Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest fighter of his generation, enters Saturday night’s fight ranked no. 8 in MMATorch’s January rankings at Middleweight looking to prove he is still relevant in the division at age 41. He battles 33 year old Derek Brunson, who is ranked no. 10, but is coming off a loss.
Brunson won his first five professional fights from May 2010 to November 2011, then went 2-3 after stepping up in competition, including losses to Kendall Grove (split decision), Yoel Romero, and Ronaldo Souza. Then he went on a hot streak with five wins in a row from August 2014 to September 2016 before losing to Robert Whittaker last November at UFC Fight Night.
Based on the way Brunson fought against Whittaker, FS1 “UFC Tonight” analyst Kenny Florian has concerned going into this fight with Silva. “Brunson has been getting away from his wrestling roots and that concerns me,” he said. “The better path is for him to look for those takedowns against Silva. He looked wild against Robert Whittaker. If he does that against Anderson Silva, the best counterstriker ever, that could be bad.”
Fellow FS1 analyst Daniel Cormier, who like Brunson has a stronger wrestling base than stand-up skills, agrees. “Brunson needs to take him down,” he said. “The game plan against Silva has been laid out by myself, Chael Sonnen, and Chris Weidman. He struggled because of our wrestling. But Anderson still hits hard.”
“Brunson was unbelievably reckless against Robert Whitaker in his last fight, and if he approaches this fight like that fight, I think he’s just going to get massacred,” said Torch VIP audio analyst Todd Martin on this week’s episode of “The Fix with Todd Martin.” “Honestly, I think that Whitaker fight is why he got this fight in that he’s so aggressive with his striking, the match-makers – along with there probably weren’t a lot of options – were just thinking, wow, if we get this fight where Derek Brunson who has just been charging into guys charges into Anderson Silva, that’s probably fireworks when somebody does that.”
Does Silva, whose last official victory came back in 2012 against Stephan Bonnar, still have elite skills? Miesha Tate says yes. “I believe Anderson Silva still has got it.” she said on FS1. “He still has some of the best head movement in the game. I’m not a fan of someone putting their back against the cage, but in this spot I like it because there’s less real estate for the wrestler and his counter wrestling is phenomenal. He can utilize his counter striking.”
Keller’s Analysis: One question everyone has is whether Silva, at age 41, still has it. His last official win was over Stephan Bonnar back in October 2012 at UFC 153. He did originally defeat Nick Diaz just over two years ago, although the decisions overturned after he tested positive for drostanolone and androsterone. He has lost to Chris Weidman twice (once to lose the title, another time suffering the grotesquely broken leg) in 2013, and lost two decisions to Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier, both current champions in their divisions. Against Bisping, the ref arguably could have stopped it in his favor. Against Cormier, he was fighting a one-time heavyweight a division higher than him in a fight he didn’t have a full camp to prepare for. So while he hasn’t had an official win in a while, a closer look at the record isn’t too damning – losing to two current champs, initially beating the very tough Diaz, and having the previous fight ended due to a freak leg break. In other words, this fight against Brunson could be a way to show the asterisks next to his losses are more significant than the losses themselves.
NOW CHECK OUT THE FULL UFC FIGHT PREVIEW: UFC 208 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Holm vs. de Randamie, Anderson Silva vs. Brunson, Teixeira, Souza, Porier