The UFC's Fight Night series makes a stop in Ohio as the fighter who refused to be denied his contender status and hometown-product Matt Brown faces a stern test in Brazilian almost-sensation Erick Silva. Brown isn't guaranteed a title shot if he wins, but he certainly moves closer to that space and continues his improbable run. For Silva, this is a do or die moment in terms of converting himself from hyped prospect to actual welterweight division threat.
Will Matt Brown satisfy the hometown fans and get one stop closer to a title shot or is Erick Silva going to prove he's ready for the deeper end of the welterweight talent pool? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
Where: U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 2 card starts at 8 p.m. and the six-fight main card starts on Fox Sports 1 at 10 p.m.
Honestly, I just don't know who to pick here. I'm forced by the very nature of the post to make a choice, and I will, but I truly don't know who to favor. Brown can be a slow starter sometimes, which is a death sentence against Silva. Then again, Silva is not as much of a force late, which is bad news against someone who is a true offensive, finishing threat at all times in Brown. Silva's the better, more explosive athlete, but Brown excels at getting opposition to over commit to something and, in the process, make them suffer.
I can't fault anyone for either pick, truthfully. There are a million reasons to go in either direction. Will Silva not show up because he's fighting overseas? Will Brown succumb to hometown pressure? If Brown is patient and survives any early storms, he'll win. If Silva hurts Brown early and finds a way to stay on him, eventually finishing the job, he'll win. Here goes nothing.
Costas Philippou vs. Lorenz Larkin
A bit of a tough call, but I'm going to go with Larkin. On the feet, he's got the faster hand speed and more diverse striking arsenal. He also has pretty remarkable takedown defense. Philippou is a load, very strong and capable with hand combinations, but he's going to have a tough time landing a game-changing strike on Larkin. Ditto on getting Larkin to the ground and keeping him there. Styles make fights, of course, and this one favors Larkin.
This should be a sensational scrap, at least for a round, maybe two. Cruickshank absolutely feasts on the TUF-level of talent that floats through the UFC, talent that enables him to use his brilliant array of acrobatic and deadly kicks. Against better opposition, though, his game becomes a little more meat and potatoes. Cruickshank isn't a bad fighter by any stretch, but he's not able to consistently apply the things that make him special as the fighters he faces get better. Koch was killing himself to make featherweight and is much better now at lightweight. He's also infinitely more well rounded. I suspect you're going to see Koch getting Cruickshank to back up and then deal with Koch's mixed up game of strikes and takedowns. In the end, he'll force an error, which Koch will use to finish the job.
I'll just keep this brief and say I thought Tim Means had a rough go of it when he had to face Jorge Masvidal and Danny Castillo back to back. He's a very respectable talent and a striker who throws with courage if not abandon in the pocket as well as when he presses forward. He's also underrated in terms of both wrestling and effective mat work. I'm betting he's going to blow past Magny, who I don't see having anything in his skill set that's superior to what Means possesses.
I'm hardly the biggest believer in Palelei, but he's a serviceable heavyweight. And while it's true heavyweight is the sort of division where chaos is king and truly anything can happen, this is Palelei's to lose. Potts is an ok heavyweight, but of his 8 wins, 2 come to the exact same guy, a guy who fought 3 times. The combined record of the fighters he's defeated is also nothing to write home about. Maybe Potts wins because he lands an errant haymaker, but short of that, I legitimately don't see how he gets it done.
Smolka had a fairly respectable UFC debut against Alptekin Ozkilic, an outing that demonstrated his versatile skill set and ability to fight through tough situations. He's got some work to do before he's ready for the deeper end of the division, but Cariaso is a good next step. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for in pressure, something that's going to force Smolka to really leverage his wide array of talents. I still like Smolka to win, but he's going to have to earn it.
From the preliminary card:
Rafael Natal def. Ed Herman
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Darrell Montague
Yan Cabral def. Zak Cummings
Eddie Wineland def. Johnny Eduardo
Nik Lentz def. Manny Gamburyan
Justin Salas def. Ben Wall
Albert Tumenov def. Anthony Lapsley