Two talented light heavyweights looking to make up for prior misbehavior will duke it out this Saturday night (June 8, 2013) as Rafael Cavalcante returns from suspenstion to take on Thiago Silva, who surprisingly is also returning from a suspension. The bout will be featured on the UFC on Fuel TV 10 main card in Forteleze, Brazil.
Obviously, this is a battle for redemption.
Record: 11-3 (1 No Contest) overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Muhammed Lawal (Strikeforce: Houston), Yoel Romero (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov), Antwain Britt (Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery)
Key Losses: Dan Henderson (Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson), Mike Kyle (Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields)
How he got here: Rafael Cavalcante has been a highly touted light heavyweight for a long time. Training alongside Anderson Silva at Black House, "Feijao" was all set to work his way towards a Strikeforce light heavyweight title shot in 2008 before an injury forced then-champion "Babalu" Sobral off the card.
In his place stepped American Kickboxing Academy's Mike Kyle, who pulled off a shocking upset, clipping Cavalcante and finishing him with heavy strikes on the ground which was shocking to many.
Since that loss, Cavalcante bounced back with a trio of huge knockout victories, including a monumental third round finish of champion "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal in the main event of Strikeforce: Houston in 2010.
Unfortunately, "Feijao" would not be able to successfully defend his title, losing via knockout to Dan Henderson to drop his belt although he had the veteran in trouble after landing a big shot in the first round. He bounced back again, scoring a late second round knockout victory over Yoel Romero, but after scoring a first round submission over Mike Kyle, he was suspended due to a positive steroid test and had his victory overturned.
After an extended layoff sitting on the sidelines, he will make his UFC debut against Silva.
How he gets it done: Cavalcante has some very nasty elbows, knees and a ground game. If he wants to capitalize on those strengths, expect to see him close the distance, get in the clinch and start pounding away on the UFC veteran with his joints.
If Cavalcante can drag Silva to the ground, he definitely should. Silva has some respectable ground striking, but he's doesn't utilize much in terms of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his fights and could be susceptible to a powerful top control fighter whether it be via ground and pound or with submissions.
What Cavalcante doesn't want to do is stand in the pocket and trade strikes with Kyle. He can match the fellow Brazilian fighter in overall power, but he's susceptible to getting rocked on the feet and doesn't have the greatest ability to absorb big strikes.There's no telling what will happen if he stands and bangs and the uncertainty is something he'd definitely like to avoid.
The clinch and ground are where Cavalcante will likely be most comfortable.
Record: 14-3 (2 no contests) overall, 5-3 (2 no contests) 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 to "The Mauler." After a fight against Mauricio Rua fell apart, he returned to the Octagon to take on Stanislav Nedkov. He took Nedkov's best shot but eventually scored a late submission after his opponent faded in the final round.
Despite the comeback performance, his victory was overturned after testing positive for marijuana metabolites. Silva agreed to another suspension and rehab and after serving his time, he's back inside the Octagon this weekend.
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 put in situations where he can't do damage, like getting stuck too far inside on the clinch or potentially being put on his back. Silva has the potential to destroy his opponents with every punch, and he'd be much better off standing in the pocket trading bombs with Cavalcante than he would hanging onto him for dear life in the clinch or on the canvas.
If Silva can press forward aggressively, he could force a mistake out of the former Strikeforce champion. As we've seen before in many of his fights, all it takes is one big shot and he can finish anyone. Silva just needs to put himself in a position to land that shot.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 10? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!