One hell of a night! That would be the absolute best way to describe the night as there were 7 KO/TKO's for the night and a good chunk of the fights that went the distance were entertaining as well. The main event more than lived up to the hype as Matt Brown and Erick Silva both survived some perilous situations before Silva finally succumbed to the onslaught that Brown unleashed.
I had stated in one of my previews that this is the type of card that doesn't catch the eye of the casual fan due to the lack of name recognition but ends up being the exact type of card that brings in new fans hook, line, and sinker. Only one fight on the main card was of questionable entertainment value and it wasn't a total stinker either. The problem for me is that was one of the few things that I was right on...
I'm going to get the obvious out of the way... I totally bombed on my picks coming in at 5-8. I tried to pick some upsets due to the fact that there is always an upset or two that most (if not all) don't see coming and I went for it... and whiffed on my attempts. That isn't to say that there weren't any upsets... I just didn't see them coming. Funny how that works...
* indicates I was right on my pick
*Matt Brown defeated Erick Silva via TKO 3rd Round
Awesome, awesome, and awesome! If I have to use another adjective to describe it I'd say awesome. I could have sworn that Brown was finished within the first minute as Silva landed a debilitating kick to the body to drop the brawler and then proceeded to take his back and sink in a RNC for about a minute and a half. Once he was able to get out and up to his feet, Brown spent damn near the rest of the time laying a beating on Silva that I thought Silva would wilt to before the first round was up. But Silva would occasionally land a solid shot himself and even had Brown slightly rocked in the second. The toughness that Silva displayed was highly impressive and even though he lost (and gassed), he ended up raising his stock.
Brown has now won seven fights in a row which should be enough to get him in title contention talk. Silva is the best name on his list of victims (some may claim Mike Pyle) which will keep everyone from completely jumping on his bandwagon. But even those people can't deny that he doesn't deserve a shot at a much higher ranked opponent. He may even be at the point where he could be one victory away from a title shot. The biggest issue is though is that he has had his kryptonite exposed: he is sensitive to shots to the body. He was rocked twice by shots to the body from Silva and crumpled from a body shot from Jordan Mein about a year ago. Few can take punches to the head better than Brown... but the body has to be concerning at this point. Still, as tough as Brown is I think he could find a way to overcome that. A match with Hector Lombard would be the best way to prove that he is deserving of a title shot and that he can take a shot to the body. Hard to believe it wouldn't be FOTN.
Silva blew his wad before the first round was over and struggled to put together sustained offense after his initial submission attempt in the first. But he showed an ungodly amount of toughness as Brown laid what seemed to be an infinite number of clean shots on him for about 8 minutes and even attempted some chokes to put him out of service. I wasn't at all surprised to see him leaving the Octagon on a stretcher as the beating he took was really that brutal. And thus because of his toughness my opinion of Silva has gone up. I don't think he'll ever be among the upper echelon of the division (I don't see him fixing his gas tank), but he'll put together fun bouts and can serve as an efficient gatekeeper to the top. I don't want to see the UFC give him anymore gimmee fights though (Takenori Sato was never seen as viable opponent). He needs competitive fights every time out from this point. I like the idea of John Hathaway from here. Both have losses to Dong Hyun Kim on their resume this past year and will likely be sitting just outside the rankings at this point. No reason not to make this fight.
Costas Philippou defeated Lorenz Larkin via KO 1st Round
Both these guys came to throw, but Philippou was fighting like his job depended on his victory... and there is a chance that it did. Both threw heavy shots at one another with the difference being that Philippou seemed to just walk through everything that Larkin threw at him whereas Larkin was physically affected by the hard punches that Philippou landed. Philippou ended up landing a short boxing combo moving forward which was enough put Larkin down. It was likely the favorite for FOTN as well until the main event stole the thunder from the middleweights.
Coming off of two consecutive losses, Philippou was being written off by many and despite being ranked as opposed to Larkin not being ranked at all, Philippou was the underdog heading into the fight. He was more aggressive than he has been at any point in the Octagon up to this point, forcing the fight to be fought at a comfortable boxing range and was determined not to let his skid reach three fights. Hell, he even mixed in some takedown attempts which he had largely abandoned as of late. He isn't going to be considered a contender at this point and shouldn't be no matter how impressive this victory was, largely since he really did look that bad against Rockhold. A fight with Thales Leites makes perfect sense as Leites recently broke into the rankings and is coming off of a quick KO victory over Trevor Smith. He would test Philippou's submission defense like no one else has.
This loss marked the third loss in four fights for Larkin. Some think he will end up getting cut. While I admit that it is a possibility, I think that he will get at least one more opportunity to prove he really belongs in the Octagon. He threw a bunch of kicks and punches with ill intentions that landed but Philippou was possessed and wasn't going to let a Mack truck slow him down much less a human being. Trevor Smith is another Strikeforce import who has lost 3 of his last 4. Between him and Larkin, a loser leaves town match would only seem to be appropriate.
This was one of the fights that I would have felt safe betting my house on... and it sure as hell is a good thing that I did not end up doing that. A kickboxing delight was expected from these two and a lot of flashy strikes were thrown in the limited amount of time that these two patrolled the Octagon. It ended up being a head kick followed by some relentless GNP that ended up putting Koch out of commission to give Cruickshank the victory. Could we have a dark horse candidate sneaking up on the lightweight division.
Retrospect has shown me that I shouldn't have been so surprised by the end result of the fight. Cruickshank has landed some highly impressive kicks before to put an end to fights and while its easy to say that every fighter is striving to improve, you can actually see it happening with him. Whether or not his grappling has improved has yet to be truly revealed. Its hard to say what type of opponent he will get, but I would prefer to see him engage a grappler with submission skills. Joe Lauzon has been inactive since December and would represent a step up in the minds of many. If some feel Lauzon is too high of caliber, Michel Prazeres has been looking good.
Despite coming out on the losing end, I was able to find a thing or two I liked about Koch. First, it took a hell of a lot of punches and elbows from Cruickshank once the fight hit the ground to put him away (though it did look like he was out after one of the initial punches, he came back to quite quickly), indicating that he is one hell of a tough bastard. Its easy to forget that he is only 25 considering he was 23 when he was first named contender for Jose Aldo's throne, so he is still improving. Even with that noted, there is no positive way to spin 3 losses in your last 4 fights. He needs a step back. Anthony Njokuani and Vinc Pichel face off at the next PPV. The loser would represent a good challenger for Koch's next battle.
This was the one fight on the main card that I referenced earlier with questionable entertainment value. It had its moments of small flurries, but neither fighter came close to ending the night early for the other and rather than taking the fight directly at Means, Magney decided to fluster the former lightweight by picking his spots with both his striking and grappling. Considering that Means is very much a straightforward no-frills fighter, this is exactly the type of strategy one would want to use against him. The different levels and angles Magny came at him from made it impossible for Means to guess where he was coming from and thus difficult to push forward.
Magny didn't have such an easy time utilizing his reach advantage against Means as he did against Gasan Umalatov, but that was to be expected as Means isn't such a short welterweight himself. Even though there were times it would have been easy to abandon the game plan himself as Means found short breaks in which to score some offensive flurries, he showed gumption and stuck with it all the way to the end and walked away with a decision victory over a very tough opponent. Magny is far from a finished product at this point and should still be handled with care if the UFC thinks he can develop into a potentially ranked fighter. Kenny Robertson has shown to be a smart opponent who is difficult to put away with a hell of a grappling prowess. Considering Magny's most definitive defeat came at the hands of a BJJ expert, Robertson would present another good learning opportunity.
Means perfectly showed why he is such a tough customer, but also limited. His refusal to adapt his strategy continues to be his undoing. Pressing forward and bringing the action to your opponent will work on the regional circuit and even quite well on the lower levels of the UFC itself. But he no longer has the size advantage he had at lightweight which means it is even more pressing for him to vary things up such as pursuing takedowns. Yan Cabral lost earlier in the night and would be at a massive disadvantage in the striking department... but would easily have the grappling department. It would represent a true striker vs. grappler bout.
*Soa Paleli defeated Ruan Potts via KO 1st Round
All it takes is one look at Palelei to see that the last thing anyone would want is that beast of a human being on top of you in mount position raining down punches. Pat Barry did a great job of demonstrating that for the rest of the world in December. Palelei was able to obtain that position this time around as well (though with a bit more of a struggle than Barry provided) and was able to sneak in a punch that had Potts staring off into space before long.
Its hard to find fault with Palelei's performance this time out. Potts came out with some nice momentum behind him and offered some nice grappling exchanges. That marks three wins in three tries since making his comeback to the UFC for the native of Australia and indicates that he needs a step up in competition now. Palelei is 36 and though heavyweights have a longer shelf life than the lighter weight classes, you don't want to wait to long to find out exactly what you have. Palelei has been thought to be inconsistent by some, but I'd have to say Ben Rothwell is worse than Palelei. Rothwell will being coming off of a suspension soon and it would be fun to see two of the bigger boys of the heavyweight division clash.
Potts is still very much a mystery. He showed resilience preventing Palelei from getting the mount right away and tried to threaten from a disadvantageous position with a choke, but was overwhelmed by Palelei's size in the end. Coming off of the African circuit means that we don't know what his ceiling is by any means. With that said, we do have a better idea of where he is at after this fight and a step down in competition is more than appropriate at this point. Daniel Omielanczuk is coming off of a loss to Jared Rosholt and is hovering around the bottom of the division... the same place Potts is currently at.
Chris Cariaso defeated Louis Smolka via Decision
This was a fun fight to watch as Cariaso represented the crafty veteran refusing to give his place on the totem pole to the more physically gifted young lion making his bid. Smolka was unable to dominate in the clinch the way he did against Alp Ozkilic and has yet to fully grasp how to utilize his length. Every time Smolka tried something different Cariaso had an answer for the youngster that only experience and savvy can provide. Perhaps I should have taken that into account when thinking that Smolka was able to overwhelm a relatively inexperienced Ozkilic in his UFC debut...
While I mentioned in my preview that Cariaso has struggled against opponents with exceptional length, I didn't take note that those opponents were often experienced too. Cariaso has been the stubborn veteran for a while at this point and even though his savvy has been on display, his physical disadvantages are far to visible and make it easy to forget just how good he is. With the vast majority of the rankings tied up, it makes sense to try and match Cariaso back up with the youngster Kyoji Horiguchi once again as this match has been attempted once before. Cariaso's savvy makes for a good challenge for the young Japanese prospect.
Smolka suffered a setback with his first loss here, but the loss needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Cariaso never overwhelmed him and simply beat him to the punch everywhere the fight went. When you've been there and done that you tend to pick up these things. This was only Smolka's eighth pro fight and he still has a long way to go. Darren Uyenoyama is another veteran and a very solid grappler, but doesn't have the same type of striking prowess that Cariaso provided. He provides a learning experience and tough challenge for the 22 year old.
It was well established that neither of these guys are ever going to make a run at the title, but they are tough veteran scrappers who won't go away quietly. Both proved that. Natal looked a bit woozy at the end as he bleed from a cut on his forehead Herman opened up in the second and Herman gutted through an early attack on his legs to grind out an entertaining and gritty scrap (I said they were scrappers!) Does this fight really have an bearings on the division... no. These guys are largely in the same spot they were before the fight took place.
I continue to wait for Herman to look old and start to slow down, but it hasn't happened yet. Its often hard to think that he has been in the UFC for over 8 years at this point as his grinding style hasn't exactly produced a lot of highlight reel moments, but he is still here long after the likes of Kendall Grove (who beat him for the title of TUF 3 champ) washed out of the organization. Knowing what he is at this point, I'd like to see him provide a test for youngsters at this point rather than going after fellow veterans. Thats why I want to see him matched with the winner of Luke Barnatt and Sean Strickland who fight at the end of the month. The youngsters could learn a lot from a scrap with Herman win or lose.
Natal continues to perplex. It seemed that he held the early advantage with his leg kicks but seemed to abandon the strategy. I don't know why he stopped going after Herman's legs... but he did. Sure, it looked like his gas tank wasn't as deep as Herman's, but are leg kicks that tiring to throw? Maybe he was wary of the takedown. Whatever it was, Natal makes it easy to question his strategy quite often. Derek Brunson has been recovering from a broken jaw, but it shouldn't be too much longer before he returns. Natal is about the right caliber opponent for him to make his return too. A loss there would likely be the end of Natal's tenure.
Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Darrell Montague via Decision
Despite the lack of a finish, this fight was my favorite undercard fight by far. Horiguchi was the aggressor throughout the fight and almost finished Montague a few times under a few barrages but was unable to do so. Some may have questioned the toughness of Montague before this fight, but no one was going to do so after watching Montague stumble to his corner after the second round. The fact that he was able to come back out for the third round was amazing enough to me and the fact that he didn't get finished there was even more so.
Horiguchi wasn't spotless in the fight as Montague put him in some submission attempts that Horiguchi shouldn't have put himself into early in the second, but he patiently found his way out and showed his hype is real. It may still be too early to say this, but Horiguchi should be taken seriously as a dark horse prospect in the flyweight division. He is only 23 and has a deep offensive arsenal that can put anyone on their heels if not finish their night early. Experience is going to be his biggest friend going forward and facing experienced opponents would be the best way for him to make the most out of that. Thats why I said earlier that I would like to see Horiguchi face off with the likes of Chris Cariaso.
Montague had a much better showing than he did in his debut against John Dodson, but still came up well short of earning the victory. There is a good possibility that he gets cut, but I hope that he gets at least one more chance in the Octagon. His heart should be unquestioned at this point as he went forward at times when he was clearly hurt and its amazing that he didn't end up going out on his shield. I'd rather see him get the loser of the Ray Borg and Ryan Benoit fight coming up as the loser of that bout would also have two losses in a row, but expect he'll get Josh Sampo instead, which works for me as well.
Zak Cummings defeated Yan Cabral via Decision
In what was a grinding affair, I thought that overall it was an entertaining bout. Cabral only had his grappling skills going for him as he was unable to get any offense going with his striking, which is what allowed Cummings to pull away with the victory in the end. To give Cabral credit, he never quit trying and was going for subs up until the closing seconds to make the fight worth watching, But Cummings was too big, strong, and crafty. It was thought that he had a good but not great ground game and that ended up being an underestimate of the TUF 17 veteran.
I could be taking this a bit too far when I say this, but Cummings may very well have saved his job. You don't exactly make the brass happy when you miss weight by 8 pounds causing the cancellation of your fight as Cummings did in his last outing. He came fully prepared this time by not only making weight, but by taking the fight to the grappling expert. He really is a massive welterweight and demonstrated perfectly that he knows what to do with that size advantage, all the more credit to him considering he spent a good chunk of his career as an undersized light heavyweight. A fight with Alex Garcia makes for an excellent gauge of where both fighters are at. I can't say I would know what to expect out of that one.
Cabral showed exactly why it isn't enough to be one-dimensional in the UFC today. He showed throughout the match that he is a fantastic grappler who is very dangerous once the fight hits the ground, but also showed rudimentary striking skills. I will give him credit for trying to throw punches at Cummings, including a spinning backfist or two, but he has a very long ways to go. The glow that he had about him as a prospect worth keeping an eye on has dissipated at this point and he'll have a hard time getting it back. Especially when one remembers he will soon be 31. TUF Brazil teammate Viscardi Andrade has been without plans for a few months now. A fight between these two makes a lot of sense right now.
I cannot believe I just typed that. This fight is the perfect example of why these fights are fought as no one saw a victory by Eduardo on the horizon. Wineland has had a hell of a chin for all of these years and was cracked only by Renan Barao. Along comes Eduardo who hasn't fought in two years and puts the hard-nosed veteran down in the first round to give the 6-to-1 underdog a very unexpected victory. Wow. In many ways this fight represented why I love this sport so damn much.
Eduardo will likely jump into the rankings with this victory as his only loss in the last 14 fights has come to highly ranked Raphael Assuncao. True, most of the names on there are mostly unknown on the Brazilian circuit... but very few have Eddie Wineland on their list. Eduardo put his boxing skills on notice too as he was able to beat Wineland at his own game. Most were expecting Eduardo to want the fight on the ground. Soon to be 36, Eduardo will want to capitalize on his upset as quick as possible to see if there is any possibility of him entering title contention. Alex Caceres has no plans and represents a different challenge than Wineland. If he can beat Caceres, he'll make a believer out of me.
Let me just start by saying that Wineland didn't look bad (which is all the more credit to Eduardo) and he just seemed to get caught. If he fights against Eduardo 10 times, he emerges victorious 9 times. But you come out on the short end sometimes even with the odds in your favor. He'll have to forget about working his way back to the title for a while now and just focus on one fight at a time. While he is sure to drop in the rankings, it shouldn't be too large of a drop. Like I said, he was looking good (light on his feet, moving in and out, crisp punches) before he was caught. Takeya Mizugaki and Francisco Rivera fight one another at the next PPV. Whoever loses makes for a perfect next opponent for Wineland.
This was a grind fest through and through and Lentz fighting his fight often means that it was a fairly boring decision. Not that I'm trying to take anything away from him. He did what he is best at by taking Gamburyan to the ground multiple times and showed that he has greatly improved on his feet. Gamburyan had the occasional spurt to keep it a fight rather than a lopsided affair (to an extent), but it was nowhere near enough to sway the judges in his favor.
I'm going to say this right away though: I grossly underestimated Nik Lentz. At 29 and with about 5 years in the UFC under his belt, I didn't think Lentz had a lot of room to improve and I was wrong. I admit that I'm largely talking about his striking which looked more polished than Gamburyan's, but he had shown issues with strong opponents in the past such as Mark Bocek. I realize that the Bocek fight was at 155 and Lentz is now at 145, but Gamburyan is a stout dude. And Lentz had zero problems dictating where the fight went. His earlier loss to Chad Mendes takes him out of title talk for now, but he could get there with patience. Dennis Siver is suspended until the end of September... which would be about the right time frame for Lentz to step back into the Octagon. It would be interesting to see what Lentz does with the kickboxer.
Gamburyan is a tough dude, but he isn't the fighter that he once was at this point. He just doesn't seem to have the same fire that once drove him. That isn't me saying that he can't still win some fights in the UFC, but if you discount his No Contest with Siver, that is two losses in a row. Some would say three as his fight with Cole Miller was contentious. Simply put, 6 of his last 7 fights have valid arguments if not definitive results that he lost. Jimy Hettes was once seen as a bright prospect, but has lost 2 of his last 3 to dim those talks. Gamburyan is a winnable veteran test for fellow judo practitioner. If nothing else it would be fun to see the judokas go at it.
Salas wasn't thought of as a KO artist and no one is going to think of him as one after putting Wall out... but he did show he has some power behind his punches and is a veteran who is aware of when to take advantage of a hurt opponent. He mixed in some takedown attempts, and even though they weren't successful, he would turn it into a clinch and get some solid elbows and knees in there as a result. Great all-around performance from Salas.
Salas has been thought of as a tough and durable fighter (despite his quick loss to Tim Means) without a lot of finishing ability and it was good to see him change that perception even if just a little bit. Don't get me wrong, no one is going to turn their head at him finishing Wall... but when your ability to finish isn't considered a strength you will take what you can get. Salas has a long way to go to get anyone to really pay attention to him as his other UFC victories (Anton Kuivanen and an over-the-hill Aaron Riley) aren't turning heads and neither is Wall. Salas seems like he is going to be a lower level gatekeeper in the division and makes for a solid choice to match up with the winner of Colton Smith and Carlos Diego Ferreira who face off at the end of June.
Wall would never have been in the UFC in the first place if an injury hadn't of occured to Andreas Stahl while preparing for a fight in Australia. This fight served as his return reward for filling in on short notice and now that the UFC has given him that, expect him to end up back on the Australian circuit. At 25 he could end up returning to the UFC in due time, but he has a lot of improvement to make before that happens.
The fight was short and sweet with the lights going out for Lapsley before the first round was out. Lapsley was trying to get the fight on the ground, but Tumenov wasn't having any of it and forced the longtime veteran to stay on his feet. Tumenov landed a number of shots that rocked Lapsley before landing a short left that brought the evening to a close for both fighters.
Tumenov did exactly what the UFC was expecting him to do... it just happened one fight later than expected. At 22, Tumenov is still very young and the UFC can be patient with him and expect a setback or two as he had in his last bout against Ildemar Alcantara without going into panic mode. He showed his patience and power against Lapsley as he didn't rush anything and waited for the openings to come to him and Lapsley presented those openings. At this point there is no reason to throw him in there with anyone the UFC has any long term plans with and derail two trains. With that in mind and going with Joe Silva's usual strategy of matching fighters coming off of wins with one another, George Sullivan would provide a beatable yet stern veteran test. Sullivan beat the hyped Mike Rhodes in his last fight.
Lapsley didn't show anything positive in this fight. It is well established that he is a grappler, but a grappler that can't get the fight to the ground isn't going to survive in the UFC very long and it seems his short ride in the promotion is coming to an end. Lapsley never had the look of one who was going to have a long-term future, but at least he was able to get his opportunity on the big stage.
Record for last Card: 5-8
Record for Year: 101-63-1