When a highly touted prospect joins the UFC roster, their first fight is often the most important. Unlike team sports, where your first glance of in-game action is seen as a time to learn and grow as a professional athlete, MMA doesn’t offer the same level of patience. When a fighter steps into the Octagon for the first time, it’s a one-on-one battle, and not only are they in a must-win situation, they’re also in a must-impress situation. The best way to get ahead in the UFC is to make the world take notice the second they see you in the cage, and for a fighter that already has a bit of hype around them, the need to put on a dominant display is even more crucial. No one remembers the UFC first timer that squeaks by with a boring split decision win, but if you start suplexing fools around the cage a la Rustam Khabilov or land some Conor McGregor-esque combos in your UFC debut, people will know your name.

Barely two years ago, Erick Silva was that fighter with a chance to live up to a considerable amount of underground hype leading up to his UFC debut. And much like how Khabilov and McGregor found a way to burst onto the scene in recent months, Silva set himself apart with his UFC 134 win over Luis Ramos.

With a Jungle Fight title already on his resume, Silva’s potential was obvious to fans that had seen him compete prior to his UFC debut. His 40-second demolition of Ramos allowed him to show that potential off to everyone else, and immediately Silva became one of the brightest young stars in the UFC’s ridiculously tough welterweight division. Joining fighters like Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger as the new blood that was going to add some life into a weight class that had grown stagnant due to the dominance of champion Georges St-Pierre, Silva was widely regarded as one of the top prospects on the UFC roster.

An unfortunate disqualification loss to Carlo Prater wasn’t even enough to slow down the Silva hype train. Just seconds into their bout at UFC 142, Silva exploded forward and dropped Prater with a huge knee. Silva proved his killer instinct by quickly jumping on top of Prater and attempting to deliver a few finishing blows. Although the fight did end up getting called, referee Mario Yamasaki ruled that Silva had landed several illegal strikes to the back of Prater’s head and what was initially believed to be a second straight beatdown for Silva became just the second loss of his career.

Despite the loss, it was clear to fight fans that Silva was the far superior fighter that night. When he was still given a step up in competition for his next bout and absolutely wrecked UFC veteran Charlie Brenneman, it was time to find out just how good Silva actually is.

The easiest way to test the skills of an up-and-coming fighter is to throw them into the cage with an established veteran and see how well they perform. Although Silva wasn’t quite good enough to pull off the win against Jon Fitch in his first real test inside the Octagon, he proved he is good enough to hang with one of the best fighters in the history of the UFC’s welterweight division. There are few fighters more difficult to deal with for a rising prospect than Fitch and his grinding style, but Silva performed admirably against the former Purdue wrestling captain, constantly working and making Fitch earn every bit of control he had during the bout. Silva emerged on the losing end of a unanimous decision, but in stark contrast to many of Fitch’s fights, the bout with Silva was entertaining enough to earn “Fight of the Night” honors.

Despite the loss to Fitch, Silva’s chances at becoming a true title contender at 170 pounds are far from over. While the hype behind him has slowed down considerably due to his 2-2 record inside the Octagon, he’s still one of the best rising stars in the division. He will return to the cage for the first time since his UFC 153 loss to Fitch at this weekend’s UFC on Fuel TV 10 event in Brazil, and if he wants to live up to the expectations fans have thrown at him since his UFC debut, he needs to win impressively against Jason High.

High is a solid veteran and has had a lot of success on the regional scene, even defeating top prospect Jordan Mein a few years ago. But Silva is the heavy favorite heading into this bout for a reason. Anything other than a dominant win for Silva will be seen as a bit of a failure, and if he wants another shot at top-ranked competition, then this is a fight that he can’t afford to lose.

Silva still has a chance to become the premier welterweight that many fans thought he had the potential to be when he made his UFC debut in 2010, but he can’t afford another loss at this stage in his career. He may have the talent to become one of the best welterweights in the sport, but if Silva ever wants to get a chance at proving that talent against the UFC’s elite again, he needs to win impressively this weekend.

Photo: Erick Silva (Sherdog)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.