LAS VEGAS -- How big a favorite is Alistair Overeem heading into his heavyweight bout Saturday night against Antonio Silva? UFC president Dana White revealed Thursday that promotion officials have already begun plans for Overeem to face champion Cain Velasquez sometime this year.
Those plans are contingent, of course, on Overeem leaving UFC 156 victorious.
The former Strikeforce heavyweight champion is so confident that he will not upset UFC’s plans that he is already talking about fights with Velasquez and former UFC titleholder Junior dos Santos.
“Those are the two fights [Velasquez and dos Santos] I want most,” Overeem recently told ESPN.com. “I have unfinished business with dos Santos.”
What about Silva? Overeem seems to be quite dismissive of him. He’s even expressed confidence in beating Silva standing or on the ground.
During a prefight photo staredown Thursday at Mandalay Bay, Overeem made a threatening gesture toward Silva and delivered a stern warning. “I’m going to destroy you,” Overeem said to Silva, according to White.
Silva was unfazed and told Overeem, "You better start respecting me."
Being the underdog and not receiving respect from his opponent, Silva intends to quash Overeem’s title aspirations. Silva believes the outsiders have it all wrong by making him an underdog in this fight.
If they had looked closer at Overeem’s losses and the skill set of his conquerors, they would realize that Silva has the tools to win this showdown. Silva is a powerful striker with solid jiu-jitsu skills -- a combination that the Brazilian believes is Overeem’s Kryptonite.
“He’s fought a lot of Brazilian guys, a lot of jiu-jitsu guys -- [Antonio] Rogerio [Nogueira], [Ricardo] Arona and [Mauricio] “Shogun” [Rua]. All have good ground games, and he lost to those three guys,” Silva told ESPN.com. “If he thinks he’s better than me on the floor, OK. Let’s go! Put me on the ground, and we will fight on the ground.
“He’s a great striker; he’s a K-1 champion. I respect him a lot. But this is a heavyweight fight. One punch can determine the fight, and I have heavy hands. So I’m not afraid of his striking.”
There is another area that Silva believes will prove to be Overeem’s Achilles’ heel -- cardio. Since June 2008, Overeem has gone beyond the first round once -- and that came against Fabricio Werdum in June 2011.
Overeem won that fight by unanimous decision but struggled with his cardio in the latter rounds, especially the third. Silva expects to be the fresher fighter if Saturday’s bout goes into deep waters.
“I’ve trained to go five rounds,” Silva said. “I’m very well. I feel good. My cardio is better than before. I know he is dangerous in the first 2-3 minutes because he comes in fresh and strong. But if this fight goes into the second and third rounds, it will be best for me.”
Nogueira unnerved by Silva-Evans talk
He’s the forgotten man at UFC 156. With so much talk the past few weeks about former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans possibly moving to 185 and facing middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva, no one seems interested in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
White made it known Thursday that if Evans defeats Nogueira in their co-featured bout Saturday night, he will be offered a middleweight title shot.
The only thing Nogueira can reasonably expect should he beat Evans is another fight inside the Octagon. That’s it.
But Nogueira is OK with that. He doesn’t feel disrespected and understands the situation.
“[Rashad] is a former champion. That’s why he is in position to force a fight with Anderson Silva,” Nogueira told ESPN.com. “I’m not in the same position because I’m not a former champion.
“That’s why the people are talking more about him and not about me. But I’m going to prove myself Saturday night. I’m going to do my job.”
Nogueira, who has not fought since December 2011 when he knocked out former 205-pound champion Tito Ortiz in the first round at UFC 140, has worked on improving his takedown technique. He expects the extra work to come in handy against a highly skilled wrestler like Evans.
• Moving down a weight class doesn’t change much for Frankie Edgar in the size department. As is usually the case, Edgar expects to be the smaller man in the cage Saturday night when he faces featherweight champion Jose Aldo. “I don’t think I’ve ever been the bigger guy in an MMA fight,” Edgar said. “From what I understand, he’s [Aldo] cutting more weight than I am. So he will probably be a little bit bigger than me but not as big as everyone else.”
• Former top Strikeforce welterweight contender Tyron Woodley is ecstatic about entering the Octagon. But Woodley will enter Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday with a sour taste in his mouth. In his final Strikeforce bout, he was knocked out in the fourth round by Nathan Marquardt. Woodley, however, is looking on the bright side. He learned from that loss and vows not to make the same mistakes against Jay Hieron, whom he faces at UFC 156. “When I stuck to the game plan, pressed forward and did what I do best, I had great success,” Woodley told ESPN.com. “But when I backed up and relaxed a little bit, that’s when he got off. So I have to stick to the game plan, stick to my guns and do what I do best, and if I do that against any welterweight, I will be fine.”
• White isn’t a fan of catchweight bouts, but he might be willing to make an exception for women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey and former Strikeforce featherweight titleholder Cristiane Santos, who seems reluctant to cut the extra 10 pounds. “It’s not a title fight,” White said. “If that’s what [Santos] is willing to do go to 140, let Ronda defend her title a few times and see if Ronda wants to go to 140. If I know Ronda, she probably will anyway. Let’s see what happens."