Photo by Josh Hedges/ Article by Mick Hammond
If there is one fight at UFC 54 that promises to be a slugfest it is the fight between Tim Sylvia and Tra Telligman. Sure there is always a possibility the fight will go to the ground, but let’s face it, the fans want to see knockouts, the UFC wants to see knockouts, and if there are any two fighters on the card that are willing to stand and trade it’s Sylvia and Telligman.

Originally slated as a battle between Sylvia and Brazilian monster Assuerio Silva, the fight had an uncertain air about it due to many people’s unfamiliarity with Silva. Now with Telligman in as a firm replacement for Silva, who suffered an injury in training, people know they can expect a war. But that’s nothing different than what we’ve come to expect from these two fighters.

Tra Telligman’s name may not ring bells in the minds of most fans of the sport, especially those who have come in after the UFC’s recent success on satellite/cable TV. But rest assured once he steps into the octagon you’ll have more than one fan go, “oh yeah, I’ve seen him fight before.” It’s hard to miss Telligman’s signature concave chest, like a dent in a medieval warrior’s armor it stands out, but in no way effects his performance, thus anyone who may count him out on looks alone may be very surprised.

Over the course of his career, Telligman, a member of the famed Lion’s Den, has rarely failed to deliver. After winning his first three fights, including a Superbrawl heavyweight tournament, by just pure old laying out opponents with punches, Telligman ran headfirst into Vitor Belfort in Belfort’s first UFC battle. That night belonged to Belfort, but Telligman went down fighting as always and never let up, a theme that would be prevalent throughout his career.

After sandwiching two wins around a draw, Telligman made short work of David Rivera before returning to the UFC against hard hitting Pedro Rizzo at UFC 20. For the second straight time against a Brazilian Telligman would go down via punches, but like his fight against Belfort, Telligman went down fighting. Tra would go to the then upstart Pride for two events, managing to get a win from Pride standard bearer Igor Vovchanchyn before returning to the UFC once again.

At UFC 43 Telligman was given a chance at revenge against Rizzo and appeared to be well on his way to victory when a gash on his head forced an end to the fight. Despite losing on paper to Rizzo it was clear that Telligman was giving far better than he was receiving and now two years later Tra gets another opportunity to knock off a high standing UFC heavyweight and possibly make a home for himself for at least another couple shows.

To get that home Tra must get past the UFC’s “Big Man” Tim Sylvia, a task far easier said than done. It’s been a crazy couple of years for big Tim. In early 2003 he went from obscurity to superstar when he knocked out then champion Ricco Rodriguez for the UFC Heavyweight Title. Then after a convincing beatdown of Gan McGee in his first and only title defense at UFC 44 Sylvia was forced to relinquish the title after testing positive for steroids.

After serving a suspension levied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Sylvia has been on a mission to regain his title and prove once and for all that he is the true UFC Heavyweight Champion. Things however have been a rollercoaster ride, full with ups and downs since his return.

Originally slated to fight Andrei Arlovski at UFC 47 for the title, Sylvia’s return was derailed due to inconclusive drug tests and it was only after it was too late for Tim to fight that it was revealed he was clean. Tim would get his title match at the next UFC and again face bad luck as a broken arm thanks to a Frank Mir armbar would place big Tim back on the disabled list and without the belt for five months.

Finally healthy and free of drug questions Sylvia made his comeback against an overmatched Wes Sims at a Superbrawl event, beating the Hammer House representative 90 seconds into their fight. With the win Sylvia got year delayed match with Arlovski for the interim Heavyweight Championship. Unfortunately for Tim, Andrei managed to knock him down and secure an ankle lock to get a submission victory. After the fight Sylvia acknowledged some tentativeness about fighting off the submission in fear of being injured again.

After recouping from the loss a resurgent Sylvia returned to face off against rising youngster Mike Block at an IFC event. It became clear in that fight that Big Tim was back as he finished off an overmatched Block in under 90 seconds and has now set his sights on a return to the UFC’s elite heavyweights list.

Conventional wisdom says that Telligman would have a better chance if he takes down Sylvia, but being a warrior, it is doubtful Tra will take that route. For Sylvia, even with work in recent months with Randy Couture and Jeremy Horn, it is well known what Tim does best, throwdown hard. So the strategy in this fight should be pretty simple, two heavy hitters going at it toe to toe until someone falls down, with the edge going to Sylvia for his reach advantage.

At stake in this fight is a continued spot on the UFC’s soon to be long heavyweight roster. With the fighters from the second season of The Ultimate Fighter soon to be making their debuts later this year, Sylvia and Telligman must prove that they are among the top of the heap as they await the winner of Arlovski and Paul Buentello at UFC 55 to face off against Frank Mir at the end of the year. The winner should find themselves with a title shot next year if they either remain patient or continue to win in fights that are only meant to keep them busy.

On a card that features a decidedly more grappling oriented style of fighting this is a fight that will get the fans on their feet and could easily steal the show from Chuck Liddell and Jeremy Horn. Simply put, with Telligman and Sylvia you know what you’ll get, guaranteed fireworks. And that’s what everyone wants, the fans, the UFC, and in this one everyone will get the maximum bang for their buck, and Tra and Tim wouldn’t have it any other way.