Gokhan Saki makes his Octagon debut on Sept. 22 in Japan, and Henrique da Silva is confident that he can surprise him at UFC Fight Night 117.
Silva signed with the UFC after a perfect 10-0 record in Brazil, and scored second-round finishes in his first two UFC appearances. With three losses over the past eight months, capped off by a 22-second knockout to Ion Cutelaba in June, “Frankenstein" thought his run in the Octagon could be over.
Instead, he was given a chance to welcome Saki to the UFC at the Saitama Super Arena.
"I see this fight as a chance to overcome this dark phase I’m going through in the UFC,” Silva told MMA Fighting.
With two fights left on his UFC deal, the Brazilian believes this is the chance to guarantee a future in the promotion, but doesn’t bring too much pressure over himself.
Saki, a former Glory light heavyweight champion and one of the best kickboxers in the world, has only fought once under MMA rules, losing to James Zikic via TKO in 2004.
“The Rebel" returns to the sport in the biggest stage possible more than a decade later, but Silva admits he wasn’t familiar with his name and work.
"I never paid too much attention to muay thai. I follow MMA more,” "Frankenstein" said. "I started to know him more after they booked the fight. I did a research, and saw that he fought in big promotions like Glory, which is cool. He has good boxing, good kicks. It’s an interesting fight, a challenge for us."
"I’ll enter this fight as any other one,” he added. "He’s a great fighter, but I have my qualities as well. He’s a muay thai legend, but that’s muay thai. I’ve fought muay thai and MMA, and it’s two completely different worlds."
Silva scored knockouts in 11 of his 12 professional MMA wins, and guarantees he doesn’t plan on changing his style against such a decorated kickboxer.
"I like to strike. I will strike with him,” he said. "If there’s an opening for a takedown and a submission, I won’t waste it. I can’t make mistakes. The chance I have to finish this fight, I’ll do it as quick as possible.
"I like his style, working the body like I do. He puts on a show in his fights, but I think that his opponents move backwards a lot, let him grow in the fight. That won’t happen with me. I’ll walk straight forward and see what happens in the fight.
"I believe he will be cautious with the possibility of getting taken down, so he won’t close the distance against me,” he continued. "I doubt he’ll close the distance because his ground game might not be high level. I think that’s an advantage for me because he has to worry about takedowns, so that will affect his performance standing."
In the end, Silva predicts he will earn his spot in the UFC light heavyweight division, upset Saki and add another knockout finish to his record on Sept. 23.
"I’m thinking about a knockout. A straight punch… I already imagined myself knocking him out,” Silva said. "I’m going after this in the fight. Attack him standing. I’ve envisioned that working in the fight."