Official Preview and Predictions: UFC on FX 5
By Tom Taylor
This weekend, The UFC returns to FX, as UFC on FX 5 goes down in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the main event, heavyweights Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Travis “Hapa” Browne will be pitted against one another. In the co-main event, welterweight prospect Jake Ellenberger will look to return to his winning ways as he takes on his former foe, Jay Hieron, who will be returning to the UFC after many years outside the promotion. Before these welterweights slug it out, the former number-one-ranked flyweight, Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva, will lock horns with The Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson in a bout that is expected to provide a challenger for newly minted champ Demetrius Johnson. And finally, a bout between 170-pounders Josh “The Dentist” Neer and Justin Edwards will kick off the main card. In an evening that will showcase the wild-card power of the heavyweights, the blinding speed of the flyweights, and two interesting welterweight fights, here is what we might expect from the main card.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (16-4-0) vs. Travis “Hapa” Brown (13-0-1)
Just as Stipe Miocic did at last weekend’s UFC on Fuel TV 5, Travis Browne will put his undefeated record on the line against an imposing heavyweight who is hungry for a win. Browne will face the Brazilian, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and is surely hoping for more success than his peer Miocic had last weekend. Silva, on the other hand, will be looking to spoil Browne’s plans. Following a flattening at the hands of Daniel Cormier, and a savage beating at the hands of Cain Velasquez, it’s safe to say Bigfoot will be looking for more than just a win. The hulking heavyweight will be looking to make a statement in this fight, as he looks to erase the memory of his recent defeats and stay relevant in the deepening waters of the UFC heavyweight division. Unfortunately for Silva, he will be facing the speed of athleticism of Browne, who has shown on several occasions he can move like a welterweight.
While Bigfoot has had success in the striking department before, against the likes of Andrei Arlovski, for example, against a competitor like Browne, he will need to fight smart. As a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Silva’s best chances lie on the mat Regardless of who you are, and what your credentials are, you do not want a man like Silva on top of you, just as the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who was battered to a doctor stoppage from underneath Bigfoot. Sure, he is proficient on the feet, but Silva seems to hold a technical grappling advantage over Browne, and if he is wise, he’ll look to use it.
Browne should be well aware of this fact, and will have sharpened his takedown defense with the intention of keeping the fight vertical. The most glaring advantage he seems to have over Bigfoot is speed and athleticism. Despite being the taller of the two men, Browne has shown his agility several times before. Look to his superman-punch knockout win over Stefan Struve and the flying-knee he used on Chad Griggs for evidence of this. Bigfoot, in the past, has looked clunky and robotic in his stand-up, so in theory, Browne should be able to strike circles around him.
The lone imperfection on Browne’s record is not a loss, but a draw he acquired in a fight with Cheick Kongo. The fight was ruled a draw after Kongo received several point deductions. In that fight, Browne was frequently outmuscled by a more experienced foe, as Kongo pressed him against the cage for a significant portion of the fight. Silva will look to execute a similar strategy against Browne from the opening bell, as he looks to close the distance, and force Browne into the clinch. From there, look for Silva, who is also a Judo black belt, to work for the takedown. We can expect Browne to have learned from his fight with Kongo, and footage of Silva’s past fights, as he shows adeptness in shaking Bigfoot off and putting some distance between them. From there, look for Browne to keep his opponent at bay with jabs, and rangy kicks. Silva might appear comfortable in any striking exchanges, but Browne will beat him to the punch frequently. When he feels comfortable doing so, Silva will probably attempt to bulldoze his opponent into the cage again, but Browne will prove to be increasingly elusive. After a round of cat and mouse, look for Browne to turn it on in the second, pressuring Silva with quick combos, until he hits him where it hurts. The second Browne smells blood, look for him to swarm, battering his resilient foe against the cage until Bigfoot falls.
The Pick: Browne wins by second round TKO, securing arguably the biggest win of his career and keeping his perfect record intact.
Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger (27-6-0) vs. Jay “The Thoroughbred” Hieron (23-5-0)
In June of 2006 Jay Hieron beat Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision. While it’s not a fight many expected to rematerialize, Hieron and Ellenberger will clash again in the evening’s co-main event. Ellenberger was initially expected to throw down with Josh Koscheck at UFC 151, but when Koscheck was injured, Hieron was brought back to the UFC to fight Ellenberger. When UFC 151 was cancelled, Ellenberger and Hieron’s welterweight fight was given a rain check. Now, the two will finally have their rematch.
Ellenberger was being talked about as a possible contender for the welterweight title until he was knocked out by Martin Kampmann in his last fight. It is unlikely that Ellenberger has fallen far down the ladder however, as his recent first-round knockout win over Jake Shields and hard fought decision victory over Diego Sanchez are difficult to forget. Nonetheless, “The Juggernaut” will surely be looking to right his ship and get back in the win column.
Standing in his way will be Hieron, who has not competed in the UFC since 2005. Since his release from the promotion, “the Thoroughbred” has gone 16-3 in other promotions, including notables like Bellator and Strikeforce. Considering one of his three losses was a split decision defeat at the hands of reigning Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren, Hieron’s return to the UFC appears justified. The problem however, is that his welcome party is Ellenberger, who at this point in their respective careers, appears to be the stronger, more dangerous man.
If Hieron wants to win this fight, speed and conditioning will be his best weapons. For all the power behind Ellenberger’s punches we have seen him fade in the later rounds of fights before. If Hieron wants to return to the UFC with a win, he’ll look to expose Ellenberger’s questionable gas tank by drawing the fight out, and staying out of his opponents range with quick footwork and long-range strikes.
Ellenberger’s strategy shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, especially given his recent defeat to Kampmann. The Juggernaut will be looking to burst back into title contention with a vicious knockout. If Hieron is able to foil his plan on that front, Ellenberger always has his solid wrestling to fall back on.
When the cage door closes, expect a focused and confident version of Ellenberger to make an appearance, as he immediately looks to draw Hieron into a firefight. Hieron, who is now 36, is experienced enough to know a slugfest with Ellenberger isn’t a good strategy, and will be reluctant to oblige. Look for the Thoroughbred to back-pedal and attempt to keep Ellenberger at a distance with well-timed counter punches. Despite his best efforts though, Hieron will not be able to slow the relentless attack of Ellenberger. Expect Ellenberger to steam forward with grit, battering Hieron, even if he has to eat a few big shots to do so. In the end, Hieron’s chin, while it has only failed him three times before, will not be able to withstand the assault. Ellenberger’s punches will land like cannon fire, until Hieron crumples to the mat. Ellenberger will follow him there and seal the deal with ground and pound.
The Pick: Ellenberger’s blitzkrieg will prove too much for his veteran opponent. The Juggernaut wins by first round knockout, evening the score with Hieron.
John “The Magician” Dodson (13-5-0) vs. Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva (14-1-0)
For the skeptics who aren’t yet sold on the flyweight division, this is not a fight to miss. Brazilian Jussier “Formiga” Da Silva, who long reigned as the top flyweight in the world, has used his excellent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to amass an impressive 14-1 record. Now, Formiga will make his UFC debut against The Ultimate Fighter: season 14 winner John Dodson, who has showcased his fight-ending power on multiple occasions. Incentivized by the fact that the winner of this fight will probably get a shot at Demetrius Johnson’s flyweight belt, Formiga and Dodson will be that much hungrier for a win. This one’s got all the making of a barnburner.
Given Formiga’s proficiency on the mat, we can expect Dodson to try to keep the fight in the upright position. As one of the biggest flyweights out there, Dodson holds some serious power in his hands, and has the ability to put any opponent away with a well-placed punch. Just ask T.J. Dillashaw, who Dodson levelled in the first round at The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale. Formiga’s stand up is serviceable, but the edge in this department definitely goes to Dodson. Dodson will also hold an advantage as the much bigger man in the cage. Rumor has it “The magician”, who has also competed as a bantamweight, cuts from somewhere around 160 lbs. Given this, we can expect him to have a valuable strength advantage against a crafty opponent like Da Silva. Da Silva received his only loss, after all, at the hands of a stronger and more athletic Ian McCall. It is likely that Dodson will look to replicate McCall’s success, as he punishes Formiga on the feet, and attempts to outmuscle his opponent if the fight hit’s the ground— and given Da Silva’s strengths, it probably will.
Da Silva has finished half of his 14 career victories by submission, and will surely attempt to beat Dodson in this way. The talented Brazilian has made an art out of latching onto his opponents back until he finds their neck, evidenced by the five rear-naked choke wins on his resume. He might not be the stronger man, but we can expect Formiga to drag this fight to the mat at least once, and when he does, Dodson will need to hang on for dear life. Still, Dodson has never been finished before, and with the strategy-master Greg Jackson in his corner, we can expect him to be well prepared for his opponent’s ground assault.
When the referee waves this fight on, expect the action to start immediately, as each man attempts to impose their game plan, confident in their own strengths. It will probably be Dodson who throws first, gunning for a knockout with every strike. Look for a relaxed Da Silva to keep his distance, waiting for the perfect moment to shoot. Eventually, he’ll see his opening and dive for one of Dodson’s legs. Look for the Brazilian to latch onto Dodson like a leach, attempting to pull his powerful adversary to the mat. Dodson will have his work cut out for him, but his strength advantage should allow him to break free of Da Silva’s wrench-like grip. Eventually, however, Da Silva will secure a takedown, at which point he will look to take his opponent’s back. But again, despite a few scary moments, Dodson should be able to weasel his way back to the feet. Rinse and repeat several times, as Formiga shoots in, and Dodson narrowly escapes. Finally, when his timing is right, Dodson will catch his opponent on the way in with a vicious uppercut or knee, sending Formiga crashing to the floor. Dodson will risk more time spent on the mat with Da Silva, as he follows him there and batters him with wild hammer-fists until the referee steps in.
The Pick: Dodson adds a valuable win to his resume as he puts away the talented Da Silva with second round punches.
Josh “The Dentist” Neer (33-11-1) vs. Justin “Fast Eddy” Edwards (7-2-0)
He might not be the most consistent fighter, but when it comes to entertainment, few can rival Josh Neer. Following a recent knockout loss to Mike Pyle at UFC on FX 3, Neer will look to get back on track as he takes on Justin Edwards. Edwards, who has lost two of his three fights in the UFC, is in a must win situation in this fight. Given Neer’s propensity to finish fights and the fact that Edwards has his back against the wall, it’s likely that this fight will be a spectacle.
Edwards last fought at UFC 138, when he lost a unanimous decision to the grinding attack of John McGuire. The fact that Edwards was so easily pushed around against McGuire does not bode well for his chances against Neer. While he isn’t a wrestler, Neer is notorious for pushing the pace and pressuring his opponents from the opening bell. “The Dentist” will probably be even more inclined to do this after falling to Mike Pyle by first round knockout in his last fight.
Watch for Neer to wade in early as the fight begins, throwing everything, perhaps even the kitchen sink, at Edwards from the get-go. Despite Neer’s recent knockout loos to Pyle, his chin is solid, and he will take whatever Edwards dishes out on the way in. In his vintage style, the Dentist will make his much more inexperienced opponent uncomfortable by firing away on him, bludgeoning him, and cutting off his escape routes. Edwards is tough, though, and has never been finished in his young career. He will not be content to drop his gloves and take it, especially with his job on the line. Despite the barrage from Neer, expect a game Edwards to hold on through the first round.
The second round should start similarly to its predecessor, with Neer going for broke, and Edwards unable to execute his own strategy under such relentless fire. Edwards will prove to be a gamer as he hangs on in the face of knees, elbows, and quick combos, but given that Neer has finished 17 fights by knockout and 12 by submission, he should also be able to find a way to finish this fight.
The Pick: Neer puts a bloodied Edwards away with strikes in the second round, adding another finish to his resume.