One of the main components of any MMA fight these days is the game plan or strategy. Long gone are the days in which fighters would just be able to train without much thought of what they would need to do inside the Octagon to get the win.

Head coaches are often given the task of devising a structure to their fighters’ training camps to ensure that by the time the fight comes around it won’t feel like they are implementing a predefined game plan, but it will feel like second nature.

In this feature, we will look to identify the underdog in an upcoming bout and examine what is required of that underdog in order to overcome the odds and predictions and get the all-important “W” in the win column. The point, then, is to step into the shoes of a head coach to break down the fight and provide a game plan for the underdog.

This week’s subject is Matt Brown, who squares off with Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night: Brown vs Silva in Cincinnati on May 10.

Overall, the UFC Fight Night 40 card is your typical “Fight Night” card. It hosts a healthy dose of well-known names such as Costas Philippou, Lorenz Larkin and Eddie Wineland, whilst also giving prospects like Darrell Montague, Louis Smolka and Kyoji Horiguchi a stage on which to display their abilities and work their way into title contention within their respective divisions.

In addition, the UFC has stuck to its usual strategy of adding an intriguing main event to entice viewers that might otherwise feel as if it’s a fight card they could afford to miss.

The intrigue in this particular match-up relies heavily upon the growing uncertainty surrounding the future of the welterweight division in the post Georges St-Pierre era. A win for either Brown or Silva would undeniably catapult them into the title reckoning and set up a fight with any one of the long list of contenders at 170 pounds.

Like so many others, Brown began his UFC career on the back of a decent showing on The Ultimate Fighter. However, in the early going it seemed as though Brown may be just another name to emerge from the reality show without really coming close to a title.

Going into his fight with Chris Cope at UFC 143, Brown had amassed a record of 5-5 since leaving the show and was arguably living on borrowed time. What has happened since Brown defeated Cope at UFC 143 is undeniably one of the biggest career turnarounds in modern memory. As Brown approaches this fight on May 10, he can boast a six-fight winning streak against some of the very best in the world. He has a solid claim for a title shot if only he can get past the highly touted Brazilian.

As is customary for many Brazilians, Silva didn’t have the relative luxury of emerging from The Ultimate Fighter. Instead, he had to rely upon his results outside the UFC garnering sufficient attention to warrant a call up. Although his results outside the Octagon may have brought him some attention, it was not until Silva exploded into the UFC with a 40-second demolition of Luis Ramos in August 2011 that the MMA world really took notice. In the fights that have followed, he has struggled to maintain that momentum. The spotlight has shifted slightly, but the potential remains for Silva to recapture the imagination with a signature win over Brown.

This welterweight match-up pits the current No. 7 welterweight fighter against the No. 15 fighter. If one thing has become clear with the rankings thus far, it is that a decisive victory for either man could launch them into the top five or beyond come the morning of May 11.

The Breakdown

Silva has all the tools to defeat just about anyone in MMA, which means he will always pose a threat inside the Octagon. We have seen him finish opponents on the feet with explosive striking and we have seen him utilize his grappling prowess to gain multiple submission victories in his relatively short UFC tenure.

It might be difficult for one of Silva’s opponents to judge the Brazilian’s intentions going into any fight. This kind of uncertainty can definitely not be said of Brown.

Throughout his fighting career, Brown has shown that if all else fails he is willing to turn a fight into an all-out brawl, if for no other reason than to try his luck. In recent times, Brown has perfected this so that he turns it into just enough of a brawl for his skills to shine whilst retaining the “safety” that had eluded him earlier in his career. Brown has been out of competition for some time with injuries, but you wouldn’t imagine that a more tentative version of Brown would be borne out of his inactivity. If anything, we might see the opposite.

The Strategy

It’s surprising that Brown, given his recent streak, is currently the underdog in this fight. There is no doubt that Silva has the ability to take the fight away from Brown in all areas, but the same can also be said of Brown.

Silva’s UFC record reveals a tendency by the UFC to place him in his native Brazil against fighters who are predominantly known for their grappling abilities. In this fight, Silva has neither of these comforts. The impact this has on his psyche remains unknown.

It would seem entirely likely that Silva’s game plan in this fight would focus on taking the fight to the floor, where he can dictate in a grappling exchange. As a result, it is imperative for Brown to use his wrestling abilities in a defensive manner so as to keep the fight on the feet, where he can look to pick Silva apart.

Brown has relied heavily upon his high-paced fighting style on the feet, but that might not be the best strategy on this occasion. If Silva is searching for an opening, there is no better time to take the fight to the floor than to catch Brown rampaging forward.

If Brown can keep Silva at a comfortable distance before picking his shots from the outside, that is most likely to be his easiest means of victory. Brown is a master at finishing opponents once they are hurt, so there is no need for Brown to force the opening in this fight. Instead, he should concentrate on capitalizing when the opening does appear.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer
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Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.