UFC Fight Night 40: Preliminary Card Predictions
The UFC returns after a weekend off with UFC Fight Night 40. Live from Cincinnati, the card features a number of prospects and potential main carders, as well as a few former title challengers and veterans.
The card is headlined by welterweight contenders Matt Brown and Erick Silva, who go to battle in an attempt to move closer to the top 10. Both are explosive strikers who could make the main event a Fight of the Night contender.
Lately, my prelim picks have gotten more on track. After a near-.500 start to the year of 2014, I have righted the ship a bit as the margins spread out for the better.
With that, let's take a look at this set of prelims and make some predictions on each fight.
2014 Riley's Record: 51-35
Last Event: UFC 172 (4-1)
Albert Tumenov vs. Anthony Lapsley
We kick off the card on UFC Fight Pass in the welterweight division, as 22-year-old Russian Albert Tumenov looks for a win in his sophomore appearance against scrappy American vet Anthony Lapsley.
Tumenov is a headhunter with lethal punches and kicks that have put eight of his 12 opponents away. He debuted against the tough veteran Ildemar Alcantara, dropping a very close decision that could have gone either way.
If he can sprawl and brawl with Lapsley, he will be successful here. Tumenov is the vastly superior striker, especially from a distance, and wants to avoid a grappling match with Lapsley.
Lapsley is a wrestler with great submission skills, as evidenced by his 16 career tapout victories. He was also defeated in his UFC debut, falling on the short end of a decision against now-lightweight Jason High.
If he can cautiously close the distance on Tumenov without getting tagged by one of his jaw-rattling strikes, he can ground him and wear on him. However, if he keeps his chin exposed, Tumenov will tag him and bag him.
Prediction: Tumenov def. Lapsley via TKO
Justin Salas vs. Ben Wall
Up next are the lightweights, as Australian Ben Wall comes to the USA to take on grinder Justin Salas.
Wall was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes, where he was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual finalist Colin Fletcher. He showed great toughness but was outhustled in every way by "Freakshow." He was not invited back to the UFC until he won again in the regionals.
He took a short-notice bout against Alex Garcia, who quickly mauled Wall and took him out with extreme prejudice. One has to believe this is his last chance to impress the bosses and earn a win.
Salas is a wrestler who has failed to find a good flow in the UFC. He is 2-2 with the company, alternating between wins and losses.
He has earned close decisions over both Anton Kuivanen and Aaron Riley, but both Tim Means and Thiago Tavares finished him in the first round. He will need to use his wrestling here to hold down Wall and beat him up.
Wall is in the UFC because he is Australian. That's pretty much the extent of it. Salas is better everywhere and should be able to control this fight wherever it goes.
Prediction: Salas def. Wall via decision
Manvel Gamburyan vs. Nik Lentz
Rounding off the Fight Pass prelims are the featherweights, as former WEC title contender Manvel Gamburyan takes on Nik Lentz.
Lentz is a wrestler who has revitalized his career since moving to the featherweight division. Since the drop, he has gone 3-1, beating the likes of Eiji Mitsuoka, Diego Nunes and Hacran Dias.
He has improved his striking, which in turn has improved his already polished takedown offense. Grinding on Gamburyan would be a smart strategy, as he can keep the judoka from throwing heaters.
Gamburyan is a power-punching judo fighter who is tough as nails and never quits. He could arguably be 1-4 in his last five fights, had the judges correctly given Cole Miller the decision in Boston and Dennis Siver not failed a drug test.
Lentz showed in his bout with Chad Mendes that he can hang on the feet if he can't get the takedown. However, he will be able to take down Gamburyan and snag a win here.
Prediction: Lentz def. Gamburyan via decision
Eddie Wineland vs. Johnny Eduardo
Kicking things off on the Fox Sports prelims are the bantamweights, as former title challenger Eddie Wineland takes on Brazilian Johnny Eduardo.
Wineland earned a title shot after two dominating performances against Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett. However, after a solid first round against Renan Barao, Wineland was downed by a huge spinning kick and finished.
Luckily, he came back in his most recent bout against Yves Jabouin, whom he dominated thoroughly. Wineland will likely use his boxing and granite chin to control the tempo against Eduardo.
Eduardo is a striker who is coming off a two-year layoff. He has good submission skills as well, as he works with Nova Uniao. He will be at a big disadvantage here, as he has not competed in a while.
Wineland is better anywhere the fight might go. He is also tough as nails. He may get tagged, but it won't faze him, as he will outwork and eventually finish Eduardo.
Prediction: Wineland def. Eduardo via submission
Yan Cabral vs. Zak Cummings
Next up are the welterweights, as Brazilian submission specialist Yan Cabral takes on late-replacement American Zak Cummings. Cabral was initially slated to fight Alexander Yakovlev before the matchups were shuffled.
Cabral is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who was on TUF Brazil 2. He was injured before he could win the tournament but came back to win in his UFC debut against David Mitchell. It was the first time he ever went to a decision.
His go-to move is the arm-triangle choke. He can easily pass through a defender's defenses and find a submission, as seen in 10 of his 11 wins.
Cummings is a wrestler who is coming off a disastrous weight cut that saw his bout against Alberto Mina get cancelled. He came in eight pounds heavy, which forced the fight to be called off.
He is 1-0 in the UFC, as he choked out Ben Alloway in his premiere. He needs to keep this fight upright if he wants to be successful against the Brazilian.
Someway, somehow, Cabral always gets the fight to the ground. From there he is a master technician. He should be able to force a ground fight with Cummings and tap him out for his second win.
Prediction: Cabral def. Cummings via submission
Darrell Montague vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
The flyweights are due to battle next, as Japanese star Kyoji Horiguchi takes on Darrell Montague in both men's respective sophomore outings.
Montague is a submission wrestler who owns victories over the likes of Mamoru Yamaguchi and Ulysses Gomez. He is a powerful fighter who ran into a buzz saw in his UFC premiere, falling victim to a knockout at the hands of title contender John Dodson.
Montague should be given a mulligan for that one, as that is an extremely difficult UFC debut to make. However, he needs to make this fight his fight by dragging Horiguchi to the mat and working his top game.
Horiguchi makes his drop to flyweight after a successful debut at 135 pounds. The Japanese headhunter shook off Octagon jitters early against Dustin Pague, eventually earning a second-round stoppage from huge ground-and-pound.
If Horiguchi can keep this upright, he has a great chance of lighting Montague up on the feet. However, Montague's pursuit of the takedown is tough to stave off, and he should be able to ground the Japanese fighter consistently.
Prediction: Montague def. Horuguchi via decision
Ed Herman vs. Rafael Natal
The feature bout on the preliminary card takes place in the middleweight division, as American Ed Herman looks to defend his home country against Brazilian Rafael Natal.
Herman has been with the UFC since the TUF 3 days, spanning back to 2006. However, he has competed just seven times since 2011, as a severe knee injury kept him on the shelf for nearly two years between 2009 and 2011.
He is a submission fighter, though he can definitely handle himself on the feet. Unless he can gain top position and keep it with Natal, he should look to bang on the feet in this fight.
Natal has greatly improved his stand-up as of late, though it should be noted he is still a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. After a three-fight win streak on the lower end of the division, Natal took on Top 10 middleweight Tim Kennedy in his last fight and was promptly put unconscious by a big meat hook of a punch.
On the feet, this will be close, though I trust Herman's hands more. On the ground, it's a matter of who gets top position. Herman has more tools here and should win a close one.
Prediction: Herman def. Natal via decision