In the journey of prospect from contender to title challenger, the process is rife with road blocks, potholes and gut-check-style tests that reveal much about the fighter in question. It's a journey that derails many a good fighter, exposing holes in their games that were camouflaged by lesser opposition.
But thus far for red-hot welterweight Erick Silva, his biggest problem is that he looks so good, the reflexive instinct is to wonder what could be wrong with him. In three fights, the Brazilian has racked up a total of 5:42 cage time in the Octagon.
His blowout knockout of Carlo Prater was ruled a disqualification loss because of shots to the back of the head, a bout where Silva followed up nicely to his hype-building debut, a 40-second demolition of Luis Ramos.
Facing Charlie Brenneman in the UFC on FOX 3 co-main event last night (June 9, 2012), the implication was clear. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is definitely looking to build Silva as a contender, and as a guy with good looks and an explosive style, Silva, who turns 28 later this month, could be a bankable commodity for years to come.
Brenneman was the exact kind of style you want a streaking guy like Silva to face, mostly to find out what the upstart can do when he's pulled in a strange direction by a persistent guy. And for his lack of flash, stand up and colorless fighting style, Brenneman was certainly that -- gifted with a workmanlike, wrestling-based game, he's one of those tough outs with a high-energy style, based on putting the other guy on his back, and endlessly camping there until you man up and do something about it.
However, last night at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., Brenneman's spoiler style was brutally derailed.
Follow me after the jump for our Erick Silva vs. Charlie Brenneman UFC on FX 3 post-fight review and analysis:
After early takedown attempts could keep Silva on the mat -- he simply muscled his way back up -- Silva seemed to get more comfortable on the feet. Unleashing a disdainful spinning back kick a few times in the process, and attempting knees in close with surprising gusto, Silva's confidence in his striking didn't wane, despite Brenneman's consistent ability to force tie-ups against the cage.
That's exactly Charlie's game, but Silva didn't seemed flustered by it.
After some frenetic back-and-forth where Brenneman couldn't keep Silva on the mat despite getting good takedowns and positioning, Silva unleashed a wicked spinning back kick to the midsection, doubling Brenneman over. As is the expectable hard-wired instinct, Brenneman shot low for a takedown moments later, in a reflexive action that proved his undoing.
Silva stuffed it easily.
He then showed a nice bit of bait-and-switch. Securing his hooks into the turtled-up Brenneman -- still, no doubt, smarting from the effects of the monster kick moments before -- Silva leaned as though he were moving to yank Brenneman back, prompting Brenneman to drop his hands to counter the hooks sinking in. Silva then deftly scooted up high, sliding his right arm underneath Brenneman's woefully unguarded neck for the finishing rear naked choke.
It was a performance that showed a lot about Silva. He's clearly an aggressive striker, and though the truncated nature of the bout didn't show his gas tank, it's testimony to his confidence that he was willing to try so many high-risk attacks, despite Brenneman's stifling style. What the UFC does next with Silva will be watched by many. He's now become the Brazilian version of Rory MacDonald, a streaking young contender with tons of physical ability and a seemingly championship-caliber upside.
The benefit of the UFC's stacked welterweight division is that Silva still has time to develop, and it doesn't necessarily have to rush him. Last night's fight was intended to get him some Octagon time and, ostensibly, the chance to prove his stamina against the kind of style that can be frustrating, yet an integral part of the growth process for a rising contender. That said, Silva next's best opponent would be Thiago Silva. His fellow Brazilian is a thunderous striker with incredible physical attributes, and he's never in a boring fight.
It would also be the rare kind of showdown between two stand up killers who rarely find opponents willing to trade.
For Brenneman, the performance was his second defeat in a row, after his brutal one-round blowout knockout loss to Anthony Johnson. His striking has always been negligible, and he has a very fan-unfriendly style, despite its effectiveness. Don't be surprised to see the UFC match him up against another tough rising contender in his next bout to use him as a measuring stick, which will probably hasten his exit from the promotion.