After a bit of a drought with UFC action, we’re right in the middle of a flood with this Friday’s UFC on FX 5. Coming hot on the heels of a great card in England, FX will air a night of interesting mid-card bouts with some highly competitive match-ups. Our main event features a rising Heavyweight star in Travis Browne, as he takes a huge step up against the well-traveled Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. We’ve got a lot of tight matches to cover, so let’s dig in and see how this little shindig will play out.
Also, remember that the fights I cover in detail here are ones that you, as the reader, have asked for. If there’s a match you want to see on upcoming cards, hit me up on twitter, or leave a comment in the box below and I’ll try to include it in the future. Now, onto the fights.
Travis Browne vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva:
It’s funny to think that when Silva started to move up in the ranks five years ago, he was considered almost too large to compete at Heavyweight. As the world had unanimously decided to ditch the Super Heavyweight divisions from their promotions though, he was forced to make the drop to below 265lbs, and now we see him as a giant among…well, other giants. Silva is deceptively fast for a big man and has always used that well in his fights, famously out-maneuvering Andrei Arlovski with ease inside Strikeforce, and giving Fabrico Werdum fits in their bout as well.
His opponent comes in as one of the larger men in the division at 6′-7″ and barely below the weight cap himself. I’ve long been a critic of Browne because he fights so simplistically that it’s almost insulting at this level of competition. His entire fight game consists of lunging straight punches, high knees and simple single leg takedowns. The wild thing is he’s so athletic that he can actually pull this all off with little trouble.
This is a fight that Silva can win, but he’s going to have to be smart on the defense early and creative on the offense once he’s settled into this fight. My main concern here for the Brazilian is that he is not a fast starter in the least, while Browne starts at a high gear and never stops. While Silva has the skills to do it, I don’t think his chin is on point to handle what Browne will bring, and I see this ending early in favor of the Hawaiian fighter in the UFC on FX 5 main event.
John Dodson vs. Jussier Da Silva:
With a title belt in play in the newly formed 125lb division, these two flyweights will want to work their way into title contention quickly, as TUF 14 Bantamweight winner John Dodson faces UFC newcomer Jussier Da Silva. Dodson is an amazing talent in MMA, using blinding speed and a natural killer instinct to dispatch opponents almost at will. It’s the “at will” part that has proven to be a weakness thus far in his career though, as Dodson’s attitude and ego can hardly fit in his 125lb frame.
Jussier Da Silva has been a terror in TFP and the Brazilian scene for some time now with his impeccable BJJ skills and viper-like striking. Da Silva’s entire game plan operates on a simple principle: Cover distance, get a takedown, and never give up position. This would make him a tremendously boring fighter if he wasn’t fighting other 125lbers who will always do their best to scramble with Da Silva, but he’s simply too talented on the mat to escape.
Dodson has some frighteningly sound takedown defense, but his careless movement has allowed fighters to get him on the mat recently, making Da Silva a potential wake-up call for the TUF winner. I’m not so sure that Da Silva can get anywhere near Dodson to execute his game plan though, as Dodson uses probing strikes and volume punches on the inside to dictate his bouts, making anything short of long shots from the outside a waste of time. I don’t think Silva’s fundamental striking will be enough to distract Dodson from Da Silva’s real objective, and I see Dodson battering the regional champ with fast hands and devastating power.
Bart Palaszewski vs. Diego Nunes:
One of the more exciting Featherweight bouts in our near future, Polish-American journeyman Bart “Bartimus” Palaszewski will fight striking whirlwind Diego Nunes. Palaszewski is one of those guys who are good at everything, but great at nothing, and we occasionally forget that when against elite-level competition. Armed with picture-perfect technique in the boxing arena and a cerebral outlook against opponents, he tends to bring more and more heat as the fight progresses, provided he is given an opportunity to get settled.
Diego Nunes is no less skilled, but fights with a style that could be called “defensive offense”. By hanging just outside his opponent’s reach, giving ground freely and being active with probing attacks, Nunes lands strikes throughout the match and puts himself in minimal danger. This plays out like a more active version of Lyoto Machida, but perhaps even more flighty under pressure. Having added impeccable takedown defense in his time with Zuffa, Nunes has become one of the toughest opponents to puzzle out in the division.
If this fight took place in a phone booth, there would be no question that Palaszewski would take it, but Nunes has a full cage to play his game. In order to be effective, Palaszewski needs to not only close distance, but do so rapidly, which doesn’t’ really fit his typical fight mode. As such, we should see Nunes playing this fight similar to how he defeated Mike Brown; circling, countering, probing and eventually winning a decision.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron: It’s been literal ages since Jay Hieron was in the UFC cage, and he draws a rough first bout with the durable Jake Ellenberger. Hieron brings an under-rated level of grappling ability, particularly in the counter-wrestling department, and can force a stand-up bout or work a clinch and takedown game plan as he sees fit. The problem here for Hieron is that his striking isn’t as polished as it needs to be against Ellenberger and throwing the same combination over and over can lead to serious consequences. Ellenberger should be on point enough to take this fight, though it does have potential to go to a close decision.
Josh Neer vs. Justin Edwards: One of the most entertaining guys in the Welterweight division for sure, Neer will face power-first wrestler Justin Edwards. Neer has a history of having issues with wrestlers, but the one unifying quality of previous opposition was a smart submission game as well. Edwards has survived thus far due to his toughness more so than any great submission savvy, and Neer should be able to use this to his advantage. Strong takedowns and cage control by Edwards turns into a sudden end to this fight as Neer locks up a choke.
Jeremy Stephens vs. Yves Edwards: Two elder members of the Lightweight division, Jeremy Stephens will pit his hard and heavy style against the smooth yet explosive Yves Edwards. This is a great clash of styles between Stephens strength and power-boxing versus Edward’s technical stand-up and speed, making it a tricky fight to call. In a tight contest, Stephen’s wrestling and clinch ability should be a deciding factor, allowing him to snatch a decision or set up a late TKO.
Michael Johnson vs. Danny Castillo: Two underrated Lightweights will work towards the top of the division, as TUF runner-up Michael Johnson faces WEC monster Danny Castillo. Johnson has looked like a well-tuned machine in his last several fights, using fantastic footwork and timing to inflict damage and avoid counters against some dynamite-fisted opponents. It’s the mat he really needs to worry about though, as Castillo has proven to be one of the best wrestlers in the division and his piston-like ground and pound has put more than a few fighters to sleep in the last several years. Castillo needs to close that distance to get the win, but Johnson has built himself as a great counter fighter with sharp takedown defense, putting this fight into his favor by a narrow margin.
Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares: The biggest head-scratcher of the night for me, two extremely hot and cold fighters will lock horns in the Lightweight division. Hallman is a simple fighter with a simple game plan every time he hits the cage; rushing forward and putting his opponent on the mat by any means necessary. Tavares himself has moved towards a similar style in recent years, although he still retains the fast hands and technical prowess that saw him in the title mix several years ago. Tavares could certainly prove me wrong here, but overall I feel Hallman’s ridiculous strength and skill on the mat will be too much for Tavares.
Jacob Volkmann vs. Shane Roller: Another dead even bout on this card, Volkmann brings one of the toughest grappling styles in the business, but faces someone with all the tools to stop him cold. Armed with a tight guillotine, high-level wrestling and a wrecking ball for a right hand, Roller will soundly defeat Volkmann, provided he can stay off his back. The thing making this fight so tough to call is that Volkmann knows this is the only way to win and isn’t afraid to use his top game for fifteen minutes. With all the tools in Roller’s tool bag though, I have to give a slight lean in his favor to finish this fight before the bell, one way or another.
Carlos Prater vs. Marcus LeVesseur: A make or break fight for LeVesseur, he’ll attempt to rebound from a first round loss and use his exceptional wrestling and work ethic against Carlos Prater. Prater is a talent, but is mentally weak at this stage, and I can see him breaking down in this fight if LeVesseur can apply smart pressure and never let up. LeVesseur has never seemed to pick up the knack for submission grappling verses wrestling though, and Prater’s mat work is poison to someone lacking basic defensive abilities. I’m counting on Prater to keep his head in the cage and snag a choke early when LeVesseur slips up with his defense on the mat.
Aaron Simpson vs. Mike Pierce: Two near mirror images in the cage, this is a fight that is really dead even in my book. Both bring huge one-punch power and ace wrestling with a grinding style, which makes for a potential snorefest or a quick fight. While I trust Pierce’s chin more than Simpsons, I feel Simpson’s wrestling is just a hair better and that he should benefit from that if Pierce can’t starch him early.
UFC on FX 5 takes place from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.