A veteran meets a much-hyped prospect in the welterweight division this Friday night (June 8, 2012) as Charlie Brenneman takes on Brazilian phenom Erick Silva in the co-main event of UFC on FX 3 in Sunrise, Florida.
Brenneman recently returned to his winning ways, bouncing back from a tough loss by manhandling Daniel Roberts with his wrestling over the course of three rounds. He has some of the most aggressive and tenacious wrestling in the division and is hoping to derail the hype train of Erick Silva this weekend.
Erick Silva has been a wrecking ball in his two-fight UFC career, crushing Luis Ramos in 40 seconds and then smashing Carlos Prater in his last bout after just 29 seconds (even if it was officially ruled a disqualification loss). Silva trains with some of the best in the world at Team Nogueira and has potential to make the leap if he can get past Brenneman.
Will Brenneman be able to grind Silva into the canvas? Can "India" stop Brenneman's takedowns in their tracks with his superior striking? What's the key to victory for both men on Friday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 15-3 overall, 4-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Believe it or not, Charlie Brenneman was mildly famous before he ever stepped foot in a cage. He competed on the original season of Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes and actually ended up winning the show alongside his brother. It was only after winning the show that he began his mixed martial arts career.
Brenneman had been a strong collegiate wrestler and he carried that system into his fighting. He repeatedly took his opponents down and smashed them. After compiling an 11-1 record on the regional circuit, he made his UFC promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 21 against fellow newcomer Jason High. Brenneman was able to utilize his own wrestling to take down the wrestler and win a unanimous decision.
He would be thrown to the wolves in his next bout at UFC 117 when he squared off against former national champion wrestler Johny Hendricks. "The Spaniard" won the first round pretty handily but that only angered Hendricks, who came out and knocked Brenneman down three times in the first 40 seconds of the second round to win via technical knockout.
The AMA Fight Club member rebounded against Amilcar Alves with a unanimous decision in his next fight and was slated to face T.J. Grant at UFC on Versus 5, but Grant had to pull out during fight week with an illness. Brenneman cut weight anyways and was a surprise replacement for Nate Marquardt, who was booted from the UFC after a testing too high on his testosterone levels. The Pennsylvania native shocked the MMA world by repeatedly putting top 10 welterweight Rick Story on his back and winning a unanimous decision.
With the victory, he was again thrown in against a top opponent in Anthony Johnson, and would be brought back down to Earth after eating a big head kick. He once again utilized his wrestling to bounce back with a victory over Daniel Roberts in his last bout.
Now, "The Spaniard" will wage war against another hyped prospect in Erick SIlva.
How he gets it done: Brenneman has decent striking and submissions, but it's his wrestling that gets him his victories. He's not likely to knock anyone out standing, but what he does do incredibly well is set up takedowns with his striking.
Even when his opponents know what's coming, he can distract them with a hook and dive in for a double leg takedown. Brenneman is tenacious with his wrestling and really puts his opponents on their backs better than anyone not named Georges St. Pierre in the welterweight division. What really makes him good is the fact that he sticks to his guns and continues to use his wrestling despite working on the other aspects of his game.
Erick Silva is incredibly dangerous, but also very untested. His opponents in the UFC, Luis Ramos and Carlo Prater, are not on Brenneman's level. Brenneman needs to wear Silva down with his wrestling attack, going high with punches and then diving at the Brazilian's legs working for takedowns. If he can put Silva on his back, he's going to really be in a good spot as I doubt he would be submitted.
He doesn't pass guard very well, at least not at a high level, so he'll have to remain very active with short punches from guard if he doesn't want to get stood up.
Record: 13-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Luis Ramos (UFC 134)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Erick Silva is an extremely promising talent in the welterweight division. He began his mixed martial arts career in 2005. He was sloppy at first, but progressed in technique and skill quickly. He won his first four fights and after suffering his only decision loss in 2006, he hasn't looked back since.
He continued to impress, compiling stoppage victories with both his striking and his submissions while showcasing his endurance to score three decisions and it eventually resulted in him earning a shot at the prestigious Brazilian Jungle Fights welterweight title. It was a one night tournament and despite winning a grueling bout against Gil de Freitas via third round submission, he pressed on and submitted Fransisco Ayan in barely a minute to capture the title.
He would go on to make his UFC debut when the promotion returned to Brazil this past August at UFC 134, knocking out veteran Shooto Brazil welterweight champion Luis Ramos in just 40 seconds. It appeared that his next bout was going to go the same way when he finished Carlo Prater via strikes in just 29 seconds but the referee disqualified him for ignoring his warnings and landing hammer strikes to the back of the head.
Fans still see him as a wrecking machine with 1:09 of Octagon experience and most view his fight fight against Prater as a win (similar to Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill). Now, he's set to face his most difficult test yet in Brenneman.
How he gets it done: Silva is extremely talented, but it takes more than that if you want to beat Brenneman. Takedown defense is absolutely vital in this bout. The Brazilian cannot recklessly charge in guns blazing or he's going to get taken down and kept there for an extended period of time.
Silva has a tremendous striking advantage, but he has to be cautious. With the way Brenneman sets up his takedowns so effectively with his strikes, if I were Silva, I'd completely ignore Brenneman's strikes. If he moves to defend against them, he could very well find himself on the receiving end of a big takedown.
He should instead simply be looking for an opening in Brenneman's defense and try to crack him with a big right hand or potentially a knee if he shoots in.
If the fight goes to the ground, even though it's "The Spaniard's" strength, I don't expect Silva to panic. He has both a judo and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. If he can't lock up a submission or a sweep within the first 20-30 seconds, he needs to work immediately to get back to his feet. Silva has not gone to a decision in nearly three years and a fight against Brenneman is not the first time he should be testing his endurance.
Fight X-Factor: There are a couple of factors at play here, but one of the biggest of them all might be Erick Silva fighting outside of Brazil for the first time in his career. "Indio" has never left the confines of his native country for combat before, even his first two UFC fights took place in Rio de Janeiro.
There's no telling how he will react without having the crowd supporting him, having to eat and cut weight outside of the comforts of his native country and in an alien environment, even if it's only just across the gulf in Florida. If he doesn't react well, he could be ripe for an upset.
Bottom Line: This is a tremendously interesting fight. I'm not going to go out and say that Charlie Brenneman is a guarantee for an exciting fight, because he tends to grind out decisions with his wrestling, but the fact that he's battling Erick Silva and providing the Brazilian with his first real test is extremely intriguing. This is a huge litmus test for Silva, to see whether or not be belongs among the best welterweights in the division and it's also a big test for Brenneman, who's trying to regain his status as a contender. Yes, there is potential for the pace to slow down if Brenneman can take Silva down for three rounds, but the thought of what Silva is capable of on the feet (or even with his ground game) makes this more than worthy of your time.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!