The Match Up:
In the pantheon of match-ups, the steady, wizened pro against the uber-talented super-prospect is always fascinating. It's like throwing gas into a fire to see what happens. Jon Fitch and Erick Silva, who are scheduled to fight tonight (Oct. 13, 2012) at UFC 153, couldn't have more diametrically opposed styles, and as usual, for Fitch, it's a tough-risk, low payoff bout for him, while the opponent gets a huge name boost if he can win (just ask Johny Hendricks). Fitch is in the unenviable position of being eminently tough to beat by most welters, yet with a style that fans find boring (myself expected as he's one of my favorite fighters to watch).
Silva, meanwhile, seems like the next big thing. Gifted with explosive athleticism and unbridled aggression, he's developed a reputation as a blanket killer after starching Charlie Brenneman, where Silva showed an excellent ability to pop back up on his feet and stuff takedowns, to boot. This is the kind of match where the UFC is obviously crossing its fingers that Silva will win.
Silva's looked fantastic in his two brief UFC bouts, smashing his way to a disqualification loss against Carlo Prater due to punches to the back of the head, and tearing through Brenneman. Long fights can be a bodily shock to a streaking prospect, when your initial cardio burst fades and you have to adapt to along, anaerobic-style fight. And that's something Fitch, a lifelong wrestler and eminent grinder type, excels at. Fitch's standup has always been modest at best, but he keeps his hands tight most times (Hendricks KO loss a shocking exception) and plays smart percentages in the standup game to close the gap and get tie-ups and takedowns. He's also great at clinching and sapping energy from foes, making them work even when a lot doesn't seem to be going on.
For Silva, who likes to try exotic techniques such as flying knees and out-of-nowhere haymakers and kicks, a mistake against Fitch could result in long spells on the mat. It could also generate a highlight-reel moment that catapults him from hot prospect to legit contender (once again, see Johny Hendricks). Silva will have to make Fitch pay early on the feet and keep moving, changing angles, but always bracing himself for the inevitable takedown attempt that Fitch always brings. It's going to be a tense battle of wills as both push to fight the style of bout that favors their particular skills.
Silva is truly a dynamic talent, and reminds you of Rory MacDonald. His explosive ability is clearly indicative of an elite athlete, and the guy seems to truly enjoy fighting. However, everybody looks great when they're running in front, and Fitch is precisely the kind of opponent that can drag you into quicksand with his numbing, grinding style, especially if he can get half-guard and simply pound away while sapping opponents' strengths. For the quintessential Fitch performances, check both his wins over Thiago Alves, where he simply wore Alves down and dominated him on the mat despite being outmatched on the feet.
Silva is definitely going to land some big shots in this one, and he will be exceptionally tough for Fitch to take down. Given that it's in Silva's native Brazil, and the fact that his big blows standing will likely outweigh Fitch's shots and whatever he can land on the ground, Silva will have a real gut-check in this one. Expect a bout where he's taken down a couple times, but shows too much speed, power and versatility to get planted on the mat long enough for Fitch to win enough rounds. It will be a real barnburner down the stretch with Silva coming on strong and Fitch hanging on en route to a split decision win for Erick.
Silva via split decision
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Oct. 13, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:45 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
For all the latest "Silva vs. Bonnar" news and notes click here.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.