It isn't always the best idea to throw a highly touted prospect straight into the deep end of a weight division, but that is exactly what happened to Erick Silva, who competes later this evening (Sat., June 8, 2013) against Jason High at UFC on Fuel TV 10, which emanates from Paulo Sarasate Arena in Fortaleza, Brazil.
After posting a 12-1 record on the Brazilian mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, Silva's first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight served as a huge springboard for his career, taking out Luis Ramos in less than one minute at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Indeed, fans quickly latched onto the name of the talented Brazilian prospect, propping him up as someone to watch for the future.
His sophomore effort inside the Octagon was again hosted in Brazil, matched up against fellow countryman Carlo Prater. The lopsided match turned out even quicker than his Octagon debut, with Silva dispatching of Prater in under 30 seconds.
Or so it seemed.
Unfortunately, referee Mario Yamasaki decided randomly to take a stand against punches that may or may not have landed on the back of Prater's head, disqualifying him from the bout and handing him his first UFC "loss." Despite the setback, Silva was still considered a red-hot prospect, now known as a knockout artist despite his extensive list of submission victories earlier in his career.
Silva's next fight was his first in the United States, a match up at UFC on FX 3 against middle-of-the-road Welterweight Charlie Brenneman. Leading up to the fight, it was conceivable that Brenneman could give Silva some trouble because he had never seen an opponent with his wrestling ability. However, the fight played out in utterly dominant fashion for the Brazilian, who stuffed takedowns and battered "The Spaniard" en route to a late first round submission victory.
With this bout behind him, it was right to expect a step up in competition for Silva, but nobody anticipated it to be against the toughest out in the 170-pound division not names Georges St. Pierre. When it was announced that Jon Fitch would be the one to welcome Silva to the division's elite, doubts of Silva's game started going wild, appearing he may be taking on more than he could handle.
He was still given a fair chance in the fight, and was even a slight favorite to the oddsmakers, but this would undoubtedly be his biggest challenge to date.
The first round went exceptionally well for the Brazilian, besting Fitch in every area of the fight for most of the time. The second round started well for him, too, as it looked like more of the same, but slowly but surely his energy was sapped, and Fitch took over the fight halfway through the second round. The late second round and entire third round saw Fitch attack relentlessly against a physically, but not mentally, beaten Silva, and by the end of the fight a victory on the judge's score cards was little more than a faint hope.
Despite what some may tell you, this fight was not that one-sided, and to be honest, depending on how one judged the second round, it could have gone to Silva. Yes, he was being beaten everywhere in the late second and third round, but he controlled the beginning of the second and never stopped relenting even when the momentum shifted in Fitch's favor.
My personal judging views aside, the bout also proved a lot about just how good Silva is. For the first 1.5 rounds, he was controlling the fight against a very legitimate welterweight veteran, showing that he was more than just a powerful striker. Even when he wasn't looking too good, he relented whenever possible, showing true heart even when he was physically exhausted.
Even though his performance in defeat was not miserable, this is still a very hard place from which to bounce back. Some fans were thoroughly convinced that his fight with Fitch proved he does not belong in the division's elite, and even if that wasn't true, he has to prove himself yet again.
When taking on Jason High tonight, Silva will be fighting a very skilled, seasoned fighter. His game may be tested in all areas and it will be very difficult for him to put away High in the manner he has with his career victories so far. Silva will have the support of a Brazilian audience, but that may hurt him if he doesn't handle the pressure properly.
At UFC on Fuel TV 10, Erick Silva is the "Fighter to Watch" because he needs to prove himself yet again if he ever is to even sniff what some thought was his potential.