The UFC cards in Brazil are well known among fight fans. Brazil has some of the best fighters on the planet, and they have some of the most hardcore supporters. These two things however do not always get to coincide on home soil. Some of the thinnest cards in recent history have taken place in Brazil. The most famous of these was the infamously mediocre UFC 193. The UFC has shown that they are more than willing to take advantage of Brazilian fans loyalty. Most Brazilian fight night cards these days comprise of a mixture of old legends and hometown favorites being gifted with favorable opposition. The ratio of Brazilian wins against Non-Brazilians in Brazil has traditionally been skewed in favor of the hometown crowd.
This weekends UFC Fight Night 95 has the usual mix of mismatches, like the headliner between the ranked #1 women’s featherweight Chris Cyborg and 6-1 Lina Lansberg. However there are two fights in particular that seem to be setting their Brazilian contestants up for a fall. Both Antonio Silva and Alan Patrick are both facing stylistically very tough fights this weekend. While one is an aging veteran, the other is an unpolished talent. They face different challenges, but both are betting underdogs. Neither are the highest profile fights, neither even have that much significance. However this event doesn’t have a lot of it on paper, and there are enough articles out there on Cyborg, so this is what we’re talking about. The upside here is both fights are bound to produce memorable results.
Bigfoot Versus Big Country
Antonio Silva: The Real Iceman
Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva has been around for a long time, and he has fought a lot of the top names. From Fedor Emelianenko to Alistair Overeem, Bigfoot has fought and beat some of the best names while being arguably the slowest, most hittable heavyweight of all time.
The reason I would call Silva ‘The Real Iceman’ has nothing to do with any similarities to Chuck Liddell and everything to do with the fact he moves at the speed of a glacier. What has carried him to some of his biggest victories has been not his craft or skill, but his durability and his tremendous top pressure. His heavy top game comes from his weight: nobody wants to get stuck under a 300 pound giant (not even Fedor).
Similarly his striking has always been so powerful, but not exactly what you would call polished. Silva doesn’t cover up that well, he doesn’t set up shots, and he doesn’t feint. He does not even punch into his takedowns that well.
Silva’s top game really is his bread and butter. The problem is Silva has some of the poorest takedown ability of any fighter out there. His fightmetric stats show his current takedown accuracy rate at 32%, a pretty poor rate for a man who relies so heavily on his grappling. Over his last 10 fights, Silva has attempted just 8 takedowns, and has failed every single one.
The other problem is that Silva’s legendary chin comes with an asterix. Silva has gone 3-6-1 over his last 10 fights, and all 6 of those losses were first round knockouts. In fact, despite being known as a guy who is very durable, Silva has been knocked out in the first round in 8 of his 9 losses.
Roy Nelson and The Threat of The Overhand Right
Speaking of knockouts, you don’t get much better at knocking people out than Roy Nelson. While Big Country may not be a technically diverse striker, he brings a very specific problem. There may not be another person in MMA who swings an overhand right as well as Roy Nelson.
What makes him so special is that Nelson is that he knows how to make it land. He moves his man to the fence, then waits for them to circle out to his right so he can meet them with the overhand right. If they refuse to be forced to the fence, he uncorks it while they stand in front of him.
The key to defusing Nelson’s right hand is to circle to your right, at the expense of getting caught with his left. Silva is not the kind of fighter to avoid punches. In fact he is not the kind of guy to avoid anything. When you add that to his deteriorating chin, this fight seems to be tailor made to provide a knockout. Silva has a chance to land, but shoddy striking aside, Nelson has a chin made of granite. This fight is a heavyweight bout, so there is always a chance, but you have to imagine Silva has about as small a chance as you can give anyone who weighs over 205 pounds.
Stevie Ray Vs. Alan Patrick
Alan Patrick: Wild Without Reward
Alan Patrick has all the looks on paper of a young prospect. With a 13-1 record, a 5-11″ frame, and a strong Brazilian Jujitsu background, Patrick looks ready to become a star. However Patrick has one of the wildest striking games I’ve ever seen, and not in a good way. Spinning kicks, flying knees, running in behind your face windmilling punches, all are staples of Patrick’s striking. The problem is that unpredictable moves used all the time become predictable. The reason they are not used all the time is because they are high energy moves which leave a lot of openings. Against Mairbek Taisumov, Patrick’s wild charges were defused by simply meeting him with the right hand or giving ground and countering as he flailed around looking for the clinch.
That is one of the most worrying things about Patrick’s game: his striking and his grappling are completely disconnected. He will stand on the outside swinging capoirea kicks, then shoot naked takedowns from the same distance. He is so open about his intentions that it is easy for him to be read by people. This is how he got finished against Taisumov: ducking after a takedown that was easily stuffed, then getting head kicked as he backed out of it.
Stevie Ray: Dangerous in Measure
Patrick’s opponent, Scotland’s Stevie Ray, was originally going to be my focus for this article. He is 26 years old and has a 3-0 record in the UFC. More importantly, he is a fundamentally sound fighter. He understands how to move his feet. Much of Ray’s defense involves simply giving ground and retreating as his opponent advances. This is probably for the best as his head movement while he exchanges is pretty poor. He reduces the risk of this by retreating a number of times, then standing his ground and looking for the counter as his opponent expects him to retreat.
As a southpaw, Ray has a long remarkably rounded boxing game. The left straight, the long left hook, the check right hook, even a reasonable jab, Ray has the works. While he is something of a headhunter, his power is very good for the weight class and he knows how to thread the left straight and the long left hook in a double attack to work his opponents guard. He kicks well to the body and particularly works the left front kick to the body to maintain distance.
A big difference between these two fighters is the way they manage distance. Patrick will often break stance and run to close the gap, Ray will slowly take away space with small bounces before sliding in to range to strike.
By staying in stance, Ray reduces the risk of being knocked off balance and is in a better position to take and deliver shots. Running in a fight is a great way to get countered coming in. While Patrick’s wild style can be overwhelming to some, it comes with a lot of risks, from the techniques he picks to the way he moves his feet.
Growing Beyond The Basics
Ray works the basics well, but he is not beyond throwing unpredictable techniques. The difference is that he uses them sparingly. It is the sprinkling of these techniques in between the basics is what makes them actually be unpredictable. The techniques by themselves are more obvious than any other. Unlike Patrick, Ray is good at masking his wind up with punches.
Ray also has some of the best wrestling to come out of Great Britain since Brad Pickett. As soon as his opponents are used to the idea of a striking battle, he is in on their hips. The results of this can be pretty spectacular.
In some ways Patrick and Ray are polar opposites. Patrick is a grappler who constantly throws crazy, risky techniques, in between shots. Ray is a striker who excels in the basics, but builds off that to add the spinning kicks and takedowns in where they have a higher chance of landing. The difference between the two is that Patrick is constantly looking to land something big, or drag the fight to the floor, while Ray looks to land the simple stuff first, while being mindful of his defense. While it might be closer than the Silva Nelson fight, Ray has the tools and craft to make this a long (or short) night for Patrick.
This card doesn’t seem to have much to be excited for. While Cyborg is an attraction in and of herself, why she is coming down to 140 pounds but still fighting relatively inexpierienced women remains a mystery. The rest of the card will have the usual mix of good and bad fights, maybe a few more bad than normal, but every card has something you can enjoy. Cyborg and Lansberg will provide either the squash match or the upset. Nelson and Silva will provide the knockout. For this writer Stevie Ray and Alan Patrick are worth the watch by themselves. For a fight fan, any card has it’s gems. But that also means you have to wade through the potential mediocrity to find it.