This Wednesday (Oct. 9, 2013) light heavyweights Matt Hamill and Thiago Silva will face off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 29 from Jose Correa Gymnasium in Barueri, Brazil.
The bout features an interesting contrast of styles and holds pivotal implications for the future of both fighters' Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) careers.
Hamill recently made his way back into the Octagon after a short retirement, defeating Roger Hollett with a unanimous decision at UFC 152. The win snapped a two-fight skid with losses to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 130 and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133. The downswing prompted a short-lived retirement from mixed martial arts (MMA), and now "Hammer" looks to return to the lofty position he once enjoyed.
On the other hand, Silva has experienced a roller-coaster ride recently, obtaining a rarely seen 2-3(2) record in his last seven fights. After destroying Brandon Vera at UFC 125, Silva saw the win changed to a No-Contest after he admitted to falsifying a urine sample for the event's drug screen. After that, he dropped a decision to Gustafsson at UFC on Fuel TV 2.
Silva's next test came against Stanislav Nedkov at UFC on Fuel TV 6 in China. He finished the bout by submission, but again saw a quality win slip away after he failed the drug screen for marijuana. Many fighters would have seen their UFC employment go up in smoke, but Silva got another chance against fellow Brazilian Rafael Cavalcante at UFC on Fuel TV 10.
Silva capitalized by finishing "Feijao" via knockout, righting the ship a bit and earning a chance to fight on in the Octagon. He'll be up against a stiff test in Hamill and will need a win to continue erasing the red ink that has haunted his record as of late.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Matt Hamill vs. Thiago Silva.
Record: 11-4 overall, 10-4 UFC
Key Wins: Tito Ortiz (UFC 121), Mark Munoz (UFC 96), Jon Jones (The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale)
Key Losses: Michael Bisping (UFC 75), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 133), Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (UFC 130)
Keys to Victory: Hamill is an excellent wrestler who won three NCAA Division III national titles while at Rochester Institute of Technology. He's parlayed that skill into MMA almost seamlessly, and has faced some of the best light heavyweights in the UFC.
His controversial split decision loss to Bisping stills stands as one of the most debated fights in UFC history, with many giving Hamill the nod hands down. That may have gone down as Hamill's biggest win in the Octagon. Instead, his biggest victory is technically a disqualification victory over Jones in a fight he was losing. To win in Barueri, however, he can only focus on defeating the man in front of him.
And that man is dangerous.
Hamill has six knockout wins to his credit but looking to stand and trade with a headhunter like Silva could spell doom for "Hammer." Silva is a deadly knockout artist that has finished 12 of his 15 victories with strikes, so Hamill will be well served to look for takedowns early and often. Utilizing top position to score points with ground and pound will played into Hamill's gameplan.
He has some striking power of his own, but wrestling is the area where he holds a big advantage. Hamill has never submitted an opponent so that likely won't come into play here.
The crowd will be against him, and another factor may be too: Hamill will be without his longtime coach and mentor Duff Holmes, and that could have a big impact on how this fight plays out. Hamill is just making his way back into MMA after retiring in 2011; he could use all the help he can get.
You can bet that Silva is more than eager to move past the bad memories of his recent exploits with a win over Hamill. Using a wrestling-heavy gameplan is going to be Hamill's best way to combat this.
Record: 15-3(2) overall, 6-3(2) UFC
Key Wins: Rafael Cavalcante (UFC on Fuel TV 10), Keith Jardine (UFC 102)
Key Losses: Alexander Gustafsson (UFC on Fuel TV 2), Rashad Evans (UFC 108), Lyoto Machida (UFC 94)
Keys to Victory: Silva is a beast of a fighter whose recent record does no justice to his true talent level. Despite his ups and downs, he sits with only three losses on his record, and those were against some of the best 205-poind fighters the Octagon has ever seen.
Still, he just hasn't been able to get over the hump by defeating a top-level opponent.
While a win over an aging Hamill won't get him there, it's a step in the right direction.
Silva has trained in MMA since his days as a poverty-stricken child on the streets of Brazil. Possessing a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Silva could use this to his advantage should he get taken down. He's only submitted two of his opponents (although he defeated Nedkov with an arm triangle before it was overturned), so his favorite way to dispatch his opponents is with his fists.
Rightfully so, because he's ruthlessly efficient at doing just that.
Silva has the power to end almost any fighter's night with the right punch, it's just a matter of staying upright long enough to do so here. If he can successfully defend the takedowns that are inevitably coming from Hamill, an opportunity to unleash some bombs will open up.
Takedown defense will be key here, as will keeping control of his emotions. Silva is known to be a very heated fighter, and the Brazilian crowd will be roaring for him from the minute he walks out. He'll need to harness this energy rather than putting too much pressure on himself.
Hamill has never tapped out, but he's been knocked out twice. You can bet Silva will be looking to join that list as the third member.
Bottom Line From Barueri: The bottom line here is that this a true struggle for positioning at light heavyweight. In this talented division, wins are both hard to come by and necessary.
A loss could send either fighter to 205-pound purgatory.
Silva has been granted a second and even third chance by the UFC after his past transgressions, so he's presumably on thin ice. He'll have to show up focused, clean, and in shape to keep any momentum rolling. Another drug test failure will almost certainly see him fired.
Hamill has the skills and experience to add Silva to his impressive list of victories, but it's hard to say how sharp and motivated he is at this point in his career. "Hammer" has only fought once in the past two years, and injuries have taken their toll on him in the past as well.
Being without his coach Holmes may be detrimental to his success in Brazil, but it could also serve to motivate him. This bout is going to gauge if Hamill truly has his head in the game or not. Anything less than the sharpest of focus will see him knocked out. Neither combatant is getting any younger, so the time to win is now.
This fight has the potential to be a hard-fought battle, as there is a lot at stake.
It's an exciting contrast of styles, with Hamill having a huge edge in wrestling while Silva has the advantage in grappling and boxing.
Matt Hamill and Thiago Silva are both dangerous 205-pounders in need of a big win. Which one will get on a two-fight win streak and move on to bigger and better bouts?