A prospect will take on his toughest test to date this Saturday night (Oct. 13, 2012) as phenom Erick Silva takes on the ingrained Jon Fitch on the UFC 153 main card in Silva's backyard of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jon Fitch will be competing in his second straight bout after a near 10 months layoff due to an injury. The last time against Johny Hendricks didn't go so well and he'll be hoping to right the ship this weekend in Brazil, but he's going to have to get past one of the fastest rising welterweights in the promotion to do it.
Erick Silva has looked incredible thus far in his UFC career. While his UFC record is officially 2-1, we all know it should be 3-0 as the "loss" came via disqualification after dominating Carlo Prater and hitting him a few times in the back of the head while knocking him out. Silva earned a solid win over Charlie Brenneman in his last fight and he'll be trying to handle his second straight top control wrestler in Jon Fitch this time around.
Record: 23-4-1 (1 No Contest) overall, 13-2-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Georges St. Pierre (UFC 87), Johny Hendricks (UFC 141)
How he got here: Fitch has been a staple of the UFC welterweight division for over seven years now. A former team captain of the Purdue wrestling squad after walking on to the team, Fitch entered the UFC with a 10-2 record with one no contest and proceeded to win eight straight including notable victories over the likes of Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez to earn a shot at Georges St. Pierre and the welterweight title.
Fitch would display his heart and toughness over the course of five rounds, but he was thoroughly beaten by the champion in a largely one-sided affair. Since losing his shot at UFC gold, Fitch has gone to six straight decisions, notably defeating Paulo Thiago, Ben Saunders and Thiago Alves (again) to return to top contender status before drawing with B.J. Penn earlier this year.
While training for a rematch with Penn, Fitch injured his shoulder and was sidelined for much of 2011. When he finally returned, he looked a bit sluggish and paid for it dearly, getting knocked out by rising star Johny Hendricks in just 12 seconds last December.
After taking 10 months off to recover from some more injuries, the AKA stalwart is back and ready to test himself against another fighter on his way up in Silva.
How he gets it done: Silva possesses the exact same explosiveness and power that Johny Hendricks utilized to finish Fitch so quickly last year, so Fitch shouldn't screw around with him.
If he can get inside in the clinch, expect repeated attempts to drag Silva to the ground or even simply dropping down for a single or double leg takedown. Fitch is a relatively competent striker, but if he can gain top control on the ground, he'll be well on his way to taking a round from the hometown fighter.
From top control, Fitch is relentless, even if he doesn't pass guard. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter has a very strong ground and pound attack from full guard if his opponent is playing defense well and he'll only pass if it's safe to do so. He's got a great motor and is only going to get stronger as the fight heads into the later rounds.
Silva, while talented and possessing strong ground skills, was still taken down by Charlie Brenneman in his last fight. That means Fitch can do it too if he puts his hands on him. If Fitch can do that, Fitch can win.
Record: 14-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Erick Silva is an extremely promising talent in the welterweight division. He began his mixed martial arts career in 2005. He was sloppy at first, but progressed in technique and skill quickly. He won his first four fights and after suffering his only decision loss in 2006, he hasn't looked back since.
He continued to impress, compiling stoppage victories with both his striking and his submissions while showcasing his endurance to score three decisions and it eventually resulted in him earning a shot at the prestigious Brazilian Jungle Fights welterweight title. It was a one night tournament and despite winning a grueling bout against Gil de Freitas via third round submission, he pressed on and submitted Fransisco Ayan in barely a minute to capture the title.
He would go on to make his UFC debut when the promotion returned to Brazil this past August at UFC 134, knocking out veteran Shooto Brazil welterweight champion Luis Ramos in just 40 seconds. It appeared that his next bout was going to go the same way when he finished Carlo Prater via strikes in just 29 seconds but the referee disqualified him for ignoring his warnings and landing hammer strikes to the back of the head.
Fans still see him as a wrecking machine with 1:09 of Octagon experience and most view his fight fight against Prater as a win (similar to Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill). He proved it in his last bout against Charlie Brenneman, surviving a takedown and turning the tide while submitting "The Spaniard" early in the first round.
The victory earned him a massive fight against Jon Fitch, one of the biggest names on the entire UFC welterweight roster.
How he gets it done: Silva is extremely talented, but it takes more than that if you want to beat Jon Fitch. Takedown defense is absolutely vital in this bout. The Brazilian cannot recklessly charge in guns blazing or he's going to get taken down and kept there for an extended period of time.
Silva has a pretty solid striking advantage, but he has to be cautious. He should be looking for an opening in Fitch's defense and try to crack him with a big right hand or potentially a knee if he shoots in. As evidenced by the Hendricks fight, if you catch Fitch with a heavy shot he doesn't see coming, you can hurt him badly.
If the fight goes to the ground, even though it's Fitch's strength, I don't expect Silva to panic. He has both a judo and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. If he can't lock up a submission or a sweep within the first 20-30 seconds, he needs to work immediately to get back to his feet. Silva has not gone to a decision in nearly three years and a fight against Fitch is not the first time he should be testing his endurance.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest potential X-Factor involves recent comments made by Jon Fitch. From the sounds of it, he's tired of his reputation as being a boring fighter who "lays and prays." He wants to be more exciting and put on a show.
If Fitch wants to be more exciting, that's fine by him, but he couldn't have picked a worse time to want to do that than when he's about to face one of the most explosive, athletic and powerful fighters in the welterweight division. It all boils down to whether or not Fitch is just messing with SIlva's head. If he comes out looking to have a stand-up war, Fitch is going to have a bad time. If he is looking to wrestle or clinch, he'll be so much significantly better off.
Bottom Line: This bout features two complete opposites. On one end of the spectrum, you have Erick Silva, one of the most exciting young fighters in the entire welterweight division. On the other, you've got Jon Fitch, a grinding, grueling, wear you down fighter who doesn't have nearly as much fan-friendly appeal. This fight could be extremely entertaining but there's also major potential it becomes a complete snoozer. It all depends on who's in control and what they do when they utilize that control.
Who will come out on top at UFC 153? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!