When Strikeforce arrives in St. Louis, Missouri tomorrow former Elite XC Heavyweight Champion ”Bigfoot” Antonio Silva (13-2) will look to start a new winning streak by coming out on top in his battle against late replacement “MAK” Mike Kyle (14-7), a well rounded and dangerous kickboxer. Kyle stepped in for the injured “The Python” Valentijn Overeem (26-21) on late notice last week and wants to show the world he belongs in the Strikeforce heavyweight title picture. Both men are strikers of titanic proportions with a knack for bringing the heat that will all but guarantee a fan friendly slugfest to appease casual and hardcore crowds alike.
At First Glance: Silva and Kyle seek to move up the heavyweight ladder towards the title belt and the so called “Big Three” – “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2), Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1), and champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (33-11). Both fighters want a shot against any of those men, and since both Silva and Kyle have a loss to Werdum, a rematch with the man who caused the upset of the decade by submitting the previously considered top heavyweight in the world Fedor Emelianenko via first round Arm Triangle Choke in June, is at the top of their wish lists. Silva and Kyle are both seasoned brawlers with a wealth of stand-up experience.
In Depth: Although originally slated to face the brother of Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem, an injury at the beginning of the week forced ‘The Python” off the card and Mike Kyle stepped in to face the man called “Bigfoot”. Aside from the common denominator that both men have lost to Werdum, both men also prefer to stand and bang. Silva lost to Werdum by decision in a hard fought three round war whereas Kyle was submitted in the first round. The details of that fight tell the story of this one. The fact that Silva prevented Werdum from mounting any significant submission offense for three rounds tells of his often overlooked ground game. The fact that Kyle has taken this fight on extremely short notice and has never defeated a fighter with a noteworthy ground game tells of the deep hole he is in against Silva. While he is a technically more sound kickboxer, Kyle will be forced to spend the majority of the bout guarding against the takedown in an effort to give his striking a chance to steal the show.
The Wild Card: Silva is a strong stand-up fighter – it’s his bread and butter and he certainly has the edge on the ground with his solid BJJ, but his striking is an unrefined power-based style. Kyle is a pure kickboxer with all the technical savvy that the title entails. Silva has never faced a pure kickboxer like Kyle who can attack from angles and avoid his more basic combinations. If Kyle can stay on his feet he may gain control early in the fight and score the upset of the night by forcing “Bigfoot” back onto his heels with a steady onslaught of crisp combos.
The Verdict: Silva is the heavy favorite coming into the fight against Kyle and there are a multitude of reasons why. Silva normally looks to keep the fight standing but due to Kyle’s lack of a ground game he may well look for the easy submission or ground-and-pound win. Kyle has KO power, and he does have an edge in the technical aspects of controlling the stand-up fight. With a win over Silva, Kyle could drop back down to 205 or remain at heavyweight for another high profile fight and launch a career as a major player in Strikeforce, so expect him to bring all his weapons to bear. However also expect him to fall short at the end of the night as the more well rounded Silva shows him why he shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Silva via Unanimous Decision