UFC

UFC on FX: Fight preview

Special to FOX Sports Ariel Shnerer
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For the second straight weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship presents a free-to-air card headlined by fan friendly heavyweights as UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot emanates from the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn.

Following two entertaining events highlighted by emphatic victories from Jon Jones and Stefan Struve, the UFC will look to keep the momentum going this Friday night.

The live broadcast on FX is headlined by heavyweight contenders Travis Browne and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, in addition to a deep undercard with a number of fights rescheduled from the cancelled UFC 151 event last month.

Here’s a closer look:

Main Card (FX):

-Travis Browne (13-0-1) vs. Antonio Silva (16-4)

The undefeated Hawaiian, Browne, seeks his biggest career win as he’s on a five-round collision course with the Brazilian behemoth “Bigfoot” Silva.

Browne, 30, a product of Greg Jackson’s New Mexico camp, trains with other accomplished heavyweights such as Shane Carwin and Andrei Arlovski, in addition to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

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Still undefeated in 14 professional bouts, Browne is coming off a first-round submission of Strikeforce veteran Chad Griggs.

There has been much speculation about Stefan Struve’s standing in the heavyweight division after a spectacular win over previously unbeaten Stipe Miocic last Saturday, but Browne can remind us of his brutal first-round knockout win over Struve via superman punch at UFC 130.

Most observers also thought Browne should have won his fight with Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, but the fight was scored a draw.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, Browne is still evolving, evidenced by his improvements in the wrestling department against Rob Broughton at UFC 135.

However, the heavy-handed Hawaiian does his best work standing, where his slick speed, counterpunching and knockout power make him a legitimate threat.

Silva, 33, a Team Nogueira member, is coming off back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.

Despite successive first-round knockout losses at the hands of American Kickboxing Academy standouts Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, Silva is a highly accomplished heavyweight with black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and karate.

The last reigning EliteXC heavyweight champion is perhaps best known for his devastating TKO victory over the great Fedor Emelianenko in February 2011, though Silva also owns notable wins over Ricco Rodriguez, Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle.

The Brazilian powerhouse is one of the most physically imposing heavyweights on the roster who cuts weight from nearly 300 pounds. A slick grappler with strong techniques on the ground, Silva has struggled from slow defensive reflexes, leaving himself open to big shots over the top.

Standing 6-foot-7, Browne should effectively utilize his height advantage to pick Silva apart, while anticipating his attempts to close the distance. Silva actually has the reach advantage, but Browne’s accuracy and punching power will be evident factors.

The fight should deliver fireworks as two colossal heavyweights exchange ferocious shots. Browne knows a win over Silva will catapult him into the top five, so he won’t take any reckless chances. He’ll look to take advantage of his superior speed, finding a home for his heavy hands on Silva’s enormous chin and laying him out cold.

Verdict: Browne via KO, Round 1

-Jake Ellenberger (27-6) vs. Jay Hieron (23-5)

Initially slated to co-headline UFC 151 before the event was scrapped altogether, durable welterweights face off as the Nebraska native Ellenberger meets the New York native Hieron.

The 27-year-old Ellenberger was on the fast track to a welterweight title shot before his six-fight UFC winning streak was snapped by Martin Kampmann in a come-from-behind second-round TKO this past June.

Based in California, Ellenberger trains at Kings MMA and Reign Training Center, refining his NCAA Division II wrestling base alongside the likes of Mark Munoz and Fabricio Werdum.

With notable wins over Mike Pyle, Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Ellenberger remains one of the welterweight division’s most dangerous contenders.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt will willingly trade strikes with the best of them, putting his one-punch knockout power to the test.

The 36-year-old Hieron finally returns to the Octagon for the first time since October 2005.

With an 11-1 record in his past 12 bouts, Hieron has amassed quality wins over Jason High, Jesse Taylor, Joe Riggs, Brent Weedman and Rick Hawn, while dropping a competitive decision to Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren in October 2011.

The former NCAA Division I wrestler is anchored at Xtreme Couture, where he spends the majority of his time training with Pyle and Kampmann, both familiar foes to Ellenberger.

Hieron is primarily a wrestler, though his boxing and submissions are also threats.

At UFC 48 in June 2004, Hieron was finished by future welterweight king Georges St. Pierre. Now approaching the final years of his career, the hardened veteran is hoping for another run at the top prize, but he’s not getting any freebies along the way.

Ellenberger will test the incredibly durable Hieron everywhere, tagging him with heavy shots standing and giving him trouble in scrambles and transitions. Hieron should fall back on his wrestling whenever he can, but it won’t be enough as Ellenberger is the busier and more effective combatant after 15 minutes of action.

Verdict: Ellenberger via decision

-John Dodson (13-5) vs. Jussier da Silva (14-1)

In a fight that will likely determine the first challenger for inaugural UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, “The Ultimate Fighter 14” winner Dodson looks to spoil the promotional debut of the highly touted Brazilian da Silva.

Dodson, 28, a Greg Jackson student in New Mexico, won “The Ultimate Fighter” with a memorable first-round knockout of standout American wrestler T.J. Dillashaw.

Dodson made a successful return to 125 pounds, his natural competitive weight, defeating Tim Elliott by decision this past May.

One of the quickest fighters in the UFC, Dodson’s blend of speed and explosiveness makes him very exciting to watch. The swift southpaw is a two-time state wrestling champion in New Mexico, but he’s done well adding striking and submissions to his repertoire.

Da Silva, 27, the former Shooto Brazil flyweight champion, has been considered one of the top 125-pound fighters for several years.

After upsetting Shinichi Kojima in July 2009, da Silva went on to record wins over Danny Martinez, Mamoru Yamaguchi and Michael Costa.

Nicknamed “Formiga,” da Silva trains out of the acclaimed Nova Uniao camp, home to the premier lighter weight fighters in the sport, including featherweight champion Jose Aldo and interim bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao.

With seven submission victories and zero knockouts, da Silva’s game plan should be fairly obvious. He’ll look to trap Dodson on the ground, transitioning to one of his patented chokes.

The strategy backfired against Ian McCall in his lone professional setback in February 2011 as the American’s wrestling base was the difference maker.

Dodson is not only armed with the same wrestling base that gave da Silva trouble, he also possesses some of the most dangerous hands in the flyweight division.

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Patience will be key for Dodson, who should prevail if he keeps the pressure on da Silva, while not leaving himself open to any crafty submission setups. If he can force critical striking exchanges and control key positions in the clinch and on the ground, Dodson will emerge triumphant after three rounds.

Verdict: Dodson via decision

-Justin Edwards (7-2) vs. Josh Neer (33-11-1)

In a case of highly questionable matchmaking, the relative novice Edwards takes on the 45-fight veteran Neer in a welterweight bout.

Edwards, 29, was eliminated from the 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” after a knockout loss to eventual season winner Tony Ferguson. He has since rattled off a 1-2 record, earning a decision against Jorge Lopez and dropping decisions to Clay Harvison and John Maguire.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, the Ohio native is a tough prospect with solid submissions, but he should be soundly outclassed by his well-traveled adversary.

Neer, 29, a veteran since 2003 and longtime representative of Miletich Fighting Systems, has been involved in a number of rough battles over the years, dropping fights against Eddie Alvarez, Gleison Tibau, Kurt Pellegrino and both Diaz brothers, while defeating Melvin Guillard, Joe Stevenson, T.J. Waldburger, Din Thomas and Mac Danzig.

After a rocky skid as a lightweight in the UFC, Neer returned to the promotion in October 2011 as a welterweight, rattling off a pair of finishes over Keith Wisniewski and Duane Ludwig.

Neer is now looking to rebound from a first-round knockout loss to Mike Pyle in June.

Nicknamed “The Dentist” as a reference to rearranging the teeth of his opponents, the Iowa native is a proven finisher.

Neer always comes forward, pressuring opponents with a barrage of punches and elbows. On the ground, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt is a wizard, having submitted 14 opponents.

Edwards will need to test Neer’s chin, seeing if it’s beginning to show signs of wear and tear from countless wars. Neer will likely walk through his shots, looking to break him down with a cavalcade of strikes.

The aggressive onslaught will eventually take its toll as Edwards succumbs to a flurry midway through the fray.

Verdict: Neer via TKO, Round 2
 

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