On New Year’s Day, the UFC returns to its old stomping grounds at the MGM Grand Garden for UFC 125: Resolution. The main event of the evening is a rematch between “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) and “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0) for the UFC lightweight belt and the supporting cast includes Brian Stann (9-3), “The Crippler” Chris Leben (21-7), “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (29-7), “The Carpenter” Clay Guida (27-11), “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (10-4-2), and Nate Diaz (12-6). In a bout that is sure to have fans talking for weeks, Brazilian wrecking machine Thiago Silva (15-2) takes on Muay Thai striker “The Truth” Brandon Vera (11-5). Both of these light heavyweight finishers like to let their fists do the talking and they will surely have a lot to say in a bout that many fans believe is a winner-takes-all and loser-gets-a-pink-slip type of affair.
At First Glance: Vera is looking more and more like a shell of his former self. Once a young heavyweight that was bulldozing through opponents, he is now 3-3 since his move down to 205lbs. After a one round beating from “Bones” Jon Jones (11-1) and a three round beating from “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) he is on a two fight skid and desperately needs a win to stay in the UFC. Silva has also had a rough past two years. He went in 2009 before his fight with “Sugar” Rashad Evans (15-1), which saw Evans use his wrestling to control and anger Silva for three rounds. Silva made a valiant effort to finish Evans in the final round but it was too little too late and he lost the judges’ decision. Silva was then sidelined for the rest of 2010 due to a back injury and has to know that the hype of his rash of KO’s has since been erased by a year-long layoff and a rough year before it. Both of Silva and “The Truth” need a return to form to save their place on the stacked UFC light heavyweight roster.
In Depth: All the fans, the numbers, and perhaps even the UFC brass point to Silva to win this fight. Silva has the strength, the speed, and the perfection in his boxing to control the fight. Conditioning won’t be a problem for Silva this time around. He is a product of American Top Team’s world class conditioning camp and spars regularly with Bellator Middleweight Champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (27-2) who expresses his respect for his teammate’s skills. Silva will use his aggressive striking to pick Vera apart and look to land that big punch that ends the fight. Vera, for his part, is a rangier fighter with crisp striking that could spell trouble for Thiago, but he also has a tendency to wilt under pressure, especially the kind of pressure Silva’s high flying offense brings.
The Wild Card: Vera is on thin ice with the UFC. This should be enough to drive him to do whatever it takes to win against Silva and stay in good graces with the promotion. That being said if he tries to stand with Silva it could go either way. He doesn’t have the power that Silva has, but he could use speed as his ally to pepper and frustrate Silva into making a mistake. The Silva/Evans fight showed that a superior wrestler was able to take down Silva at will. Vera is no Olympic wrestler, but the threat of taking Silva down will keep him from planting his feet and throwing bombs that could send Vera down to the canvas with the referee hovering over him. If Vera can prove early that his takedowns are a real factor, he can take over the stand-up portion of the fight by using that threat to keep Silva from feeling comfortable in the pocket.
The Verdict: When it comes to a fight between guys with this much on the line, it comes down to who wants it more. Silva and Vera both have the motivation to fight and win, but Silva’s whole life has been a must-win situation. His childhood in Brazil and the troubles he has lived through have turned him into the man he is today – a man hungry for supremacy that will stop at nothing to get it. Only a handful of Silva’s fights have gone past the first round, and all but two of his wins are by TKO. He will lay it all on the line Saturday night to prove to the world that he is back and better than before, and more importantly, that he rightfully deserves a place in the UFC’s upper echelon of light heavyweight competitors. Vera will try to stay on the outside and use kicks to keep Silva at bay, but Silva likely will risk crossing the threshold of Vera’s reach to test his opponent’s chin and end the fight. In this match, will and pure power prevails. Silva via KO, Round 1.