Saturday, December 26, 2009

UFC 108 Main Event Primer

Dispite the fact that both Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin and Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort had to be cancelled before Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva got the nod as UFC 108's main event, there is still a good deal of intrigue involved in this match.

Thiago Silva (14-1), a Brazilian member of American Top Team, still hasn't fully lived-down his buzzer-beating KO loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 94: Penn vs. St-Pierre II last January. It was the highest profile fight of Silva's career, which is why, particularly from a marketing stand-point, it is unfortunate that it was also his only loss. Yet, Thiago Silva has since shown fans that he will not be broken by a mere setback. He returned with a convincing TKO of perennial contender Kieth Jardine at UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira. That result was not a great surprise because, even going in to that fight, nearly %77 of Thiago's wins had come by (T)KO. A win over Rashad at UFC 108: Evans vs. Silva would mark Thiago's second straight win over a legit contender and the rare feat of consecutive wins over member's of the vaunted Team Jackson MMA out of Albequerqe, New Mexico.

Rashad Evans (13-1-1) is coming directly off his devastating loss to Lyoto Machida at May's UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida. However, due to the fact that Rashad once held the LHW belt, has fought in so many high profile fights, and had his match with "Rampage" Jackson so expertly hyped during The Ultimate Fighter 10, he may actually have slightly less to prove now coming off a loss than Thiago Silva does coming off a win. Regardless of the outcome at UFC 108, Evans knows he has the big-money fight with Jackson banked for down the road, so his primary motivation here is not staying relevant, but scoring some revenge for his good friend Kieth Jardine. Here are some thoughts from the former champ:

Thiago Silva's greatest potential mistake would be underestimating the Rashad Evans' hand speed. While Thiago probably possesses a significant advantage in power and likely has the superior striking technique, getting involved in a reckless brawl with Evans could be his undoing. Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida have both already shown that a slow-and-steady approach to fighting Evans can win rounds, while getting into slug-fests with his lightening fists was proven foolish by (again) Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell. If Silva stays ruthlessly patient and looks for openings, he should find them fairly easily.

For Rashad Evans, he needs to not fall too deeply in love with his stand-up. Sure, he can give his admittedly-improved striking a shot at first, but if it does not pay immediate dividends, Evans should return to his roots in this one and look to use his wrestling background to put Silva on the mat. At times, Silva has been marketed as a Jiu Jitsu specialist, but he has only two submissions in his MMA career-- one of which was due to strikes and the other was a heel hook outside the UFC in 2006. None of that should lead one to believe that Silva can submit an experienced grappler like Evans from inside guard. Top position can very much be Evan's best friend in this fight if he's willing to fight hard to secure it.

The main event at UFC 108: Evans vs. Silva deserves to be well-received by UFC fans for several reasons, not least because both fighters have legitimate ways to win each sports only one career loss. In a slight twist on fight-sports' time-honoured, catchy, promotional rhyme: somebody's one is done.

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