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UFC 153 preview: Erick Silva aims to become legitimate contender with win over Jon Fitch

One of the most anticipated fights on the main card of UFC 153 is the welterweight clash between rising prospect Erick Silva as he’s set to take on former title challenger Jon Fitch in Brazil on Saturday night. This is a classic ‘gatekeeper’ fight in that if Silva is able to get past Fitch, he’ll be viewed as a legitimate title contender. If Fitch is able to take the youngster out it’ll certainly help him right the ship coming off the devastating KO loss in his last outing. Let’s see how this one breaks down.

Erick Silva (14-2, 1NC) is coming off the first round submission win over Charlie Brenneman in June where he received “Submission of the Night” honors. Silva has only actually lost one fight in his career which took place in 2006. The other loss was via disqualification against Carlo Prater at UFC 142 for punching to the back of the head. Silva has won eight fights via submission and four fights via TKO/KO. He has a total of 4 minutes and 42 seconds in his three UFC fights with all the fights ending in the first round. Silva is a dynamic athlete who is explosive with his strikes and well versed in submissions on the ground. However, Fitch will be his toughest opponent to date by far.

Jon Fitch (23-4-1, 1NC) is coming off the 12 second KO loss at the hands of Johny Hendricks at UFC 141 last December. Fitch fought B.J. Penn to a majority draw at UFC 127, so he technically doesn’t have a win since besting Thiago Alves via unanimous decision at UFC 117 in August 2010. Fitch has 13 wins via decision, four wins via submission, and six wins via TKO/KO. However, Fitch hasn’t finished an opponent since submitting Roan Caneiro in 2007. Fitch is a grinder who doesn’t do much damage and wins the majority of his fights with wrestling and controlling his opponents.

This fight is pretty simple to breakdown. If Fitch can’t get Silva down with his wrestling he is going to get punished with strikes. Silva is much quicker and has more punching power than Fitch, and the cardio that Fitch is known for may not be there since he hasn’t fought in almost a year. Fitch will need to weather the early storm and hope to take advantage of a tiring Silva as the fight goes on since Silva hasn’t gone out of the first round in quite some time. At the same time Fitch will need to be in excellent shape himself to endure the damage he may incur, and still have enough in the tank to capitalize later in the fight if there is an opportunity.

The only way I see Fitch winning this fight is if Silva comes into the fight unprepared to fight for three full rounds with Fitch winning another judges decision. It’s possible that Fitch could wear him down and submit him late in the fight as well since Fitch’s grappling is somewhat underrated. However, I don’t think Fitch will be able to take Silva down and keep him there. He’ll need to close the distance and clinch with Silva and take him down from there which is something that Fitch excels at. He fights ‘ugly’ and it’s the type of style that could give Silva problems since Silva depends on his speed and explosiveness most of the time.

Silva simply needs to keep the fight on the feet and use his speed and agility advantage to land effective strikes against Fitch. He’s the more accurate striker and has excellent takedown defense according to Fightmetric. However, Silva does get flashy at times with spinning back kicks and flying knees, and he may not want to attempt those type of moves against a savvy veteran like Fitch.

I like Silva in this fight a lot. I think the long layoff will certainly be a factor for Fitch. I also think Silva’s takedown defense and dynamic striking will simply be too much for Fitch at this stage of his career. If Silva’s not in shape, it’s possible that Fitch could weather the storm and steal the last two rounds with his grinding style, but it’s unlikely. I think Silva wins via TKO and inserts himself into the welterweight title discussion.

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