If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need me to tell you to look out for Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami, or Jon Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, or Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, or Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos.
There are, however, plenty of upcoming fights featuring quality fighters and SILVA favorites to look out for.
All SILVA scores can be found here.
UFC 133 (August 6th): Chad Mendes vs. Rani Yahya
Just because Mendes isn’t fighting Jose Aldo for the title anymore doesn’t mean he’s not still one of the top fighters to watch out for. With a SILVA score of 51.02, Mendes is estimated to be the best fighter in the featherweight division in MMA. Still, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be tested by Rani Yahya, whose slick ground game might just be the perfect antidote to Mendes’s wrestling. Either way, this should be an exciting fight.
UFC 133: Johny Hendricks vs. Mike Pierce
Believe it or not, here are the top three welterweights in MMA as measured by SILVA:
- Georges St. Pierre – 56.65
- Jon Fitch – 47.55
- Johny Hendricks – 45.09
I saw Hendricks’s fight against Rick Story at the TUF 12 Finale last December as an eliminator fight to determine who would enter title contention. As it turns out, Story’s aggression gave him the nod in that one, and his reward was a fight against Thiago Alves. Hendricks, on the other hand, was relegated to the prelims to fight T.J. Waldburger.
Now, I see this fight, between Hendricks and Mike Pierce, as another title contention eliminator. With a SILVA score of 36.31 and a rAP of 40.39, Pierce is definitely a fighter to keep an eye on. If he’s able to beat Hendricks, that will signal that, like Story, he’s ready to face the toughest fighters in the division. However, it’s a more important fight for Hendricks, who will only get so many chances to really break into the welterweight division’s top tier.
UFC 133: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Matt Hamill
With a rAP of 41.57, Alexander Gustafsson is very close to becoming an elite fighter according to SILVA (a status granted by a rAP of at least 43.00). There are a number of things that impress me about Gustafsson; he’s a well-rounded fighter with very good striking and a quality ground game. Yet, while I’m not too fazed by Gustafsson’s only career loss to Phil Davis, that loss did signal that perhaps Gustafsson struggles against wrestlers. With that in mind, Matt Hamill represents the perfect test for him, as Hamill’s “good but not great” MMA wrestling should go a long way towards determining how far Gustafsson can rise in the division.
UFC on Versus 5 (August 14th): Donald Cerrone vs. Charles Oliveira
This is a fight that will be contested between two fighters looking to break into SILVA’s elite tier at lightweight. Cerrone has a rAP of 41.81 and Oliveira has a rAP of 40.19. While Oliveira, at just 21 years old, has a lot of hype behind him, SILVA actually likes Cerrone to win the fight (which would be true even if Oliveira’s win over Nik Lentz was upheld). Oliveira has a very slick, aggressive ground game, but Cerrone is great there as well, and may be level-headed enough to take advantage of the risks of Oliveira. This is a great matchup.
UFC on Versus 5: Jacob Volkmann vs. Danny Castillo
I understand that Jacob Volkmann isn’t the most exciting fighter in the UFC, and I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. Still, with a rAP of 42.95, Volkmann is extremely close to being considered an elite lightweight fighter (believe it or not). If he can get past Danny Castillo, and I think he will, then he’ll be rated alongside some of the best lightweights in the world.
UFC 134 (August 27th): Edson Barboza vs. Ross Pearson
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, then you know that I love Edson Barboza. Package phenomenal Muay Thai skills with effective takedown defense and a competent ground game, and what you get is a fighter who just might terrorize the UFC lightweight division. At just 8-0, Barboza already has a SILVA score of 46.54, and I think that Barboza represents a horrible style matchup for a more standard striker in Ross Pearson.
Strikeforce Grand Prix (September 10th): Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio Silva
I wrote a bit about Daniel Cormier replacing Alistair Overeem already. To summarize, I had Overeem losing to Antonio Silva or Josh Barnett (with the jury out about Sergei Kharitonov). Cormier, on the other hand, has now become my pick to take the whole tournament, as his sky-high SILVA score of 51.43 reflects his great career start and world-class wrestling background.
Strikeforce: Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie
With a SILVA score of 45.24, “King Mo” is still considered an elite fighter despite his surprising loss to Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. Lawal’s 7-0 career start is historic in the difficulty of opponents faced (how many fighters start their career by beating Travis Wiuff?). However, he may want to resist the urge to attempt takedowns against Roger Gracie, who is arguably the best jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA at any level, in any weight class. This should be a fun fight.
UFC Fight Night 25 (September 17th): Erik Koch vs. Jonathan Brookins
If the UFC wants to really develop Brookins as a fighter, they have a funny way of showing it. Erik Koch is 12-1, with only a loss to Chad Mendes in his career, and is coming off of a first-round knockout of Raphael Assuncao. With a SILVA score of 44.82, Koch is considered to be the third-best featherweight in the world out of those measured so far. And as Koch’s biggest strength is his striking, which is easily the biggest weakness of Brookins, it seems that Brookins could be in big trouble in this one.
UFC 135 (September 24th): Takanori Gomi vs. Nate Diaz
This fight is Gomi’s last chance. Gomi absolutely should have more effective striking than Nate Diaz. However, Gomi has been in the MMA game a long time now, and his prime seems long gone at this point. If Gomi wins in impressive fashion, then it’s possible that he could put together one last run at the title. If Gomi loses to Nate Diaz, his SILVA score will drop all the way to 27.82, and Gomi will be relegated to a “washed up” status alongside Mirko Cro Cop.
UFC on Versus 6 (October 1st): Paul Sass vs. Michael Johnson
Because Paul Sass is a perfect example of an elite fighter according to SILVA that absolutely nobody would anticipate, he’s one of the fighters that I’m looking forward to watching the most. The result is that I’ve already written at length about Sass, first about whether or not Sass can truly become a title contender, and then just a couple days ago, breaking down his announced fight against Michael Johnson.
UFC 136 (October 8th): Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Both fighters will have a lot to prove in this fight. Demian Maia will need to win this fight to prove that he has what it takes to remain a title contender in the UFC. With just a 1-3 UFC record, Jorge Santiago will need to prove that his status as a top ten fighter was justified, and that he belongs in the UFC.
UFC 137 (October 29th): Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione
I imagine that a lot of people will think that Mitrione will lose here, as he has yet to face a fighter at Kongo’s level. My opinion is very different. I think Kongo’s status as a relevant heavyweight fighter is quite a bit fraudulent, as his UFC victories are regularly against fighters like Mustapha Al-Turk, Dan Evensen, and Paul Buentello. Meanwhile, when he steps up in competition, for instance against Frank Mir, he gets blown out of the water. SILVA loves Mitrione (who is the #3 rated heavyweight, at a 50.40 SILVA score) to win this fight.
UFC 138 (November 5th): Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao
After being injured before a scheduled fight against Miguel Torres at UFC 130, Brad Pickett will (hopefully) finally make his UFC debut at UFC 138 against Renan Barao. The problem is that he’s facing an opponent on a 26-fight winning streak, and Barao has beaten just enough quality opponents during that streak to gain consideration as an elite fighter by SILVA. In fact, due to Urijah Faber’s loss to Dominick Cruz at UFC 132, Barao now has the second-highest SILVA score in the bantamweight division behind Cruz. A title shot for Barao might be closer than anticipated.
UFC 139 (November 19th): Chris Weidman vs. Tom Lawlor
I don’t know what Tom Lawlor did to deserve this, but he’ll have to face SILVA’s #2 middleweight fighter in Chris Weidman at UFC 139. Good luck, Tom.