The UFC opportunity just keeps getting better and better for Nam Phan and Dennis Siver.
Due to a couple of last-minute injuries to fighters Lavar Johnson and Mike Chiesa, the UFC has set an intriguing featherweight battle between Dennis Siver and Nam Phan to open the televised, preliminary portion of the fight card. It gives both these men a chance to open the show with a bang and Phan gets this opportunity as a late replacement for Eddie Yagin, who suffered a severe head injury during training in November and Phan quickly asked the UFC for the fight.
Siver dropped down to featherweight in 2012 after a tough loss to Donald Cerrone and this will be his second fight in the division following his successful debut win in April over top 10 fighter Diego Nunes. Siver is looking to climb right up into title contention in 2013 and Yagin was coming off the biggest win of his career over Mark Hominick to set up this fight. It was a match-up set to determine who would remain in contention for a title shot in 2013 and as soon as Yagin was pronounced unfit, Phan pounced on the opportunity, requesting to step in. His wish was quickly granted.
Watch Phan vs. Siver as part of Saturday’s UFC on Sportsnet: Henderson vs. Diaz televised undercard starting at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT, followed by the four-fight main card at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT. A bonus early preliminary fight is expected to appear on Sportsnet.ca at about 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT.
Siver has had three weeks to switch his attention to the younger and more technical Phan, and it may be a tougher task to get up for the 2-3 TUF alum. Phan is coming off a win over Cole Miller to right the ship in April after a humbling loss to Jimy Hettes closed out his 2011. Phan brings a more disciplined game plan and more technical striking than Yagin does and Siver may have to switch his mindset going into this fight. You are always expecting a brawl from Yagin and you have to be wary of his guillotine at all times, whereas with Phan, you can expect a more countering and patient approach.
Of course it will depend specifically on how the fight goes down but if Siver wins in dominant fashion, look for him to either get a No. 1 contender fight early in 2013 against Erik Koch, Chan Sung Jung or Ricardo Lamas. He may even get the loser of Aldo-Edgar. If he loses, he will fall to the back of a small line of contenders and lose his chance at a title shot in 2013.
The featherweight division is not heavy at the top and has many fighters jockeying for the seat directly under the champion Jose Aldo. If Phan can step up and seize this opportunity with a win, he will propel himself up to the top 10 in the division and in the mix for bigger money fights in 2013. Elite fighters such as Manny Gamburyan, Hatsu Hioki, Chad Mendes and Cub Swanson are all held in higher regard than Phan, but a win over Siver could change that.
Siver has some of the best technical kickboxing and stand-up in the division, a point he proved in beating Diego Nunes in his last fight. He looked as comfortable and as quick as ever in his debut win; he will have to get off first and hit the mark to do the same to Phan. If things aren’t going well for him on the feet he may want to try to get a few quick takedowns on Phan and then get right back up to score some control points with the judges.
Phan does not possess the quickness that Siver does, so I think he will need to counter smart and with power to get the results that he desires on Saturday night. He is the clear underdog in this fight, but the difference between these two fighters is not as wide as it may seem on the surface. Phan can win this fight with footwork and damaging counter striking, and don’t be surprised if he gets the biggest win of his career.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.