Light HeavyweightsThiago Silva (14-3, 5-3 UFC, 1 NC) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (12-0, 1-0 UFC)
The Matchup: After more than a year away from the Octagon, it was a difficult return to action in April for Silva, who drew rising light heavyweight prospect Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fuel TV 2. The aggressive Brazilian struggled with the length and footwork of Gustafsson en route to losing a unanimous decision. Silva was expected to face Mauricio Rua at UFC 149, but like many fighters on that ill-fated card, he was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Excluding his bout against Brandon Vera at UFC 125, which was ruled a no-contest after Silva failed a post-fight drug test, the 29-year-old has lost three of his last four contests, falling to Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Gustafsson. Consistently faltering against the division’s best has relegated Silva to gatekeeper status at this point in his UFC tenure.
He will face the relatively untested Nedkov, a powerfully built Bulgarian who stopped Luiz Cane in his promotional debut at UFC 134. Prior to signing with the UFC, “Stucky” earned somewhat notable victories over Travis Wiuff and Kevin Randleman during a two-fight stint with Sengoku in Japan. The Bushido Bulgaria product has gone the distance just twice in 12 professional bouts.
Nedkov absorbed some decent shots from Cane in his initial UFC outing, but he remained persistent in throwing heavy right hands throughout the contest before finding a home for a right hand-left hook combination that had his opponent in full-fledged retreat mode. The 30-year-old finished the affair with a flurry of strikes against the fence.
He will struggle to defeat Silva with a similar approach, however, as Nedkov lacks the reach and technique to keep the Sao Paulo native at a safe distance. Insisting on throwing haymakers will only allow Silva to get inside, where he can do serious damage in close quarters. Though it did not surface in his last bout, Nedkov owns a black belt in jiu-jitsu and is a former Bulgarian national champion wrestler. He must put those skills to use against Silva, who is adept at passing guard and holding positions.
The Pick: If Nedkov can stuff Silva’s takedowns and keep the action upright, the bout will eventually become a frenetic firefight. Even then, Silva’s wealth of experience inspires more confidence if things get hectic, and he will have opportunities to counter his foe’s wild punches. Silva by KO/TKO in round two.
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