There are only a few things in life that are certain: death, taxes and Evans-Silva ending inside the distance.
That’s right. I said it. There is no possible way that the main event at UFC 108 will last the full three rounds. No chance. None whatsoever. Why? Styles make fights, and Evans’ counter punching mixed with Silva’s go-for-broke mentality means that this one is going to end early.
If Silva wants to be the one with his hand raised at the end of the battle, he should look to close the distance early with cautious aggression and then unleash hell in the form of an all-out frontal assault.
Keeping in mind that Evans is a first-tier homerun hitter who prefers to counter on the feet, Silva needs to be very careful when engaging. He cannot rush in behind arm punches, like so many mixed martial artists prefer when seeking to close the distance. Instead, he needs to use a lot of committed feints with his fists to make Evans fidgety. As he feints, Evans will tip his hand to the planned counter.
The former champion will almost surely look to counter Silva’s jab with a right hand and counter a lead right with a left hook (which happens to be Evans’ favorite punch). If Evans confirms those counters with his reaction to Silva’s feints, then the Brazilian should double up on the jab as a way to close the distance. The jab is the shot that travels the least amount of distance, so it is one of the most difficult punches to counter or slip. When thrown with conviction, the jab serves to both distract an opponent and also to temporarily affect his balance, which makes countering exceedingly difficult, particularly with a right hand. Doubling up on the jab compounds the problem for an opponent and creates a very real opportunity to step inside for a clinch, something that Silva can use to his advantage early in the fight.
If Silva is able to secure the plum position, he can control Evans, at least for a short while, and soften him up with knees or a slicing elbow on the break. Evans is an exceptional wrestler, so defending takedowns should always be in the back of Silva’s mind, though it is very difficult to drop for a double- or single-leg when being manhandled in the Thai clinch. So, that is an excellent position from which Silva can score on the inside.
Once on the inside, even if Silva isn’t able to secure the Thai clinch, he can begin unloading his guns with furious aggression. Silva is a gunslinger by nature, so he is at home during an all-out firefight. His Muay Thai background and time spent in those legendary sparring sessions at the Chute Boxe Academy in Curitiba, Brazil allow him to stay calm during apparent fighting chaos.
Evans is much more of a tactician on the feet. He looks for precise opportunities to unload devastating strikes. When faced with extreme pressure, Evans tends to back up, rather than hold his ground, which is very normal for a counter striker. The problem is that backing up makes his counters less effective, so Silva should try to stay in his face once he fights his way into the inside. That will allow him to score effective strikes, if not knockout strikes, while Evans is on his heels and unable to deliver knockout counters in return.
Something else Silva can do to close the distance is feint with the right hand, throwing it about halfway, and instantly changing levels for a takedown. Because Evans likes to counter lead right hands with left hooks laced with bad intentions, he leaves himself exposed to a takedown. Left hooks thrown properly and with commitment require a full hip turn.
Thus, if Silva can duck under the blow and attack Evans’ lower half with a double-leg takedown attempt, he should be able to get the fight to the ground. He must really sell out on the takedown attempt because he will only have one opportunity take him down that way. Once Evans realizes that takedowns are part of the game plan, he will adjust his stance, lower his hands a bit and keep his weight on his toes so that he can sprawl effectively. His wrestling pedigree guarantees that he will be able to expertly defend takedown attempts as soon as they enter his consciousness.
On the ground, Silva should not worry too much about controlling the position. Again, Evans is a wrestler first and a mixed martial artist second, so he isn’t yet completely comfortable in his guard, particularly against a black belt like Silva. Thus, he will look to scramble back to his feet at the first opportunity, rather than playing the guard game.
Silva can use that tendency to his advantage.
When an opponent is scrambling, it opens the doors to pass the guard and also creates opportunities for submissions. The most obvious is when an opponent posts up on his arms and sits up in an attempt to wall walk or otherwise stand up. If Silva can pop to his feet at that moment, there is a good chance that he can secure a guillotine choke. Similarly, if Evans posts up on an arm and attempts to turn and stand, Silva can snake around to his back. Once there, it is all about flattening out his foe and working for a rear naked choke.
But, alas, we’re getting ahead of ourselves just a bit. Evans is no rookie on the ground. A single takedown doesn’t by any means guarantee a submission win. In fact, Evans could quickly work back to his feet without sustaining any damage whatsoever.
Nevertheless, scoring a takedown, or even coming close to scoring a takedown, will change the way Evans approaches the rest of the fight. He won’t sit down on all of his counters to the same degree because defending the takedown will be at the forefront of his mind. And that allows Silva to exchange hands with Silva, even on the outside, without the same degree of trepidation.
What Silva must avoid at all cost if he wants to maximize his odds of winning is staying on the outside and potshotting with Evans, unless he forces Evans to lead the action and looks to counter. Silva is a savage striker, but neither as quick nor as powerful in terms of one strike power as Evans. Evans is also a better counter striker. Thus, standing on the outside and engaging in occasional exchanges that he initiates feeds right into Evans’ strengths. And there is no need to play into Evans’ strengths in this fight.
At the end of the day, Silva is the rightful underdog heading into this fight. Evans has more experience against top flight competition and is more accustomed to fighting in the main event, which in and of itself is a fight-altering factor for some guys. Nonetheless, if he remains relaxed and executes his game plan he can win this fight by knockout or submission.
• Evans’ post-TUF UFC record stands at an impressive 8-1-1, with that loss being the lone loss of his professional career.
• Silva ‘s UFC record is 5-1 and, as with Evans, that loss is his lone loss of his professional career.
• Both men suffered their lone loss by knockout at the hands of reigning 205-lb champion Lyoto Machida. Evans lasted almost half way into the second round. Silva went down with only a second remaining in the opening round.
• Half of Evans’ 10 UFC bouts have ended in a KO/TKO. His other five bouts ended with a judges’ decision. Interestingly, Evans has never lasted the distance without some indecision among the judges—three split decision wins (Brad Imes at the TUF 2 Finale; Sam Hoger at UFN 4; Michael Bisping at UFC 78), one majority decision win (Stephan Bonnar at UFN5) and one draw (Tito Ortiz at UFC 73).
• Evans has not gone to the judges’ scorecards in more than two years.
• All of Silva’s UFC bouts have ended inside the distance, with five ending in the first round. All ended by KO/TKO, except for his submission win over Antonio Mendes at UFC 84, which nonetheless was a tapout due to strikes.