It’s no secret that UFC 133 has been an injury-plagued event. Exhibit A: The original main event of Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans has morphed into Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz. Exhibit B: The co-main event of Rich Franklin vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has been cancelled. Exhibit C: Alessio Sakara has been injured, resulting in the move of Costa Philippou to the main card, therefore opening up a spot on the preliminaries for a middleweight to face Rafael Natal. Filling the void is 18-2 wrestler Paul Bradley.
If the name sounds vaguely familiar, Bradley was a contestant on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. He didn’t make a great first impression there, as he won his fight to get on the show with a top control game that caused Dana White to grumble about how much he hates fighters who win with that style. To make things worse, Bradley suffered a contagious skin condition that caused him to be ejected from the show. Likely due to his dull entry fight, the UFC didn’t invite him back until now.
Bradley boasts a seemingly impressive 18-2 record. Of course, any time a fighter builds up an impressive record like that outside of major MMA promotions, it needs to be cracked open so we can see what’s inside. That’s exactly why a system like SILVA exists: to see if Bradley’s record is reflective of a real MMA talent or not. As it turns out, Bradley has only faced UFC-quality opposition three times: he lost to Mike Pierce and Luke Rockhold while beating Johnny Rees. Meanwhile, Bradley’s other 17 fights consist of three wins against debuting opponents, wins against 0-8 Anton Tomash and 1-29 Kenneth Allen, and a bunch of wins against average opponents.
So, as it turns out, Bradley is not any kind of world beater. Still, his record is more impressive than what Rafael Natal has put together. Natal has faced UFC-quality opposition four times, and is 0-3-1, losing to Eduardo Telles, Victor O’Donnell, and Rich Attonito, while fighting Jesse Bongfeldt to a draw in his last fight, at UFC 124. Natal does have wins against decent opponents like Danillo Villefort and Travis Lutter, but Bradley has wins of a similar quality against guys like Dante Rivera.
SILVA PREDICTION: PAUL BRADLEY (30.67) OVER RAFAEL NATAL (24.85)
There’s a reason that this is the first fight on the UFC 133 card: neither of these guys are particularly accomplished. Still, Paul Bradley has a little more history of success against decent opponents than Rafael Natal does, so I would expect Bradley to be able to dictate this fight with his wrestling. It might not be exciting, and it might not be pretty, but for at least this fight, I think Bradley has what it takes to get the job done.