UFC on FX 5: Can Antonio Silva Make His Way Back to the Top?
In February last year, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva recorded the biggest win of his career, stopping the No. 1 ranked heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, after two rounds. So utterly dominant was his performance that it completely changed the face of MMA.
Silva was seen as the shining example of a new generation of heavyweights that had left the old Pride masters, chief among them Emelianenko, far behind.
But since that night, his stock has fallen so fast, that few can remember those heady days of February 2011. Already going into his fight against little known, but overhyped, Travis Browne Friday night at UFC on Fx 5, the Brazilian is considered an underdog. This despite having accomplished far more than Browne has ever done in his career.
In B/R’s heavyweight rankings this month, Browne, whose most noteworthy victory was over a young Stefan Struve over a year ago, comes in at No. 9 and Silva is nowhere to be seen.
Make no mistake—this is a crucial match for both fighters as they look to ignite their careers. But for Silva, it’s a fight for relevancy. After two back-to-back losses to MMA’s finest, “Big Foot” is on the precipice.
Part of his predicament may be due to our own expectations. It’s true the win over Emelianenko led us to believe Silva had within him much more potential than he had, particularly as he was coming off of wins over Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle.
But then, as it turned out in the “Last Emperor’s” subsequent match against Dan Henderson last July, Emelianenko was a shadow of the man that had terrorised Pride for all those years.
Who will win? Antonio Silva or Travis Browne
Pre-2010, Silva spent his career in lesser known promotions, fighting on undercards in small venues across the world. And, despite a string of wins behind him, his Strikeforce debut in 2009 was marked with a decision loss to Fabricio Werdum.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. Silva is a BJJ and judo black belt. What we saw in his fight against Emelianenko is a grappler, par excellence. He also has power in his hands, having scored a string of KOs and TKOs throughout his career.
He has plenty of potential. He’s a giant of a heavyweight at 6’4”, 268 lbs and has raw athleticism the envy of many in the division.
So what accounts for the way Daniel Cormier was able to knockout him out silly in their fight in Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix last year? Or the way he was eviscerated by Cain Velasquez back in May? Were they really a step too far in competition?
That question can only be answered in his fight against Browne. He’s had almost five months to prepare, and if the 33-year-old can’t bring his best performance tonight, then we’ll know his best is behind him.
If he does defeat Browne, however, then it will go a long way in ranking him as a top 10 heavyweight. Whatever the hype behind Browne, Silva’s back is against the wall and this fight will prove whether he belongs among the best in the division.
UFC on Fx 5 takes place in Minneapolis, Minn. at 8 p.m. E.T
Khurram Aziz is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @khurramaziz1981
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