When Antonio Silva enters the Octagon next Saturday for his rematch with Cain Velasquez at UFC 160, he will do so as a heavy underdog.
“Bigfoot’s” first encounter with the reigning heavyweight champion was not a pretty one, as Velasquez planted the massive Brazilian on his back and battered him with a barrage of punches and elbows one year ago at UFC 146. In spite of that result, and his current status as a 4-1 long shot, Silva nevertheless believes that he will walk away from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas with championship gold around his waist.
“I like when people underestimate me. It’s nice, because I get to go out there and [prove] them wrong,” Silva recently said during a media conference call. “There are no superheroes in this sport. Nobody is invincible. I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work in the last nine weeks. I’ve been preparing myself, and I’m very confident that I’m going to have my arm raised on May 25.”
As Silva mentioned, this would not be the first time he has been counted out against a favored opponent. Following the heavyweight’s one-sided loss to Velasquez, bookmakers listed him as an underdog against both Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem. “Bigfoot” won both fights by knockout.
With those convincing victories nestled securely in his back pocket, Silva now appears to be a far more confident fighter than when he previously faced Velasquez.
“In our first fight, I was nervous and anxious, but I have replaced those emotions. Now, I am calm and driven. I really want this,” said Silva. “Comparing my style of fighting to Cain -- I would have to be born again to become faster than Cain Velasquez. I’ve got 30 pounds on him. He’s going to be faster than me. I need to work with what I have, and what I have is very, very heavy hands. I’m going to keep my hands healthy and heavy, and I’m sure that the first punch I really land, he’s going to go down.”
Though Silva admitted that much of his preparation and strategy will carry over from his first meeting with the champion, the 33-year-old plans to effect one key change in the rematch.
“A lot of my preparation has been the same as it was for the first fight. Obviously, in the first fight, I made a big mistake, but there were a lot of things that I did right going into that fight that, unfortunately, you guys didn’t get to see,” said Silva. “Much of that has been maintained, but overall, the main strategy is just to not let his elbows get near my forehead. That would be a change.”