Kicking off the UFC Fight Night 78 main card is a lightweight match-up between veteran Efrain Escudero and Leandro Silva. Escudero returned to the UFC last year and has since compiled a 2-1 record, while Silva will step into the Octagon for the sixth time on Saturday night. Efrain Escudero (24-9 MMA, 5-5 UFC, +120 underdog) Many longtime fans remember may remember as a winner of The Ultimate Fighter season eight. However, his first stint in the promotion wasn’t the most memorable. Although he compiled a 3-2 record during his first run in the UFC, he was cut after a submission loss to Charles Oliveira. A TUF winner does not usually get cut with a winning UFC record, especially back in 2010, but he had experienced multiple issues with making weight. Escudero was given a second chance with the promotion in 2012, but lost both fights and was subsequently released again. That did not deter him, however, as he won 4 out of 5 fights before signing with the UFC for the third time in 2014. Escudero’s first fight back was a close decision loss to TUF Brazil winner Leonardo Santos, but he quickly rebounded with consecutive dominant victories over Rodrigo de Lima and Drew Dober. He now looks to record his third straight win under the UFC banner. Escudero is a solid veteran that has pretty much seen and done it all. His striking technique is not great but he has some decent power in his hands. Jabs, left hooks, and overhand rights are his weapons of choice, and the overhand right in particular is his best weapon. He could do a better job of cutting the cage off and putting his combinations together, but nevertheless, he is pretty proficient on the feet. One of Escudero’s biggest problem is his suspect takedown defense, as he is not quick enough to defend shots from quality wrestlers and is not great at creating space to get back to his feet. Further, his tendency to give up his back is extremely problematic, especially against fighters with high-level jiu-jitsu pedigrees. Leandro Silva (18-2-1 (1 NC) MMA, 2-2 (1 NC) UFC, -140 favorite) Silva is probably best known as the fighter who “beat” Drew Dober via choke even though Dober never tapped out and Dober was not in danger. It would have been fine for Silva if he admitted the referee made a mistake, but it was his insistence on saying he won legitimately that caught the ire of fans. Still. Silva has compiled a 2-2 (1 NC) record in the UFC and is a solid fighter both on the feet and on the ground. Besides the no-contest against Dober, he defeated Charlie Brenneman and Lewis Gonzalez and lost to Francisco Trinaldo and Ildemar Alcantara. The 3- year old is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Rocian Gracie and has 10 victories via submission. While he is obviously a competent grappler, his wrestling is not that great. It is okay, but he struggles against bigger and stronger wrestlers that he cannot get to the mat. That is exactly what happened in his fight against Francisco Trinaldo. However, once on the mat, he can pass guard efficiently and has a knack for taking his opponent’s back. On the feet, Silva is effective, but he does not throw nearly enough volume. His technique and power are decent, especially with his kicks, but he needs to be more active. That type of style will often lead to getting outpointed on the feet by fighters that may not have as good technique, but are more aggressive. That is what could happen here, as Escudero throws far more volume than Silva. Further, Silva tends to slow down late in fights. Thoughts This is an interesting stylistic matchup. Escudero will attempt to keep this fight on the feet so he can utilize his more volumous striking and either knock Silva out or win a decision. Silva, on the other hand, will want this on the ground as much as possible. His jiu-jitsu is solid and he has a tendency to take his opponent’s back, which could be trouble for Esucdero, as he tends to give up his back during scrambles. This one could go either way, but I will side with Escudero to edge out a close and possibly controversial decision. Prediction Efrain Escudero defeats Leandro Silva by unanimous decision
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