The co-main event at UFC Fight Night 29 was a bout that pit Brazilian fan favorite Erick Silva against Dong Hyun Kim. To the mainstream eye this looked to be a bout where “Indio” would getthe opportunity to gain a highlight reel finish in front of fans in his home country, but to the trained eye, this was the exact type of opponent that could have stifled the Brazilian star. Although the finish wasn't what many predicted, the result wasn’t, and now, after going down by knockout, a monkey wrench has been thrown into the UFC’s plans to push Silva in the short term. Now the UFC, if it wants to redeem Silva as a potential star, will need to take the long view.
When Silva burst onto the UFC's scene back in 2011 at UFC 134, he made an immediate impression, knocking out Luis Ramos in forty seconds. With his attractive looks and exciting abilities, the minds behind the fights at the UFC believed they had another Brazilian star that they could push to both South American and North American fans. And in a sense they were correct, because he followed up the 40-second Ramos win by blowing away Carlo Prater in 29 seconds at UFC 142. However, a controversial ref's decision gave the bout to his fellow countryman by DQ.
Although many considered Silva the winner of that bout, Silva still had to bounce back, and did so emphatically, defeating Charlie Brenneman by submission in the first round of their UFC on FX 3 matchup. On the heels of that win, the UFC matchmakers decided to fast track their fresh new face, matching him against one of the toughest welterweights in the sport in Jon Fitch. While Silva had a great showing during the second round, Fitch did what he was well known for and broke the Brazilian in the third round. Silva would rebound with another quick win, against Jason High at UFC on Fuel TV 10, which set the stage for his bout with Kim a few days ago. Many analysts believed that this bout would play into Kim's strengths, which are similar to those of Fitch, and at first it seemed that way. Silva had his moments, but his cardio issues came to light once again, which helped play a part in Kim landing that knockout shot.
Now the UFC will have to begin the slow process of building Silva back up into the potential contender that the organization wanted him to become. This means that its matchmakers should look towards their welterweight stable for fighters that would play into Silva's fighting style. While it's never fair to call anyone on the UFC roster a “gimme fight,” there have been instances where the UFC books bouts with the intention of building up one fighter more than his opponent. Looking at the current roster at 170 pounds, names such as Thiago Alves, Seth Baczynski, and even Siyar Bahadurzada stand out as potential opponents.
Matt Brown is an example of a situation where proper booking and building has paid off dividends for the UFC. The entirety of his six-fight win streak has been featured on free television and basic cable, and it has built up a cult following for the Ohio native. Now he has the opportunity to be considered a top challenger for Georges St. Pierre’s welterweight title if he can beat Carlos Condit in December at UFC on Fox 9. Doing the same with Silva -- featuring him on non-pay-per-view cards against fighters well outside the top 15 in the division -- gives the 29 year old the chance to gain momentum in front of the largest possible viewership, and enhance his star power. The question remains as to whether Silva can keep Brown's pace, as he's fought six times since February of 2012, but if Silva is truly going to become the star that the UFC has pushed him as to this point, he should be open to the idea.
Erick Silva has the knockout power and exciting fighting style that could make him a big star in the mixed martial arts world. Although the initial plan was to build him up quickly, his loss to Dong Hyun Kim suggests that perhaps he's not ready for the top names in the division just yet, but should be built up in a more lengthy fashion. If the UFC takes a measured, patient approach, perhaps the promotion will then have the young Brazilian superstar it is looking for.