An established featherweight and a debuting featherweight will meet this Saturday (April 14, 2012) as top Brazilian Diego Nunes battles veteran German fighter Dennis Siver on the main card of UFC on FuelTV 2 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Nunes has stepped in against some of the best featherweights on the planet and performed admirably, only losing a close decision to Kenny Florian in the last two years. The perennially top 10 ranked 145-pounder is coming off a victory over former title challenger Manny Gamburyan and another big win will place him firmly back into the mix.
Dennis Siver competed at lightweight 13 times in the UFC and was on the verge of title contention before Donald Cerrone knocked him off his pedestal last fall with a first round stoppage. He finally relented and will be making the cut to featherweight for the first time this weekend. If he can defeat Nunes in his 145 pound debut, he'll leapfrog many and instantly become a player in the division.
Will Nunes be able to put the pressure on Siver just like so many of his other opponents? Or will Siver force "The Gun" to backfire? What's the key to victory for both featherweights on Saturday afternoon in Sweden?
Let's find out:Diego Nunes
Record: 17-2 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
How he got here: After working the local Brazilian circuit and compiling an 11-0 record, Diego Nunes punched his ticket to the WEC in 2008. After winning two straight unanimous decisions, he was handed the first loss of his career against tough wrestler L.C. Davis at WEC 44 in a bout where he was controlled with takedowns and slams for a majority of the three rounds.
Nunes got back on track against extremely tough Brazilian submission specialist Raphael Assuncao at WEC 49 with a close split decision victory and eventually would make his UFC debut earlier this year at UFC 125 against former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown.
Despite being hurt with a punch to the eye at the end of the first round, Nunes would continue to aggressively push forward unleashing his full arsenal of wild kicks, knees and punches to impress the judges enough to award him a split decision victory. When Kenny Florian dropped to 145, Nunes was his first opponent and despite hurting the veteran twice, Nunes would go on to lose a decision.
"The Gun" bounced back in his last bout, earning a unanimous decision victory against former title contender Manny Gamburyan in the opening bout of UFC 141. A victory over Siver will do wonders for Nunes' chances at becoming a contender again.
How he gets it done: Don't let his record fool you, despite having his last eight fights go to a decision, Diego Nunes is a very exciting and flashy fighter.
The Brazilian has a wide assortment of diverse attacks that he loves to throw including spinning back kicks, heel kicks, flying knees and spinning backfists and he'll throw them at all sorts of random times.
Nunes loves to brawl. He's got the speed and aggressiveness standing to hang with and potentially overwhelm Siver's technique on the feet but he has to be smart when he's wading in or he'll be catching counter strikes with his face.
Pressure is key for Nunes in this fight. He needs to force Siver to move backwards, never give him the proper spacing to attack with his diverse assortment of kicks and wear him down. If he can clinch and lean on Siver, that would be great as well. He's got to really test the German in this fight and find out how his body is reacting to the weight cut.
We all know Nunes can fight for 15 minutes easily at featherweight, he needs to test how Siver handles it.
Record: 19-8 overall, 8-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Dennis Siver is a German kickboxing dynamo. He started out on the European circuit with moderate success and finally earned his big break in the UFC at a special England show in 2007. He would be released from the promotion after going 1-3 which included two losses to the current contenders Melvin Guillard and Gray Maynard.
Siver earned his way back to the UFC in 2009 and would make several "Knockout of the Year" lists, finishing two fights with nasty spinning back kicks.
After stumbling against Ross Pearson in a fight where he was constantly pressured in the stand-up, he's since reeled off three big wins in the promotion including the most impressive performance of his career against George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127. In that fight, Siver hurt the Australian multiple times and kept the fight standing despite Sotiropoulos' best efforts.
Siver followed up the huge victory over Sotiropoulos by eeking out a decision against the always-game Matt Wiman last summer to throw his hat in the mix with the top contenders. Unfortunately, all of his momentum was halted by Donald Cerrone at UFC 137 when he was dropped twice in the first round and then choked out while still woozy.
At 33 years old, Siver is hoping the cut to featherweight will give him one last opportunity to make a run.
How he gets it done: Siver is a kickboxer first, grappler second, although his submissions and defensive wrestling have improved drastically since his UFC debut over four years ago.
Siver will likely look to keep this fight standing where he can work his powerful and compact punches. He's got the nastiest spinning back kick in MMA, having twice finished fights with a perfectly timed blow to the liver so he'll be looking to get some space. His technique is very fluid and he can launch it with little to no telegraphing. All he needs is the proper distance.
Expect to see Siver try to work in his wide array of kicks against Nunes. This means footwork is key for the German. He'll need to use his snapping push kick to keep the Brazilian at a distance and that very well could give him the opening he needs to connect with his flashy kicks. Unlike many fighters, when Siver throws his flashy kicks, they are with serious bad intentions, not just to look pretty.
If he can control distance properly in the stand-up and avoid getting tagged, he's got a great chance of winning.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the weight cut. Siver wasn't a large lightweight by any means, but 33 years old is not exactly the best time to be dropping down a weight class for the first time in his eight year career. The fact that he's also coming off a fight where he was knocked down twice is also a concern as we all know dropping down a weight class can affect one's ability to take a punch. Nunes dropped and rocked Kenny Florian on multiple occasions when he cut down to 145 for the first time so it's not out of the realm of possibility that "The Gun" can do it again this time around.
The weight cut could also affect Siver's cardio and since Nunes can push a very strong pace and has no problem going the distance whatsoever, he might be willing to test the German's endurance at 145 pounds. How Siver reacts to the weight cut, positively or negatively, will be a very telling factor in this bout.
Bottom Line: We haven't seen many lightweights drop down to featherweight and immediately start finishing fights like crazy. Most of them are a bit cautious in that first bout (Pearson, Florian, Stevenson, Griffin) at 145. Siver is a fighter who could very easily be following along that similar path and the fact that Nunes' last eight fights went to a decision almost guarantee for 15 minutes of action. Now that's not the end of the world, as both of these fighters love to display some diverse striking attacks and they prefer to stand and trade. This could be a great fight or it could be a frustrating one. It all depends on how both men perform this Saturday.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 2? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!