205 lbs: Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
The main event of the evening is a Light Heavyweight matchup pitting recent title challenger Thiago Silva against former Light Heavyweight champion and Ultimate Fighter winner “Sugar” Rashad Evans. Silva, coming off a dominant win over Rashad’s teammate and friend Keith Jardine, stepped up to replace Quinton “Rampage” Jackson when Rampage decided to pursue an acting career instead of fighting Evans. Rashad is coming off a brutal title loss, so between that and Silva’s win over Jardine, he will definitely be looking for vindication.
Silva, a Muay Thai stylist with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is a very well-rounded and dangerous fighter. Despite his pedigree on the ground, though, Silva does his best work with his hands, and has knocked out a vast majority of his opponents inside the first round. His only career loss came at the hands of current Light Heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida, who outboxed him handily and exposed his questionable footwork. Of course, Machida did exactly the same thing to Evans and almost everyone else he has ever fought, so that is hardly a black mark on Silva’s record or a disadvantage heading into this fight.
Evans, who captured the Heavyweight crown on Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter, steadily picked up steam in the UFC. His first few performances were somewhat uninspiring, and he used his wrestling to earn a string of extremely narrow decisions and a draw with Tito Ortiz that was saved from being a loss only by a point deduction from Ortiz. As his career went on, though, his standup continued to develop, and he scored great knockouts of Sean Salmon, Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, and then-champion Forrest Griffin to earn the Light Heavyweight title. At this point, Rashad is a complete fighter, still possessing the good wrestling skills that got him to UFC to begin with, but also having accurate, heavy-handed boxing and very good head movement and defense.
Stylistically, I would give the edge in this one to Evans. Silva’s standup is technically better, but Rashad has just as much power, if not a little more, and is notoriously slippery on the feet. His head movement and the threat of takedowns will keep Silva’s standup a little more cautious than it would normally be, and that will make all the difference. I expect to see a little of the old Rashad in this fight, only standing with Silva long enough to set up the takedown, which will allow him to control the fight from top position. Silva has good jiu jitsu, but has never submitted anyone off his back, and it is highly unlikely that Rashad will be his first. Expect Rashad to confound Silva and earn the unanimous decision nod.
Fight Prediction: “Sugar” Rashad Evans via unanimous decision.
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