Record: 14-3 (1 no contest) overall, 5-2 (1 no contest) in the UFC
Key Wins: Keith Jardine (UFC 101), Houston Alexander (UFC 78), James Irvin (UFC 71)
Key Losses: Alexander Gustafsson (UFC on Fuel TV 2), Lyoto Machida (UFC 94), Rashad Evans (UFC 108)
How he got here: Thiago Silva steamrolled his way through the local Brazilian circuit, stopping all but one of his opponents using his crazy-aggressive, constant forward-attacking style. He built a reputation as a finisher and carried it over to the UFC.
Once in the UFC, Silva smashed his first four opponents, stopping three in the first round and the other in the second. Unfortunately, this set up a "battle of the unbeatens" against Lyoto Machida and "The Dragon" trounced Silva at UFC 94 with a violent first round finish.
After bouncing back with another thundering first round knockout of Keith Jardine, Silva has suffered from a wide assortment of issues. He fought Rashad Evans with a bad back and lost a decision, then didn't fight for over a year before beating Brandon Vera only to have the result overturned when he submitted fake urine during his pre-fight drug screening.
Silva accepted his punishment and finally returned to action after 16 months away against Alexander Gustafsson, losing a decision in Sweden against "The Mauler." After a fight against Mauricio Rua fell apart earlier this summer, he's back against Stanislav Nedkov.
How he gets it done: Thiago Silva has a very simple style: move forward and throw throw with power. He doesn't like to feint, side-step or dance, he just wants to press forward and try to knock your head off.
The key to victory for Silva is to avoid getting taken down via Nedkov's wrestling and to go in there and try to take his head off with his power. Silva has the potential to destroy his opponents with every punch, and Nedkov does not have very good striking technique.
Silva could try to pick Nedkov apart on the feet, or he could go the classic route and just barrel forward and overwhelm him. As long as he can avoid getting put on his back or caught by a lucky haymaker, he should be in good shape.
Record: 12-0 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Luiz Cane (UFC 134), Kevin Randleman (Sengoku 11), Travis Wiuff (Sengoku 8)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Stanislav Nedkov was a repeated national champion wrestler for his native Bulgaria before taking the plunge into MMA. He got off to a terrific start on the local Bulgarian circuit, crushing all opposition en route to a 7-0 record that would earn him a trip to Japan to compete internationally.
After a dominating debut in Pancrase, Nedkov was matched up with a pair of UFC veterans, both of whom pushed him to the limit. He had his hands full with Travis Wiuff before scoring a third round technical knockout and he barely squeaked by former UFC champion Kevin Randleman via split decision at Sengoku 11.
After returning home and earning one last win in Bulgaria, Nedkov was signed by the UFC. His first fights with Rodney Wallace and Steve Cantwell fell through after a pair of injuries, but he finally made his debut in Brazil, defeating Luiz Cane via first round knockout and sending "Baja" packing to the middleweight division.
After over a year off, he's back and ready for the biggest test of his career.
How he gets it done: Nedkov has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and he's also got a nice history in boxing, but it's his wrestling that has been his biggest friend thus far in his career.
With his two-time national champion skills, he's been able to take fights to the ground and beat his opponents senseless. He didn't need it in his last fight, finding an opening against Luiz Cane's porous striking defense and capitalizing with a first round stoppage on the feet.
Nedkov needs to mix up his attack both on the feet and with takedowns. He can be very sloppy at times and that's not the way he needs to fight against Silva if he wants to win. He'll have to pick his spots as Silva is likely going to leave openings with his constant forward aggression. If an opening presents itself, he needs to capitalize and go for the kill. Silva has been hurt before, but only one man has stayed on him enough to actually get the finish.
Fight X-Factor: Poor Nedkov can't catch a break. After having his UFC debut delayed nearly a year, it's once again been over a year since his last fight. The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the extended layoff between his fights. Silva got the rust out against Gustafsson earlier this year and he'll be ready, but Nedkov hasn't fought since August of 2011. There's no telling how long it will take for him to get back into the groove of fighting.
The other factor is size. Nedkov is one of the smaller light heavyweights, coming in at 203 pounds for the weigh-ins. If Silva can bully him in the clinch, that could be a major path to victory.
Bottom Line: Both of these fighters aren't afraid to step forward and throw down. Nedkov surprised many by taking Luiz Cane's best shots and then firing back on the feet against the Brazilian. Don't be surprised to see him try it again. If both men go toe-to-toe on the feet and turn this into a stand-up war, the excitement potential will increase exponentially.
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