Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Erick Silva and Mike Rhodes fight for their spots in the division this Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 58 inside the Ginásio Jose Correa in Barueri, Brazil.
Despite the UFC's high expectations of him, Silva has only managed to win two of his last five bouts. When he wins, it's usually spectacular, but Silva desperately needs some consistency in his career.
Meanwhile, Rhodes entered the UFC with a fair amount of hype, but he's lost two straight fights via decision. If Rhodes wants to remain employed and continue fighting inside the Octagon, he must get past "Indio."
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Record: 16-5 (1)
Key Wins: Jason High (UFC on Fuel TV 10), Charlie Brenneman (UFC on FX 3)
Key Losses: Jon Fitch (UFC 153), Dong Hyun Kim (UFC Fight Night 29), Matt Brown (UFC Fight Night 40)
Keys to Victory: One of the most athletic and talented fighters in the UFC, Silva has established a disappointing pattern recently. After mauling a mid-tier fighter, Silva gets his step up into the top 15 and is promptly sent back down in violent fashion, though he always has his moments.
With that in mind, Silva is clearly a flawed fighter. However, he's also a devastatingly powerful and creative striker with a nasty grappling assault. Even Silva's wrestling is pretty strong, as "Stun Gun" had very little success controlling him on the mat.
Without raising his conditioning and fight IQ, Silva is not going to make an impact against the upper half of the division. Luckily for Brazilian fight fans, Rhodes is nowhere near the top of the division, as "Biggie" has been struggling again less successful fighters than Silva.
Silva should press his striking early. Utilizing his athleticism and power advantage, Silva will likely be able to land some hard, potentially fight-finishing punches without much.
Alternatively, he'll make Rhodes feel uncomfortable on his feet. Rhodes has been willing to mix in his wrestling, which is usually not a bad trait. However, Silva's transitional game is excellent, and he'll quickly be able to circle to Rhodes' back or attack with a submission if Rhodes' shoots a poor shot.
Historically, this is Silva's type of fight that he violently ends in under a round. Still, the question of how he'll recover from his beating at the hands of Matt Brown needs to be answered, and this is a solid test of his talents.
Key Wins: Alan Jouban (RFA 10)
Key Losses: George Sullivan (UFC on FOX 10), Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 43)
Keys to Victory: Rhodes is a talented striker under Duke Roufus and entered the UFC with a solid 6-1 record. However, he's lost two fairly competitive fights since, leaving many to wonder whether he was picked up too soon.
In this fight, Rhodes does not really appear to have a clear path to victory. Luckily, he's a young fighter that's quickly improving and may have developed enough to overcome the odds.
When faced with an opponent that a fighter holds no obvious advantages over, the fighter needs to play to his strengths or attack his opponent's weakness. Ideally, he'll attempt to do both at once and force his opponent to lean on bad habits.
For this specific situation, Rhodes is primarily a kickboxer. He's not completely out-matched technically on the feet and his opponent has taken serious shots in many of his losses, so it makes sense that Rhodes should look to win the fight on the feet.
As for taking advantage of Silva's flaws, Rhodes needs to pressure Silva. Matt Brown largely negated Silva's own attacks by smothering him with offense and landed plenty of hard shots in the process. Now, Rhodes cannot create a salvo of violence like "The Immortal," but he can still land strikes and tire his opponent out by constantly pushing the pace.
Bottom Line: This is a must-win fight for both fighters.
Silva has continually put forth some disappointing results, but his losses have come to top fighters. If he were to lose to a green prospect like Rhodes, it definitely would say bad things about his future with the promotion.
A win, however, would put him in a position to step up once more, hopefully with different results.
Rhodes has the opportunity to secure the biggest win of his career. It comes in the form of a dangerous but beatable fighter, one that a true blue-chip prospect would find a way to overcome. This is Rhodes' chance to prove that his pre-UFC hype and accomplishments were deserved.
With a loss, Rhodes would likely be released. It wouldn't be the end of the world; Rhodes is young and could use some fights to develop. However, getting cut is obviously never an ideal plan for any fighter aiming towards the top.
At UFC Fight Night 58, Erick Silva and Mike Rhodes will battle to return to the win column. Which man can pull off the victory?