Thiago Silva (14-3 2 NC, 5-3 2 NC UFC) vs. Rafael Cavalcante (11-3 1 NC, 0-0 UFC)
Silva and Cavalcante will meet in a light heavyweight bout as both return from suspensions due to failed drug tests. Silva has had trouble staying in the Octagon lately, as he has battled both injuries and two suspensions that have limited him to just four fights since the start of 2010. Silva has just one official win over his last five fights, with two wins being overturned due to failed drug tests. Cavalcante makes his UFC debut in this fight. He has four official wins over his last six fights though his last fight, which was originally a 33-second submission win over Mike Kyle, was overturned to a no contest as he also failed a post-fight drug test.
Fight Breakdown: Silva and Cavalcante both have the skills and what it takes to make themselves into true title contenders, but issues have kept them from reaching the peak of the sport. Silva has long been on the cusp of true contention in the light heavyweight division, but a lingering back injury and repeated drug suspensions have put him in a position where he may be fighting to keep his spot on the UFC roster. Silva had trouble in his last Octagon appearance as it was a grueling battle with Stanislav Nedkov. Silva did submit Nedkov in the third round with an arm-triangle, securing a win before it was overturned after marijuana metabolites were found in his post-fight drug test. He has had nearly eight months to work on improving his skills, and a move to the Blackzilians camp may be what he needs to get focused back on the sport.
Cavalcante is a former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, winning the belt when he knocked out Muhammed Lawal in August 2010. He never defended it, though, as he lost it to Dan Henderson in his next fight in March 2011. Cavalcante made very quick work of Mike Kyle in his last bout, scoring the quick submission win before it was turned to a no contest as stanozolol was found in his system in his post-fight drug test. Cavalcante has been out of action for over a year, and despite the failure, he gets to move over to the UFC from Strikeforce as he looks to burst into the title picture. He has scored all eleven of his wins by stoppage, with ten of those coming by knockout, and he certainly has what it takes to become a viable contender at 205 pounds.
Both men have tremendous knockout power and have a penchant for putting on exciting and violent performances with vicious finishes. Silva has been seen knocking Keith Jardine out cold in the past as well as scoring big knockout wins over Houston Alexander and Tomasz Drwal in the UFC. He has solid muay Thai skills and a very solid ground game, but he prefers to stand and let a fight play out on the feet. Cavalcante is also vicious with his hands, and with his knees as well. All eleven of his official wins have come by knockout, and he has good muay Thai skills as well, plus a very sound ground game too. These men are almost mirror images in the fact they will exchange with all parts of their body, and it’s either knockout or be knocked out, as both have been on the back end of a brutal knockout as well by some of the best the light heavyweight division has to offer.
Silva does not always fight the smartest when he steps inside the Octagon. He needs to fight smartly in this one if he is going to score the win. Silva may look to mix in a takedown and work the fight from the top position. Cavalcante has good takedown defense when his condition is good, but ring rust could be a factor in his first fight in over a year. Silva showed ring rust when he came off a long layoff against Alexander Gustafsson, but his eight-month layoff is normal for him as he has had similar layoffs in the past. Cavalcante will look to mix up his striking attacks with knees while Silva will be looking to land that big overhand right and some left hooks. Conditioning will be a factor as both tend to get tired as the fight drags on. Fortunately for both, the way they both fight, this fight has the makings of a knockout. Both can be knocked out, and both can score the big knockout, and it may come down to whichever fighter lands the big shot first. Cavalcante is more well-rounded, but Silva has the UFC experience. Cavalcante’s ability to mix it up more on the feet will get him the win.
Why It Matters: This is a big fight for both men, especially Silva. Silva was on the cusp of title contention after taking the UFC by storm with four straight stoppage wins to start his UFC career. He was knocked out by Lyoto Machida following that, but bounced back by knocking out Keith Jardine. With no official wins over his last four fights and with two drug test failures, Silva could be fighting on borrowed time. An official win gets him back on track and keeps him fighting in the UFC. A loss could find him on the outside of the UFC.
Cavalcante is fighting the stigma of being a steroid fighter as he comes into the UFC for the first time. He has the skills neccessary to compete for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but can he get himself a win over top competition and fight off mental lapses in judgment? A big win in his UFC debut would show people why he may have been the best light heavyweight to move over from the Strikeforce promotion.