We are just several hours away from the newest in what is a deluge of UFC events that we’re right in the middle of, as UFC on FX 5′s main card starts at 8pm ET/7pm CT from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the second straight week, we’ll get a main event featuring a solid heavyweight tilt, this time between the surging Travis Browne and Strikeforce veteran Antoinio “Bigfoot” Silva. Here are my picks for the main card fights, which also include a flyweight bout to determine the division’s first number one contender.
Justin Edwards vs. Josh Neer
Edwards has had a rough go of it during his time as a UFC fighter, compiling a 1-2 record in the promotion, with his last fight being a loss to John Maguire where he was only able to fend off Maguire for a round before succumbing to the control-based strategy of his opponent in a clear unanimous decision. Meanwhile, Neer is three fights into his third stint in the Octagon, and he pretty much is who he is at this point of his career. Although he lost by KO to Mike Pyle his last time out, he’s 2-1 in his current run in the UFC and presents a lot of problems to mid-tier opponents like Edwards.
Edwards likes to use ground and pound to wear down opponents, and he often sets up shots well with punching combinations. The problem is that Neer will be more than willing to absorb punishment unflinchingly from Edwards while dishing out his own. I don’t think Edwards will respond well to the pressure that Neer will put on him, really. Furthermore, if Edwards is successful with takedowns, he will find no opportunity to catch his breath against Neer’s aggressive, active guard. I think Neer catches him from that position, in fact.
Prediction: Neer by submission
John Dodson vs. Jussier da Silva
Da Silva makes his much-awaited UFC debut after being ranked in the top five flyweights in the world (and for some time, as the number one flyweight) over the last several years. He brings a 14-1 record, with his one loss coming a year and a half ago to current UFC flyweight standout Ian McCall. Meanwhile, Dodson gave a good accounting of himself while winning the fourteenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before cutting to 125 pounds to compete in the newly-created flyweight division. He’s already got a win at flyweight, which he earned against Tim Elliott five months ago.
Both men present very specific problems. Da Silva is an extremely dangerous grappler who is excellent at capitalizing on mistakes. Unlike many submission specialists, he shows a single-minded approach that allows him to determinedly get most fights to the mat, as well as the aggressiveness to actively work for finishes at all times.
Meanwhile, Dodson is very big for a flyweight, as he reportedly walks around at more than 30 pounds over the flyweight limit. Still, he somehow retains speed that can be compared with the fastest fighters in the entire division, and his energetic exuberance outside of the cage is in sharp contrast to his technical, disciplined approach within it.
On the mat, da Silva certainly has the edge here, as he would in just about any flyweight fight. However, I think that takedowns will be hard to come by, and even if they end up grappling here and there, Dodson should be smart enough to stay out of trouble until he can get back to his feet one way or another.
Standing up, Dodson presents problems as he’s hard to pin down along the cage and has very good power for a flyweight. He’ll likely be able to keep da Silva at bay with his striking and movement for much of the fight. Because of that, I’d look for Dodson to win a decision and the right to challenge Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Championship.
Prediction: Johnson by decision
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron
This fight has had many incarnations, as it went from Ellenberger taking on Josh Koscheck at UFC 151 to Hieron stepping in for an injured Koscheck on the UFC 151 co-main event. Of course, UFC 151 got scrapped completely, and now here Ellenberger and Hieron are, finally facing one another on FX.
Ellenberger should enter the cage in a grumpy mood tonight, and who can blame him? He appeared to have Martin Kampmann moments from a referee stoppage early in their bout, only to have a well-timed counter right derail his plans in the second round. Kampmann’s counter stumbled Ellenberger, and knees from the clinch did the rest as Kampmann completed a stunning comeback that left Ellenberger obviously disappointed.
I’m not sure how much he can learn from a loss that came out of such a one-sided fight that he was doing so well in. Hopefully, the experience won’t make him overly cautious, as I’m sure Hieron would be more than happy to pick apart a gunshy Ellenberger at range with low kicks. However, I think Ellenberger will come out with guns blazing and be his usual, aggressive self.
Hieron will try to use kicks and movement to slow down Ellenberger while scoring points. The problem here is that not only does Ellenberger’s power make him dangerous when the two remain standing, but that Ellenberger also has the takedowns to plant Hieron on his back repeatedly, where he can do further damage with ground and pound. Ellenberger can hurt Hieron wherever the fight goes, and it will be just a matter of time before the ref has to step in.
Prediction:Ellenberger by KO/TKO
Travis Browne vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva
Here you have two big men (even by heavyweight division standards) who both rely on imposing their considerable wills on opponents in order to prosper in the cage. Obviously, one of them will leave the Target Center very disappointed.
Browne, has had a nice run in the UFC culminating in a 4-0-1 record (to go along with his unbeaten career record), but his performances have not all been extremely impressive. His lackluster performances in fights against Rob Broughton and Cheick Kongo (who he fought to a draw with) are evidence that Silva may be able to handle him tonight.
However, he has some key advantages against Silva, who has long been in or around the top ten at heavyweight and has notable victories against Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski. He is much more athletic than the plodding Silva, and will be able to use his quickness and movement to his advantage, should he choose to do so. I also expect him to be the better wrestler, which is key because Silva’s bread and butter has always been using ground and pound to beat up opponents.
A striking battle between the two may be more even than some would expect, but I still would imagine Browne would get the better of it. He’s more dynamic than Silva and will likely be more active in terms of the volume of his striking, which is a clear determinant in so many judges’ decisions.
Silva will definitely need to cut off the Octagon and get against the cage with Browne, hoping to wear him down and bully him a bit. Even that may be hard to do, though, as Browne has not shown an inability to fight deep into bouts so far, and he is plenty strong, himself. Really, there is no clear indication as to which fighter would benefit most purely in terms of cardio if the fight was to go the full five rounds. In that case, we look at things in simple terms, such as “Who will be beating up who?” I expect Browne to be the hammer to Silva’s nail through much of this bout.
Prediction: Browne by KO/TKO