When we last left our heroes...While Erick Silva isn't a prospect by age standards, observers still think of him as a solid blue chip prospect. The fact that he was able to engage and threaten Jon Fitch the way he did still has the public buzzing about what he can offer a division that feels stale for some critics with every inevitable Georges St. Pierre decision win.
His reverse triangle armbar over Jason High was a submission highlight. While it remains to be seen whether or not he can transition into a contender, this current bout will be a very good indication of his potential.
Kim is as tough as it comes as an opponent for an upstart. He's got really only one official loss in the UFC in a way, which was a brutal (but not necessarily symbolic) TKO defeat to Carlos Condit. Outside of that, he's one of the sturdiest competitors in the division, and coming off two emphatic victories over Siyar Bahadurzada and Paulo Thiago.
What both men can do: This is one of the more stylistically intriguing fights in some time. Both guys are versatile in unique ways, both on the feet, and on the ground. Kim isn't a lights out striker, but he boxes well and has a nice arsenal of kicks. Despite the lack of power, he's generally capable of landing unorthodox strikes. Against Sean Pierson he was downright surgical with a collection of snapping front kicks (one of which nearly KO'ed Pierson).
In addtion, he has a solid ground game. I feel stupid in calling it 'somewhat American', but his Judo works best as a way to gain top control where he's very heavy on top like traditional wrestle-boxers.
It's harder to pin where Silva is on the spectrum of the versatile. His grappling is above average if his ability to hang with Fitch and threaten a RNC is any indication. However, that fight also revealed some of his limitations.
Striking wise he's a lot like Kim. Not a whole lot of raw power or anything, but he is capable of throwing unorthodox strikes which when called upon. Either way Silva will have the spped advantage.
What both men can't do: Part of the problem with Kim is that he's kind of like Tyson Griffin - never finds a rhythm that really allows him to take over a fight. While he's been dominant against overmatched opponents, it's the good ones who make him look a little lackluster in spots. This will be the real challenge for Kim.
For Silva, it's a question of whether or not he can maintain his composure. Fitch wore him down, and Kim has a very similar style to Fitch in ways. Silva starts out fast, but can he sustain that momentum? That's the real question.
I think ultimately this fight will come down to who can win the battle of inches on the feet. Both guys have pretty sturdy takedown defense, though Kim is more likely to keep the fight ugly, and on the ground. While Silva is a capable grappler, I don't think he'll be able to threaten from the bottom.
And this is ultimately how I see the fight going. Silva having trouble scoring on the feet, while Kim wins the fight Francis Carmont style, winning via one successful takedown. This bout is too evenly matched to inspire fireworks, but naturally I'd love to be wrong. I just feel like each competitor has a very difficult path to victory.
X-Factor: The judges. This could easily be one of those fights where Silva defends the takedown for three rounds, and then finally gets taken down with a millisecond left to go, making Kim the winner. It's not that Kim is boring; just that their styles are more likely to determine as much. And then away the MMA crowd goes with more debates about the 10 point must system, which isn't the frikkin problem. If you think the 10 point must system is the problem, then you haven't been paying attention to the actual people scoring the fight.
Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.