The tortoise takes on the hare, as the explosive win-one-lose-one glass cannon of the welterweight division takes on its steady competitor when Erick Silva fights Neil Magny at welterweight for the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira on August 23, 2015 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Neil Magny, 19-4
Erick "Indio" Silva, 18-5-1
Three things you need to know
1. Erick Silva looks young; fights young; isn't young.
Silva is a Brazilian wizard who learned the dark magics of draining vitality from his victims. What better place was there for him than Team Nogueira, where he could ply his witchcraft on two brothers famous for their indefatigability? In the guise of an MMA fighter, he quietly leached the youth of the Nogueiras away and left them as withered husks, while he stayed as fresh-faced as a teenager. He is officially 31... but who knows how old he really is.
OK, fine, this is maybe, possibly untrue. However, the endless discussions of Erick Silva: Fake Prospect reveal something telling. He looks young, like a heartthrob cast member from some Brazilian soap opera, but more than this, he fights young. He gallops around the cage and splurges energy with childish exuberance, throwing huge, winging overhands and full-power hooks. If it works, the opponent is often toast, but if it doesn't, Silva's left very tired. Observers are left subconsciously shaking their heads, tutting and thinking about how good that young chap would be if he could just mature and learn a bit of self control. Then they remember that he's over 30 and he's been fighting for 10 years and he shows absolutely no signs of changing up.
I don't think Silva's stupid enough to miss these flaws, nor do I believe that he has a poor gas tank in the most literal sense. Instead, he has a certain mindset which inevitably switches on when he steps into the cage- he cannot stop himself going full bore after the finish, and when he can't get it he's discouraged, which only increases the rate at which he's dumping energy. Aside from this, however, he's still extraordinarily talented in terms of speed, power, and balance. "Indio" has been switch hitting a lot more of late, and the round and front kicks he throws to the body are his best and most reliable stand-up weapon. His strongest asset remains his top game, including nasty ground and pound, an array of choke submissions and a terrifying ability to take the back.
2. Neil Magny's broken streak is a great example of the benefits and the limitations of organic growth
Not many people expected much from Neil Magny. Knocked out by Mike Ricci in one of the very worst seasons of TUF of all time, and starting his UFC career and almost immediately losing to Seth Baczynski and Sergio Moraes.
However, he kept his nose to the grindstone and gradually got really quite good at MMA simply through fighting and getting better and fighting and getting better. In a world of lanky fighters who try to employ their reach, then almost immediately give up and lock up the clinch or commence brawling, Neil Magny can actually fight long. A crisp, educated jab works as a rangefinder for dropping the boom with a long right hand.
Magny is an underrated finisher- he gets efficient weight transfer into his shots and keeps a high work-rate, but the real surprise in his approach is when he works from the top. His lanky frame allows him to really put the "up" into "postured up"- he gets impressive wind-up into shots from mount, or from the stacked / half-kneeling positions favored by (among others) Benson Henderson, and is accurate enough to drop laser-guided bombs neatly around his opponent's guard. That said, Magny can be too willing to take the fight to the floor when he doesn't have to.
3. Magny taking this fight on short notice is as brave a step-up as you'll see in the sport. Unfortunately, bravery doesn't necessarily win fights
Magny's fight against Demian Maia did not go well. In some ways it was perfect for everyone who was convinced that his streak was an artifact of fighting sub-par competition. This is more than a little unfair, because Maia was not just any ranked opponent- he was perhaps the singular worst matchup for the Illinois native in the division, able to capitalize on both his average takedown defense and his slightly porous defensive jiu-jitsu. On this note, while I'm a big fan of many of the fighters at Elevation Fight Team (Drew Dober, Brandon Thatch, Magny himself), it's also true that they've started to pick up a slightly Blackzilians-esque tendency to get choked out in losses.
This doesn't speak well for Magny's chances against Silva, a voracious submission grappler. In addition, Silva showed exactly how he approaches lanky kickboxers when he fought Mike Rhodes, an admittedly less polished but broadly similar fighter to Magny: step-in, level change, topside submission. Bad things for Magny.
Erick Silva is one of the biggest glass cannons in the sport. He can pick up blowout wins or crushing losses against a wide array of fighters, and Magny is no exception. The basic dynamic which is obvious to pretty much everyone that Magny loses early or wins late, and either of these are very possible. What tilts me towards Silva a little is both the sheer level of dominance Maia showed, and the fact that I do believe that Silva tires through failure. I think he'll have too much success in the grappling phase to tire too badly within the first two rounds, if it gets that far. Erick Silva by submission, round 1.