a few reasons. One, against elite competition, Hamill has faltered in the past. He’s dropped decisions to Quinton Jackson, Michael Bisping (albeit a controversial one in this case), and been ko’d by Gustafsson, and Rich Franklin. Combine that with over a year layoff between fights, a return against top flight competition doesn’t bode well for Hamill.
Both of these guys strike me as gatekeepers, but Silva has some legitimate talent, and a lot more momentum. His starching of Cavalcante really put him on a lot of people’s radar. While Hamill presents some very different challenges than Rafael, it’s not anything that Silva hasn’t encountered stylistically before.
Finally, what really makes me think "the Hammer" is in for a rough time, is a susceptibility to body shots that he’s shown in the past. Silva has serious power in his legs, and Hamill has been ko’d with a body kick by none other than former middleweight champion, Rich Franklin. Ace is a great fighter, but no way does he kick as hard as Thiago. I also like Silva’s chances of keeping this fight standing, as his takedown defense and grappling savvy is looking fairly solid since his loss to Evans way back in UFC 108. Even going so far as to submit Russian wrestler, Stanislav Nedkov. Not exactly a name fighter, but he’s Russian. I give him extra points for that straight away.
Hamill is strong and durable enough to keep this fight competitive though, and I again expect there to be some interesting clinch work and entertaining exchanges in this bout. So rather being spoiled and feeling shortchanged at the rather reduced level of relevancy in these fights from the last FS1 card, I think we can all take solace in the fact that there is going to be some serious violence perpetrated by two Silvas at the expense of the Asian and the handicapped.
Don’t shake your head like that, they signed up for it.