Matt Brown has not lost a fight since November 2011. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Few fighters have done a better job of maximizing their talents over the past couple years than Matt Brown. A cast member on “The Ultimate Fighter 7,” Brown began his Ultimate Fighting Championship tenure with a .500 record in his first 10 promotional appearances. A penchant for exciting brawls was offset by sometimes spotty submission defense, and “The Immortal” appeared set for a long-term role as welterweight gatekeeper.
However, Brown was not quite ready to be labeled. Beginning with a second-round stoppage of Chris Cope at UFC 143, the Ohioan has pieced together an unlikely six-fight winning streak, gradually improving the quality of his competition in the process. Suddenly, Brown is on the outskirts of title contention, perhaps a signature victory away from seriously entering the championship discussion. On the other side of the coin is Erick Silva, a tantalizing talent who has fallen short when the stakes are highest. On the basis of his talent alone, the Brazilian was supposed to be a top 10 staple by now. He has not quite lived up to expectations.
With all that in mind, there will be plenty on the line when Brown and Silva square off in Saturday’s headliner at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Here is a closer look at the UFC Fight Night “Brown vs. Silva” lineup, with analysis and picks:
WelterweightsMatt Brown (18-11, 11-5 UFC) vs. Erick Silva (16-4, 4-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Shortly after his 29-second technical knockout against Mike Pyle in August, Brown called out reigning welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. It was a move that would have been unthinkable even a year earlier, when Brown’s modest three-fight winning streak against Cope, Stephen Thompson and Luis Ramos was little more than a nice story -- but nothing more.
Now that streak has ballooned to six and while “The Immortal” has not yet put away a top-10 foe during that run, his violent inclinations have drawn the attention of the entire mixed martial arts world. Brown was supposed to receive his big opportunity at UFC on Fox 9 against Carlos Condit, but a pair of herniated discs in his back forced the Ohioan to withdraw from the contest.
Instead of a legitimate top-5 welterweight, Brown gets Silva, who has been up-and-down in the Octagon so far. While the Brazilian has decimated lower-level UFC opponents, he has had his difficulties against fighters such as Jon Fitch and Dong Hyun Kim, both of whom excel at applying consistent pressure. Brown, while not a wrestler on the level of Fitch or Kim, will nonetheless keep the heat on Silva in his own way.
Once upon a time, Brown looked like he would be nothing more than an entertaining journeyman, but “The Ultimate Fighter 7” alum has shown great improvement since beginning his Octagon tenure with a modest 5-5 mark. The 33-year-old is known as a brawler, but his ability to initiate a slugfest is based on far more than luck or a willing opponent. Brown will apply constant pressure in stalking his opponents, forcing them to adapt a defensive mindset. His ability to vary his offense and do so intelligently has aided him in stopping all but Thompson during his current six-fight tear.
Brown does some of his best work in close quarters, particularly in his use of the Thai clinch. He is well-versed in getting into just the right range to initiate the clinch, and he uses elbows from all angles and directions to do damage. The rest of Brown’s standup is serviceable; he has good reach -- including a two-inch advantage versus Silva --and power in his right hand. However, he sometimes still winds up on his punches and often leaves his head exposed when pressing the action.
Still, Brown’s muay Thai is one reason this is an interesting fight. The other is his ability to cut off his opponent’s movement in the cage. Silva, a black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo, is known for explosive bursts of offense, although he tends to swing wildly on occasion. Brown is unlikely to be deterred by a frantic pace, and it is more likely that the American will wish to control the tempo. In addition to deterring Brown’s forward march with timely counters, Silva must utilize good movement and circle out of danger when the situation calls for it.
Working in his favor is the fact that the Ohioan is not a dominant top-control wrestler. Brown will shoot for takedowns and land heavy ground-and-pound, but he is not adept at maintaining position. Silva has proven himself capable at transitioning to various submission attempts on the mat, and he has no doubt taken note of the fact that nine of Brown’s 11 career setbacks have come via tapout.
The Pick: This is an obvious “Fight of the Night” candidate. Two athletes with aggression, exciting offensive arsenals and true finishing instincts should make for a crowd pleaser. While Silva is probably the better athlete, look for the savvier Brown to win via technical knockout in round two or three.
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