By Jaime C. Feal
The most lopsided match in UFC history takes place tomorrow night in Brazil, with reigning pound for pound king Anderson Silva stepping up to light heavyweight in a clash with journeyman and TUF Season 1 finalist Stephan Bonnar. Vegas has Silva as an astounding 10:1 favorite, making this an even bigger mismatch than last month’s UFC 152 Main Event featuring Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort, where Jones was a 6:1 favorite. No one is giving Bonnar a chance in the fight against Silva, but he appears in great shape, and with Silva winding down his career, anything can happen, especially in the unpredictable sport that is MMA. Also on the card is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, fighting in front of his home country in his first fight back since having his arm viciously broke by Frank Mir. In another intriguing match, rising welterweight star Erick Silva looks to make a statement and move up the ranks against perennial contender Jon Fitch.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Jon Fitch (23-4-1, 13-2-1 UFC) vs. Erick Silva (14-2, 2-1 UFC)
Jon Fitch is always towards the top of the heap in the welterweight division, but he has lost a lot of fans in the past two years due to boring performances, and a stunning first round one-punch knockout loss to Jonny Hendricks. Fitch looks to get back on track against rising star Erick Silva, who some pundits feel may be the next welterweight champion.
Erick Silva possesses vastly superior striking to Fitch. While Fitch has some decent boxing along with excellent cardio, he never throws kicks and has no muay thai experience. Silva is a muay thai wrecking machine, throwing vicious knees and strikes with blinding speed from all angles. Silva also showed great takedown defense in stifling former collegiate All-American wrestler Charlie Brennenman.
Fitch is much more experienced than Brennenman, however, and has better wrestling for MMA. He is adept at taking his opponents down and grinding them out for a decision victory. The question is whether he can survive Silva’s early onslaught of strikes. The longer the fight goes the better it is for Fitch. Silva comes into the fight as a slight betting favorite.
It is in this fight that fans can expect to see the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. Fitch’s career as an MMA fighter has spanned a decade, and he is nearing the tail end of it. Silva, on the other hand, is in his fighting prime at 27, and almost ready for his first welterweight title shot. If you’re not familiar with the name Erick Silva, you will be after this weekend
Prediction: Erick Silva wins by KO, Round 1.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 4-3 UFC) vs. Dave “Pee-Wee” Herman (21-4, 1-2 UFC)
Big Nog comes back to his home country of Brazil to face underdog Dave Herman. Nogueira has legendary jiu-jitsu and durability, but is very old for an MMA fighter with tons of wear-and-tear on his body. It is extremely tough to predict this fight due to his age and cage rust.
Big things were expected from Dave Herman after his UFC debut win over John-Olav Einemo. Unfortunately for Herman, he has since dropped two straight fights by knockout to Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson. Herman now finds himself in the precarious position of fighting for his contract in the UFC, as fighters who lose three straight within the promotion are rarely kept around.
Herman is an undersized heavyweight, but so is Nogueira for that matter. Big Nog has a clear advantage on the ground, and Herman will do anything he can from going to the mat with the submission wizard. A stand up war will likely ensue, and which way the fight goes depends on which Nogueira shows up. The Nogeuria that got outstruck and put away by Frank Mir gets annihilated in this fight, but the Nogueira who shocked Brendan Schaub with his boxing skills could easily win this contest. The last time Nogueira fought in Brazil was when he delighted everyone with his surprising knockout of Schaub. Anticipate an energized Nogueira to be inspired once again by his Brazilian fans in Rio, as he earns a decision victory by mainly outpointing Herman on the feet.
Prediction: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira wins by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Anderson “The Spider” Silva (32-4, 15-0 UFC) vs. Stephan “The American Psycho” Bonnar (15-7, 8-6 UFC)
Only in the ridiculously exciting sport of MMA could someone tell you that the biggest mismatch in UFC history is a must-watch event, but that is exactly the case with Silva vs. Bonnar. On paper, Silva is a 10:1 favorite and holds all the advantages, save maybe natural size. Unlike in boxing, however, historically large favorites are by no means guaranteed a victory. One need look no further than UFC 152 where Vitor Belfort almost shocked the world with a 1st round armbar submission of Jon Jones. Further proof can be seen in the infamous upset Matt Serra pulled off over Georges St. Pierre in GSP’s first title defense. Serra DID shock the world, and showed the underdog always has a chance, no matter how seemingly impossible, in this crazy sport.
Bonnar is brimming with confidence, telling anyone who will listen he’s going to pull off this historical upset. Common sense dictates otherwise. The first time Silva stepped up to 205 pounds to face a journeyman light heavyweight, he obliterated James Irvin in the first round with a counter punch and follow up strikes. Then when he faced Forrest Griffin in his second fight at 205, he embarrassed Griffin so bad Forrest ran out of the Octagon before they could formally announce Silva as the winner by TKO.
Bonnar brings nothing to the table Silva hasn’t seen. The nightmare matchup for Anderson is the wrestler with excellent top control and ground and pound. Chael Sonnen gave Anderson fits in their first fight by smothering him on the ground. Bonnar is nowhere near the level of wrestler as Sonnen, and may not even be able to take Silva down once.
So with the fight on the feet, does Bonnar even make it competitive? No. Silva is too quick, too fast, too talented, and too smart. Bonnar will be game and valiant, and won’t pull a Forrest Griffin, but he is simply outgunned in this fight. Expect Anderson’s skill and technique to take over in the second as he finishes another fight in style, and further cements his legacy as the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Prediction: Anderson “The Spider” Silva wins by TKO, Round 2.