I couldn’t help but respect Danny Downes for the fight he put on at the TUF 13 Finale in June against Jeremy Stephens. Downes is a below-average athlete in the UFC (to put it nicely). He was over-powered by Stephens, who showed that he had vastly superior talent in that fight, with better speed, better power, and better skills. Stephens crushed Downes with a number of punches and attempted a few submissions, including one that he torqued very hard. Stephens won the fight easily, but here’s the thing… Danny Downes simply would not quit. In fact, despite the beating he received, he was attacking Stephens throughout the fight, even attempting a submission of his own. Downes may not be the fastest, or the strongest, or the most skilled lightweight fighter in the UFC. But, damn it, he fights. In a promotion in which too many fighters play it safe too often, it’s refreshing to see such an attitude.
From a purely athletic standpoint, Downes is almost certain to be out-matched again when he fights Ramsey Nijem. Nijem isn’t a top prospect or anything, but he does have the kind of speed and strength typically seen in the UFC lightweight division. His physical “tools” are better than Downes’s. Nijem is likely to be the superior wrestler, and has shown a very solid ground game in the past.
But even though “heart” is often a euphemism for “he gets beaten up a lot,” this is the rare case in which I think “heart” could make a difference. Under normal circumstances, a fighter with the skill set of Danny Downes would not make it to the UFC. He would be relegated to regional promotions, perhaps fighting hard but coming up short against tougher, more talented competition. While Downes might not have exceptional skills in any physical discipline of MMA, where he is exceptional is the mental aspect of the game. Against a fighter like Jeremy Stephens, this may not be enough, but against a fighter like Ramsey Nijem, it very well could be.
Where I hesitate to pull the trigger on getting behind Downes is that his record is very, very thin. His only real quality victory took place against Tie Quan Zhang, a fighter who got exposed by Darren Elkins at UFC 136. After that, Downes hasn’t beaten a single fighter that would be even considered for participation in the UFC. He has a good SILVA score despite this, but Downes is a perfect example of the kind of fighter who has motivated me to upgrade SILVA. Hint: SILVA 1.1 will have Downes rated much lower relative to his peers.
Here’s the thing: he may still be good enough to be reasonably expected to beat Ramsey Nijem. It’s tough to tell right now, since Nijem only has six professional MMA fights under his belt, but with his best win being against Scott Casey, Nijem’s record is even less impressive than Downes’s. Sure, Nijem made it to the TUF 13 Finale against Tony Ferguson, but he didn’t exactly face a murderer’s row to get there: Chris Cope was the best of the bunch.
SILVA PREDICTION: DANNY DOWNES (31.23) OVER RAMSEY NIJEM (20.49)
I’ll go along with SILVA on this one, but I’m much less confident in the pick than SILVA is. I may have given you the impression that Downes is some kind of no-talent scrub, but I hope not. Downes does have striking and grappling skills, he just doesn’t have the athleticism. So while I don’t expect Downes to be the better athlete when he takes on Ramsey Nijem, I do think he has enough skills, and yes, enough heart, to get the job done.