Former title challenger, Antonio Silva, is set to scrap with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight strap-hanger, Frank Mir, this Sunday night (Feb. 22, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 61 inside the Ginasio Gigantinho in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Silva is currently in a pretty bad spot, career-wise. He hasn't actually won a fight in about two years, and his incredible brawl with Mark Hunt -- sandwiched between knockout losses -- was overturned due to a failed drug test.
Luckily for the Brazilian, he's paired off with perhaps the only heavyweight on a worse streak than himself. Mir hasn't won a fight since 2011 and has lost four bouts since then.
Your main event, ladies and gentleman.
Regardless, "Bigfoot" is a longtime top 10 heavyweight, so let's take a deeper look at his skill set before he goes toe-to-toe with Mir.
Silva is not the best striker in the division by any means, but he's got a long reach, competent boxing, and weighs something north of 265 pounds on fight night. In short, that means you have to respect the Brazilian's kickboxing attack.
Or risk ending up like Alistair Overeem.
"Bigfoot" actually has a black belt in karate that he earned in his youth, but the only place I notice this aspect of his game in his kicks. Silva actually has a pretty powerful low kick game, and he frequently uses his low kick early in bouts in order to find his range.
Against Mark Hunt, Silva's low kick had a serious impact on the fight. Hunt was prepared to counter punch and defend takedowns, but "Bigfoot" flipped the playbook by driving his shin through Hunt's calf and thigh. Silva's low kicks were so effective that Mark Hunt -- the K-1 Kickboxing star -- began shooting for takedowns in the third round.
Additionally, Silva used a teep kick against Hunt. Considering the large height disadvantage between the two heavyweights, it's really no surprise Silva found so much success driving his foot into Hunt's mid-section.
For the most part, Silva relies on his boxing to put his foe down. Capitalizing on his lengthy arms, Silva will mostly stick to straight punches as he snipes his opponent from range. As he grows more comfortable, Silva will extend his combinations a bit more and work hooks into his attack.
In addition, Silva has a strong uppercut. "Bigfoot" often looks to time his opponent's attempts to duck under his punches, which makes the uppercut especially volatile. However against Velasquez, Silva attempted to land a lead right uppercut with no setup, which was promptly countered.
While he's not exactly a counter striker, Silva will attempt to interrupt his opponent's punches if they reach for him. He'll also retreat for a few steps only to plant and fire off a straight right hand, a technique which dropped current interim champ Fabricio Werdum back in Strikeforce.
Silva definitely has some problems with his defensive striking. Unfortunately for the big Brazilian, it's not entirely under his control. He's hardly the quickest heavyweight and has a huge head, which has overall proven to be a bad combination.
However, Silva definitely makes some poor defensive choices as well. To defend punches, Silva will often simply cover up with both hands and hope to absorb his opponent's strikes. Not only due the small gloves of mixed martial arts (MMA) make that a poor strategy, but even deflected blows can lead to knockouts in the heavyweight division.
A black belt in Judo, Silva often pursues the takedown from inside the clinch. If he can get his hands on his opponent, it's usually not long before Silva lands an inside trip or simply muscles his opponent to the mat. If that doesn't work, Silva will pin his foe to the fence and dirty box.
Silva will also look to use his double leg against the fence. To set it up, Silva will either transition down to his opponent's waist from the clinch or throw a flurry of hooks before changing levels. With his strength, the takedown is basically done if Silva can lock his grip.
However, when Silva is forced to wrestle in the center of the cage, he's not nearly as effective. He commonly wrestles from his knees, which really takes away his ability to drive through his opponent. If he can push his opponent into the fence, Silva will often still finish the takedown despite this bad habit.
If there's one area in which Silva really shines, it's from top position. Once Silva gets his opponent to the mat, he's very quick to pass the guard and move into the mount. From there, Silva drops truly devastating ground strikes and usually finishes his opponent with ease.
Once Silva secures the mount, things are about to get bad for his opponent quickly. Silva postures up immediately and begins dropping his lunchbox-sized fists quickly. The Brazilian is not picky on how his strikes land; he'll throw hammer fists, looping hooks, and flurries of downward punches, often while controlling his opponent's neck with his non-punching arm.
Defensively, Silva is generally a pretty tough man to drag to the mat. Outside of when he gives up takedowns with his low kicks, he usually stuffs his opponent's shots with a sturdy sprawl and raw physicality. However, Mark Hunt did find success by utilizing his speed advantage to chain together takedowns on a tired "Bigfoot."
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Silva has been a jiu-jitsu black belt for quite some time. Due to how ridiculously effective his ground strikes are, he's usually pursuing a finish via ground strikes rather than submission, but he'll still take any quick chokes from top position if his opponent puts himself in bad position.
Additionally, Silva will often look for the anaconda choke. When his opponent turtles up -- usually in an attempt to stand -- Silva will began isolating the neck and one of his opponent's arms, like a triangle choke. From there, his arm that's on the inside of his opponent's neck will wrap around the head and arm, and his outside arm will lock in a rear-naked choke grip. That's the difference between the d'arce and anaconda chokes; the d'arce comes from the outside and is locked up by the inside arm.
Thanks to Silva's lengthy limbs, he doesn't have to get the hold all the way locked in for it to be advantageous. If he can get the grip semi-tight, he can roll his opponent over and onto his back. Then, he can more easily move into mount, which is usually the end of the fight.
To pass his opponent's guard, Silva likes to stand above his opponent. When his foe goes to kick him away, Silva will secure the leg, throw it to the side, and look to slide into side control. At worst, this usually lands him in half guard, a position from which Silva can easily force his knee through and gain mount.
Defensively, Silva has proven his grappling chops. Against Fabricio Werdum, the finest submission grappler in heavyweight history, Silva was able to keep his composure and escape some bad positions. That's not an easy thing to do, as even experienced grapplers like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira have succumbed to Werdum's top game.
Best chance for success
While there's a pretty decent chance that "Bigfoot" will be able to find great success both on his feet at range and on top of Mir, they're both fairly risky positions. Silva is hittable -- a terrible quality at heavyweight -- and though his submission defense has always held up strong, Mir is certainly capable of snatching a limb.
Instead, Silva should use his size and strength advantage to push Mir up into the cage and box him up from this position. Mir has had a problem with this strategy since he started fighting long ago, and he almost certainly hasn't solved it now.
Plus, Silva is in a pretty safe position with his opponent forced into the fence. Mir will not be able to generate any knockout power with his back to the cage, and he's not likely to pull guard for a submission against "Bigfoot."
Bad things tend to happen to fighters who find themselves underneath the giant Brazilian.
Will Antonio Silva return to the win column, or can Frank Mir prove the doubters wrong once again?