Bloody Elbow's prophetic Scouting Report first put us on notice about Erick Silva (13-1), assessing him as the third-rated welterweight prospect in 2010 and on the verge of a UFC call-up. Just over a year later and the Jungle Fight welterweight champion is now enjoying main card status after thrashing Luis Ramos in his UFC debut; a tidy dispatching in just forty-seconds.
"Indio" has undergone a noticeable evolution as a mixed martial artist, which is likely attributed to the league of assassins he surrounds himself with. He's a member of Team Nogueira, where he hones his stand up with the likes of Anderson Silva and Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante while sharpening his grappling with BJJ world champion Andre Galvao and the legendary Nogueira brothers.
Despite being equally inclined to handle business on the feet, seven of Silva's victories come by way of submission with three TKOs and decisions apiece. Silva lost his fifth fight to Mario Neto -- a middleweight who's only fight was against Silva -- but has been otherwise unstoppable. Since the loss, he's been flawless in ten outings (with one No Contest for an illegal knee) while showing increasing diversity in his fighting style and method of finishing (kneebar, guillotine, arm-triangle and two TKOs).
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Carlo Prater (29-10-1) has long touted himself as a "Thugjitsu" practitioner; the smiley-face fighting system devised by Yves Edwards. "Neo", who was born in Sau Paulo but moved to the U.S. in his youth, has dabbled in quite an extensive conglomeration of martial arts: he started out in Tang Soo Do, wrestled in high school, then took up Judo and Jiu Jitsu competitions. When his family moved back to Brazil, Prater experimented with Luta Livre under Marcus Goes, picked up some Muay Thai during excursions to Thailand and trained with Cuban national kickboxing champion Waldo Santa Cruz before settling in with Edwards in the states.
At age thirty, Prater is forty-fights deep and has tangled with a lengthy assortment of high-caliber competition. His wins include: Melvin Guillard (guillotine), Spencer Fisher (decision), Carlos Condit (triangle choke) and Pat Healy (arm-triangle) while Prater lost to Drew Fickett (guillotine), Condit in a rematch at WEC 32 (guillotine), Brock Larson (TKO), Antonio McKee (decision) and new UFC acquisition Reza Madadi (decision).
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
The following is Leland Roling's assessment of Silva's offensive and defensive skills. Review the Scouting Report entry from 2010 for more detailed scrutiny and video of Silva's past fights. Both animations are different angles of Silva making quick work of Luis Ramos in his UFC debut.
Offensive Skills: Silva is probably one of the few prospects with a complete skill-set. He has shown an improving stand-up game that is much more technical than most of the competition, and his ground game is good enough to submit even solid grapplers such as Gil de Freitas. He also happens to be one of the more paced fighters among all of the prospects, almost never coming out at a quickened pace.
That calmness may be the one weakness in his offensive game, but it's tough to categorize it as a weakness as he normally has the gas in his tank to crush opponents late in bouts. It's one area that he truly excels in over anyone he's fought. It could also be his undoing as he moves up the ladder.
Defensive Skills: Silva is equally solid in the defensive department. He's shown good ability to sweep opponents when he's put in bad positions on his back, and he gets tagged far less than most of the competition he's faced. His offense has served as a good defense for the most part, but as aforementioned -- there is a lack of urgency in his style.
Silva latched a guillotine on Gil de Freitas and an arm-triangle on Francisco Ayon -- both in the same night -- to earn the promotion's welterweight strap at Jungle Fight 23. The Scouting Report entry was written at this time (November of 2010) and, even though Silva has only competed once since then, I contacted Leland for an updated perspective.
As far as his lack of urgency goes, it's becoming less and less of an issue. His confidence is growing with every fight, and I'm sure training with legitimate UFC talent has helped in that area. He's one of the few prospects who has improved in every capacity, and it isn't far-fetched to believe Anderson Silva's statement that Erick is the future of the division. He's improving at an alarming rate.
Prater is proficient standing but his most threatening aspect is his ultra-crafty ground game. With loads of experience and a black belt in both BJJ and Luta Livre, Prater is a capable wrestler and a cerebral sub-technician. His first-round finish of Bryan Travers on the Strikeforce Challengers 14 card ignited his current four-fight roll, which includes former TUF contestant Cameron Dollar. All four of these wins were achieved by submission (modified Anaconda choke, rear-naked choke, kimura and arm-triangle).
Prater's takedown, set-up and submission of Travers was also distinctly creative enough to warrant a Judo Chop. Not only does K.J. Gould, our resident grappling analyst, provide top-notch insight on the myriad technical elements at play, but the sequence is an excellent example of how Prater meshes and implements his unique martial arts background. Here's K.J. commenting on the gifs:
After a bit of striking Travers tries to get in close and they end up pummeling to over-under control but Prater is first to react with an inside trip. On the ground Travers tries to lock up a Half-Guard but Prater moves his leg out of the way and now they're on their knees head-to-head and Prater briefly controls with a Front-Headlock before going for an Anaconda grip (Figure Fouring the arms). Whenever a fight ends up grappling and pummeling while head-to-head on the knees it's sometimes known as the Short Offensive in wrestling.
The beauty of setting up either an Anaconda Choke or a Brabo / D'arce choke is it can be relatively easily transitioned to from the Front Headlock (arm-in) which is a staple of control in the Short Offensive in wrestling generally. Luta Livre has a bit of a Catch Wrestling influence anyway as well as BJJ and Judo and it was interesting to see Prater strategically choose to sprawl back with the head control rather then pull guard and attempt an arm-in guillotine. But also you're not going to pull guard to setup an Anaconda or Brabo choke anyway and it seems fairly clear the Anaconda is what Prater had in mind all along.
Both Brabo and Anaconda chokes are a form of arm-triangle or head&arm choke if you prefer. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is remembering that the Brabo choke is a near-arm choke (the arm of the opponent you trap is nearest to your body) where as the Anaconda choke is a far-arm choke (the arm of the opponent you trap is farthest from your body). They are applied slightly differently and people have different levels of success with each depending on their knowledge of positioning, base and leverage - as with most submissions and as is the case with the classic triangle choke with your legs and the reverse triangle choke where the leg position is switched around (also known as a Bolt Lock).
With this in mind it's clear Prater locks up the grip for an Anaconda. Also interestingly instead of attempting a gator roll he tripods momentarily before he sprawls back which can add more pressure (especially if the opponent tries to posture up increasing the pressure on his own neck) and does a sit-out before hooking with his outside leg and sliding his inside leg in for a modified single-elevator sweep (or modified Half Butterfly sweep in BJJ) taking Travers over. This is a variation that can be used in BJJ as well so it's not exclusive to Luta Livre or anything. In BJJ even if you do the gator roll it's typical you'd rotate yourself in and trap a leg for optimum pressure collapsing the opponent's head inwards. As you could see Travers head was beet-red by this point with the choke well and truly on.
K.J. articulates the finite details of Prater's tactics much better than I ever could and, as with every Judo Chop, points out many subtleties that the casual fan wouldn't recognize. Additionally, this is a perfect representation of Prater's unusual arsenal and how intelligently he applies it.
Along with Rousimar Palhares, Erick Silva is the biggest favorite on the entire card with at least a -500 rating across the board. I always take issue with such a slant when it accompanies a young prospect without a lot of experience at the top level, especially when he's facing a seasoned vet with an unorthodox and devious skill-set. I like Silva in this one but would not be surprised to see Prater's complex grappling and steely composure cause some serious problems.
My Prediction: Erick Silva by decision.
Erick Silva gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Carlo Prater gifs via BE member Grappo