Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Antonio Silva and Soa Palelei will scrap this Saturday (Aug. 1, 2015) at UFC 190 inside HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After being forced off Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) as perhaps the only legitimate user, "Bigfoot" has looked incredibly vulnerable. The once ferocious bruiser seems slow and without power, and Silva may be fighting for his UFC career.
Having won four of his five Octagon bouts via knockout, Palelei has made it clear he intends to stick around this time. By taking out Silva, Palelei is looking to prove that he's deserving of a ranking inside the Top 15.
Lets take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Record: 18-6 (1)
Key Wins: Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: "Fedor vs Silva"), Travis Browne (UFC on FX 5), Alistair Overeem (UFC 156)
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 160, UFC 146), Frank Mir (UFC Fight Night 61), Andrei Arlovski (UFC Fight Night 51)
Keys to Victory: For much of his career, "Bigfoot" imposed his will upon opponents. Pushing his opponents into the fence and throwing them down to the mat with pure force, Silva then made it a habit to destroy opponents with his brutal ground-and-pound.
Just ask the great Fedor Emelianenko how those Heavyweight hammer fists feel.
For whatever reason, Silva didn't even attempt that strategy in his last two fights. Instead, he stood around at the edge of the boxing range, basically waiting to get knocked out.
Luckily, Palelei is a fairly mediocre striker, as most of his knockouts come from top position. If "Bigfoot" has anything left in the tank at all, he should be able to work the outside with his straight punches and long kicks. Technically, the Brazilian should have an advantage on his feet.
In addition, Palelei often shoots from very far out in search of the takedown. If Silva can read his shot and reverse him, we may even be treated to some classic "Bigfoot" smashing.
If he fails to do both of those things, this truly might be the end of his time in the Octagon.
Key Wins: Walt Harris (UFC Fight Night 55), Pat Barry (UFC Fight Night 33)
Key Losses: Jared Rosholt (UFC Fight Night 43)
Keys to Victory: One of the strongest men to ever step into the cage, Palelei is definitely a ground-and-pound specialist. Once in top position, Palelei does a nice job moving into the mount and finishing his opponent with rapid punches.
For Palelei, this bout is all about where Silva's abilities currently rely. Palelei should definitely look for his usual double leg early and test out Silva's strength in the clinch. If he does manage to land a quick takedown, the fight is very likely over.
Nothing like an easy payday.
However, if Palelei cannot drag down Silva, he should abandon the wrestling game. If he gives away a reversal, being underneath even a degraded "Bigfoot" is still a terrible place to be.
Instead, Palelei should trust in his chin -- the Australian has lost via knockout just once -- and slug with his opponent. Palelei's striking can be awkward, but the man weighs something like 280 lbs. on fight night. If he can connect clean a couple times, Silva will go down hard.
Bottom Line: While it's a big opportunity for Palelei, this is truly a must win for Silva.
To be frank, Silva has looked awful in his last two fights. He accomplished nothing before getting knockout out violently. That's a worst case scenario. And if it plays out once more in this bout, Silva may need to call it quits even if UFC gives him another chance.
On the other hand, a victory would help pull Silva from his slide. It wouldn't put him in a great position -- Silva would be just 1-4 (1) in his last six -- but it would show that he has SOMETHING left.
Despite his opponent's obvious decline, this is a major moment for Palelei. He doesn't really have any victories over big name opponents, but that could change here. Plus, a new face in the heavyweight rankings would be a welcome change, and this could even be the start of his title run.
I wouldn't bet on it, but Heavyweight is a strange division.
A loss here would basically confirm about Palelei what is already widely known. He's seen as a mid-tier fighter who can crush low-level opposition, but he struggles when given a step up.
At UFC 190, Antonio Silva and Soa Palelei will battle for their place in the heavyweight rankings. Which man will earn the victory?