Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the co-main event of UFC 208 as the legendary Anderson Silva returns to the Octagon to square off against Top 10 middleweight Derek Brunson. Derek Brunson (Record: 16-4, -150 Favorite, Power Ranking: B) The Jackson’s MMA fighter was on the best run of his career having won five fights in a row, including four straight by knockout, prior to suffering a TKO loss to Robert Whittaker in his most recent bout. Regardless, he remains a consensus Top 10 middleweight. Brunson is certainly one of the up-and-coming middleweights in the UFC. At 6-foot-1 and with a 77-inch reach, he is one of the best athletes in the division. For Brunson, everything starts with his wrestling. At the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Brunson was a three-time Division II All-American. That ability in collegiate wrestling has translated over to MMA, as he’s secured a whopping 3.37 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon and has been successful on 34 percent of his takedown attempts. That includes three takedowns of Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero. Defensively, he has never been taken down by an opponent inside the Octagon. In short, Brunson has dominated the grappling in his fights. In order to beat Brunson, his opponent must beat him on the feet. Brunson has made significant strides over the last few years to improve his striking though. Boxing has become a major weapon for him, and he has certainly built confidence, knocking out some quality opposition in the last couple of years. With that said, if there’s an area where Brunson is vulnerable, it is in his defensive striking. He has been knocked out in three of his four career losses and needs to protect his chin better if he is going to contend for UFC gold one day. Anderson Silva (Record: 33-7-1, +130 Underdog, Power Ranking: B) One of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts, Silva will be back in the Octagon here. “The Spider” held the UFC middleweight championship for nearly seven years, beating a who’s who of the middleweight division, including Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. Since he lost his belt to Chris Weidman in 2013, he has won just one fight, a decision over Nick Diaz, which was overturned due to both fighters testing positive for banned substances. With his time as champion well in the past, there is no doubt that Silva has aged. He certainly does not have the durability or the athleticism he once had. That said, Silva is one of the most gifted strikers to ever step foot in the Octagon. He is an excellent counter-striker with elements of capoeira, Muay Thai, and taekwondo in his attack. Of his 33 wins, 20 of them have come by knockout. Silva has been known to put on a show for fans. He has baited fighters to push forward and fight him in his fights. He will give opponents openings, but then counter beautifully to put away opponents. It is that type of behavior that has had fans revel him, but also what cost him his championship against Weidman. Matchup The co-main event of UFC 208 is an interesting clash of styles between Brunson and Silva. The American is a slight favorite (-150) in this matchup because he holds a significant wrestling advantage in this fight. Silva’s takedown defense is rather limited at this point, and if Brunson fights smart, he can win this fight rather easily. The problem for Brunson is that he tends to like to strike in his bouts and gets over-aggressive in doing so. And Silva is just about the last fighter someone wants to be over-aggressive against. If Brunson gets reckless, he will play right into Silva’s hands. This is a close fight because I believe both scenarios are very plausible. If Brunson avoids the counter-strike, he will win a clear decision. If he does not, he will be knocked out in this bout. Given the likelihood of either scenario, I wouldn’t recommend a bet on either side. However, one prop I’m eyeing is the Silva by KO prop. The detailed fight props haven not been released for this bout yet, but if Silva by KO is in the +250 range, I’ll be adding that to my betting card for Saturday night.
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