Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva picked up his first UFC victory. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Exactly what did Antonio Silva’s UFC on FX 5 win over Travis Browne mean for both men on Friday in Minneapolis? What will the next flyweight title fight look like? Is it time to yank “The Dentist?” These questions and more are answered in the latest post-mortem Q&A.
Question: Who was the biggest winner at UFC on FX 5?
Answer: There were two big winners, and I would really like to see one of them give the other a piggyback ride. Despite residing on opposite ends of the scale, Silva and John Dodson accomplished similar feats at the Target Center: they both scored emphatic stoppage wins and propelled themselves straight into title contention in the UFC’s thinnest divisions. Dodson may have a slight edge with his “guaranteed” title shot, but Silva came up big in the spotlight and probably earned himself another main event booking in the near future.
Question: Who was the biggest loser at UFC on FX 5?
Answer: I doubt anyone on the card would have wanted to swap places with Jeremy Stephens, but among those who actually competed at the event, the biggest loser had to be Josh Neer. “The Dentist” was put under for the second time in as many fights, and this time it was not at the hands of a fellow veteran like Mike Pyle. Neer’s 45-second loss to the vastly less experienced Justin Edwards moved him to 6-8 overall in the UFC and likely signaled an end to his third Octagon stint.
Question: How does this victory change the trajectory of Silva’s career?
Answer: Pretty drastically, considering a third straight defeat under Zuffa employ could have cost him a job. With a loss, we might have seen Silva out in the heavyweight wilderness, where quality opponents are few and far between. Instead, the Brazilian “Bigfoot” punched his way to the verge of contention and made an even bigger name for himself in a division that always needs names. Depending on his next fight and how December’s Junior dos Santos-Cain Velasquez rematch goes, Silva might be just a win away from a title shot.
Question: What can Browne learn from his first defeat?
Answer: Unfortunately, because of the knee injury Browne sustained early on, it is hard to know what to take from the fight. On the positive side, he showed grit by not asking out of the bout and trying to continue, and his punches looked like they still had some pop, even if he could not land them properly. On the downside, Browne held his hands low and stood right in front of a large man who always punches over the top, and that is what ultimately led to his undoing.
Question: Where does Jake Ellenberger fit in the UFC welterweight title picture?
Answer: It is understandable that Ellenberger fought the way he did against Jay Hieron. Not only was he coming off a stoppage loss against Martin Kampmann, but Hieron is a tough out and a guy who Ellenberger probably had a pretty good idea how to beat; he has had more than six years to think about it. However, playing it safe does not often translate into title shots, especially given the current situation atop the 170-pound division. Who knows? Maybe Ellenberger just wanted to get the win under his belt -- it makes sense not to take risks when you are just trying to tread water and wait for the logjam to clear.
Question: Does John Dodson have a legitimate shot to dethrone Demetrious Johnson?
Answer: On paper, Johnson should have every advantage. He is quicker than Dodson -- particularly the Dodson we saw in the first round-and-a-half against Jussier da Silva -- and he has superior wrestling. Dodson has the edge in power punching, but it will be tough to utilize if he cannot find his target. That said, in years of watching Dodson, I have yet to see him in a fight that was not at least competitive, so I am eager to see what “The Magician” tries to pull out of his hat this time.
Question: Can da Silva be a factor in the UFC or is he too one-dimensional?
Answer: At this stage in the development of the UFC flyweight division, “Formiga” can be a factor even while being relatively one-dimensional. The bouncy, squirmy Dodson was a bad matchup for the Brazilian, and da Silva looked to be suffering from a bit of the classic “Octagon jitters,” which only made his prosaic striking look less impressive. However, he did look bigger -- according to his camp, “Formiga” added muscle and cut down from 148 pounds for this fight, as opposed to his usual 137 -- and size will be an advantage for a guy who primarily wants to grapple.
Question: Will Mike Pierce ever receive the credit and recognition he deserves?
Answer: Pierce is a fine fighter; he just does not have the most crowd-friendly style at times, and that has held him back in the past. One surefire way to get the attention of fans is a brutal knockout, and that is precisely what the wrestler from Oregon produced against Aaron Simpson. UFC brass has clearly been aware of Pierce’s potential -- it has matched him against some of the UFC’s best 170-pounders -- and now it has a reason to put him back on the main card. If he can replicate this big win against and even bigger opponent, he will start getting the shine he deserves.
Question: How much further can Michael Johnson go in the lightweight division?
Answer: Nothing he did on the undercard made me think I was looking at a future UFC champion -- imagine if he had put forth the same first round against Benson Henderson -- but after his starching of Danny Castillo, I could certainly see Johnson cracking the Top 10 in the future. His ability to withstand Castillo’s arm-triangle choke was impressive, as were his finishing instincts once he had Castillo dazed with that short left hand. Johnson did not look like a world beater during his season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but he has been steadily improving since, and, at 26, there is certainly more time to grow.
Question: Is 29-year-old Neer a spent force after 46 professional fights?
Answer: At this point, it is obvious that Neer will never be a UFC champion or even an elite 170-pounder. After his loss to Edwards, he may not even be a UFC fighter anymore, but there will still be plenty of fights available to him outside the Octagon. Whether it is in a Bellator Fighting Championships tournament or just making the rounds as a journeyman on the regional circuit, Neer has a name and record that will keep him working for years to come.