Finley-Lawson square off over Gustafsson-Silva
It's been six weeks since the last Ultimate Fighting Championship event (not counting the new live episodes of "The Ultimate Fighter") – which by recent UFC standards might as well be a lifetime. But the promotion returns Saturday, finally, with UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Silva, its debut in Sweden.
And while Duane Finley and Nate Lawson aren't freezing their butts off touring filming locations of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" before the fights at the Ericsson Globe Arena, we still have forced them into a proverbial cage made out of computer keys from their Indiana home bases. They'll once again go head to head, this time to debate the main event between Stockholm's very own Alexander Gustafsson and Brazil's Thiago Silva, who returns after more than a year on the sidelines thanks to a positive steroids test at UFC 125 last year.
The Case for Alexander Gustafsson (Finley, 3-3)
This fight couldn’t carry more pressure or expectation for Gustafsson. Not only is he in the first main event of his young career, but with the UFC making its first visit to Sweden, his home country, all eyes are on “The Mauler.” In addition to the promotional weight he will be carrying, the bout with Silva will decide if Gustafsson will shed the prospect tag and jump with both feet into the contenders pool. Taking a look at the matchup from a stylistic standpoint, the advantages appear to lean on Gustafsson’s side. Both fighters rely on their striking power to win fights, but with the Swede not only having the range advantage, but an excellent mastery of that range and distance, he will be able to put the hard shots on his opponent in the bout’s early goings. Thiago Silva is known for being aggressive, and coming into the bout he has vowed fans will see a much more aggressive version. If Gustafsson can keep his calm under fire and is able to keep the fight moving, he will secure the victory with a stoppage. Silva has been out of action for more than a year, and I see him looking to over-compensate for that time away by coming out with guns blazing. Gustafsson will weather the initial storm and sour Silva’s Octagon return by second round TKO.
Prediction: Gustafsson, TKO, Round 2
The Case for Thiago Silva (Lawson, 3-3)
I’ll admit, I am shocked at the overwhelming majority of individuals picking Gustafsson to handily put Silva away. I assume this has more to do with Silva’s lengthy layoff – he’s fought twice in just a few months short of three years – and less to do with Gustafsson’s overall ability. The fact that the fight takes place in Gustafsson’s backyard seems to be another major reason. But how much better is Gustafsson, whose most notable victory came against Vladimir Matyushenko? I think we would all agree that everyone Gustafsson has defeated, Silva would be able to as well, no? However, the event takes place in Sweden, and Silva has had a lengthy layoff, so those are both real factors. Another factor that seems to be mentioned, but overlooked, is the ridiculous power Silva possesses. This fight has all the makings of a standup war, and Silva has not been shy in his desire to put on an exciting performance. We have seen it every time he steps in the cage. The knockout artist presses forward constantly, and Gustafsson is going to be dealing with a lot of pressure from his opponent. If Gustafsson wants to win this fight, he’s not going to want to stand, leaving his takedowns as a potential game-changer. But in front of his home crowd, there is a good chance he doesn’t want to grind out a decision. This should lead to a fight based mostly on striking and clinch work. That will work to Silva’s advantage, as his power has put away countless opponents and nearly was enough to earn a comeback knockout against Rashad Evans at UFC 108. And if Silva wasn’t dealing with severe back issues entering his fight with the current top contender, he may have had enough to put him away. The fight features two of the division’s best, but Silva’s relentless pressure and complete lack of fear for anyone in the division is hard, if not impossible, to teach. Gustafsson is the division’s top prospect, and after Silva lays leather Saturday night in Sweden, “The Mauler” will remain just that – a top prospect.
Prediction: Silva, KO, Round 1