The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts has been providing the most in-depth coverage that mixed martial arts has seen in its 20 years of existence.
With a collection of seasoned fight veterans and a handful of well-versed hosts at the helm, the people who work the pre- and post-fight shows for the UFC have consistently raised the bar.
The "Dropping Knowledge" series has been under way for several months now, and there have definitely been some standout performances thus far on the journey. The rotating cast from the team at Fox Sports 1 has brought the proverbial noise on a consistent basis, breaking down fight cards from Brazil to China and back to the United States.
For this latest installment, two seasoned veterans inside the cage and behind the analyst desk have teamed up to take a look at this weekend's event for Fight Night 40. Michael Bisping and Dominick Cruz have dropped by the column to break down the action that will take place this Saturday night in Cincinnati.
After winning Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter, "The Count" has risen to become one of the most polarizing figures on the UFC roster. The brash Brit has been a staple in the elite level of the middleweight division for the past six years and has remained one of the biggest draws in the 185-pound ranks over that stretch. While a severe eye injury hampered his cage time in 2013, the 35-year-old made solid ground as an analyst during that time, becoming a regular on the pre- and post-fight shows on Fox Sports 1.
When it comes to breaking down the technical aspects of the fight game, there may be no stronger weapon on the Fox Sports 1 team than Cruz. The Team Alliance member is a natural behind the desk as he boils down the chaotic storm inside the cage in a manner that is easy to absorb.
"The Dominator" rose to the top of the bantamweight ranks and broke through onto the pound-for-pound scene behind a unique movement-based style, and his insights of how things unfold inside the Octagon are second to none.
This is what Bisping and Cruz had to say about the card for Fight Night 40.
Bleacher Report: As always, let's get started by taking a look at the main event on the card. This weekend at Fight Night 40 we will see surging contender Matt Brown put his six-fight winning streak on the line against highly touted prospect Erick Silva. Both men bring aggressive styles into the cage, yet those styles are very different. How do you see this matchup playing out from a stylistic standpoint?
Michael Bisping: I think we are headed for fireworks because of how aggressive these two fighters are. Look what happened in the fight between Brian Stann and Wanderlei Silva. You have two amazing fighters, neither willing to take a step back, and it turned into one of the rawest displays of aggression I've ever seen. If this fight is anything like that one, then we are in for a treat.
Matt Brown never takes a backward step, always comes forward and hits hard. Erick Silva is known for the same things, so I think we are in for something special on Saturday night.
B/R: Silva uses his movement in a much different fashion than Brown, and footwork is something you are both familiar with. Dominick, in what ways do you see Silva's aggression differ from the man he is fighting on Saturday?
Dominick Cruz: Silva's aggression is different from Brown's because Brown is always coming forward. That is his aggression. He's not aggressive going backward, and Silva is a guy who can fight going either way. He has tricky, offset left and right hooks that he throws, but more than anything, it has been proven that both of these guys are most efficient when moving forward. I think the thing that is going to dictate this fight is going to be which one of these guys can get that step on the other and who pushes who back first.
Erick Silva is one of those guys where if he gets off to an early start and an early rhythm, he'll put you out in one round. Matt Brown is more of a grinder. He likes to punch and knee to the body and wear you down until he gets that finish. That makes for a very exciting fight, especially since Brown is one of those guys who can take some punishment. If anyone can take punishment and keep coming it is that guy. He's a stud and has a strong spirit. He doesn't give up. He doesn't care what you do to him because he knows he's going to hurt you.
B/R: Matt Brown has a huge winning streak and has continued to make a strong case for title contention with every step. That said, this pairing seems a bit strange to me. Silva isn't ranked in the Top 10, and if Brown does defeat him at Fight Night 40, it won't catapult him to the front of the line for a title shot. On the other hand, should Silva win, it would serve to put a major boost in his stock. This seems like one of those high-risk, low-reward scenarios for Brown and a dangerous situation.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
MB: That is just the way it goes sometimes. If you haven't got the title shot yet, you have to keep fighting, and every time you fight, you run the risk of losing your winning streak. If Matt Brown wins this fight, he should be looking at a title shot or a No. 1 contender spot in my opinion. But if he loses, that is all out the window. That is just the way it goes when you are a fighter. Every time you go in there, your career is on the line.
DC: Every fight in the UFC is a dangerous fight...plain and simple. I've always wondered how in mixed martial arts people think any one fight is more dangerous than others when the bottom line is almost just risk and reward you are looking at. What kind of reward does he get for beating an Erick Silva? Well, Matt Brown gets exactly what he needs in a solid name on his resume. He's already the underdog in this fight, which means he has something to prove, even though from his last performance, he shouldn't have anything to prove.
It's interesting because you have to break down what they are going to do in the fight and see what is going to happen.
B/R: The middleweight division is more stacked than it has been in years, and there is a batch of hungry guys looking to break through into the next tier of the weight class. Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin are both in that club, but due to each having suffered a loss in their most recent bout, they are scrapping to hold their respective positions. Is this one of those fights where the winner remains close to the next level and the loser possibly gets reshuffled for the foreseeable future?
MB: I think that it is accurate to say that. Philippou had a five-fight winning streak at one time, but now he's lost two in a row. If he loses to Lorenz this weekend, that would make three straight, and that would put him in a tough place. I don't think the UFC should cut him in that case, but he would certainly be in danger of that happening.
Lorenz Larkin obviously lost his last fight to Brad Tavares, but he's very hungry to get back into the win column. He's really looking to show the world he belongs in the Top 10, so really be looking for Lorenz to come out fighting like a man possessed on Saturday night. He really needs to show that he can pull the trigger when he needs to. I think he'll be a lot more aggressive and will be looking for the stoppage.
DC: I'm not really a matchmaker—I'll let those guys do that job—but everyone in the UFC needs to step up. When they are doing so many shows, they need guys who are ready to step up and become champions or No. 1 contenders. They need guys who are ready to be top five. Guys need to take the challenge and jump in there and win. I think that is what this fight represents. It represents giving guys shots to move up in the 185-pound division and make a run at the title.
I love how big these shows are getting because it is giving guys who may be a bit lower in the rankings the opportunity to move up super-fast because of the amount of shows and the amount of athletes we have fighting. The sport is waiting for new stars to emerge, and I think this is one of those fights where a new star could come out of it.
B/R: This bout is a matchup between two fighters who prefer to keep the action on the feet. Both men are strikers—albeit much different ones—but do either of you see a scenario where this fight plays out on the ground?
DC: The problem in this fight is you have a guy who kicks and punches versus a guy who only punches. That right there already has Philippou short a weapon. You have to wonder what Larkin is going to do to keep Philippou from punching him, and what is going to happen the other way around?
Philippou needs to eat a kick then fire something back right off the bat when Larkin kicks him because if he allows Larkin to set into a rhythm with his strikes and put together combinations, he's going to be firing with two more weapons than Philippou ever really uses. He never really ever throws a kick at all, and that is because he likes to be in a position to stuff a takedown.
He isn't going to have to worry about a lot of takedown attempts from a guy like Larkin, and that will also allow him to set his feet a bit more and land some heavier punches. Unless both of these guys look for takedowns, we are going to see a brawl in the middle of the cage where someone is going to get knocked out.
MB: Lorenz has a very diverse and complete striking game. He's also very difficult to take down. If I were Costas Philippou's coach, I would be pointing out that when people have defeated Lorenz, it has been because they have been able to take him down, but Lorenz isn't easy to take down. I think Costas will try to work that game plan, but if he doesn't make it happen, he will go back to fighting on his feet.
It is very tiring when you are working to take someone down and you aren't successful. You waste so much energy for nothing. He will probably try to take Larkin down but abandon that route shortly into the fight.
B/R: Another exciting fight on this card is set to go down between Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank. Both guys have entertaining styles and bring the fight every time out. This fight seems to be an early favorite for Fight of the Night honors, and do either of you see any way this matchup isn't electric?
MB: I think this is a great stylistic matchup and has Fight of the Night written all over it. Both of these guys always turn up to fight, and they both possess solid knockout power. They both like to use a lot of kicks, and they are both very aggressive. I think it's going to be great, and I can't wait for this fight.
DC: This fight could definitely take Fight of the Night honors because both Koch and Cruickshank are entertainers before they are looking to just win fights. At least that is what it seems like when you watch their fights. When you watch their fights, it doesn't look like they are going out there just looking to get the win; they are going out there to put on a show before anything else. I think they are just going to throw down in there. I think we'll see some flashy stuff, and I believe someone is going down in this fight. I think someone is going to sleep.
B/R: Many fighters have dropped a weight class in an attempt to reinvigorate their careers, but we rarely see a fighter move up in weight to do so. Where Koch was once scheduled to fight Jose Aldo for the featherweight title, he had a tough run at 145 pounds and decided to jump up into lightweight waters. While he won his first showing at 155 pounds, his fall from grace in the featherweight ranks is still very much attached to his name.
Does his previous situation at 145 pounds amplify his first few steps in his new weight class?
MB: The trend with fighters is typically to go down a weight class, but Koch obviously feels like he lost some power cutting all that weight. I know when I decided to fight at 185 I was going to have to sacrifice some muscle to make that weight. Generally I walk around anywhere from 205 to 215, so that is a solid amount of weight to cut just to get down to 185. Koch feels like he's losing some of that strength and explosiveness that fighting at featherweight and decided to go back up to lightweight, and I'm sure it is the right decision for him.
Just because you change weight classes doesn't mean you eradicate previous losses. Those losses still stand there, but you have to do what is necessary to get things back on track. Koch has the potential to put on a great fight on Saturday and could potentially regenerate his career.
DC: I agree that your losses follow you, but when a fighter moves up a weight class, they are typically trying to find the best fit for their body. A lot of guys move because they believe the reason they lost is because they didn't feel right.
Jeremy Stephens is a friend and teammate of mine, and he and Koch are both from Iowa. I've seen some pictures of Koch, and that guy gets huge. Erik can get enormous and puts on a lot of weight really fast, which tells me he's already a naturally strong guy. It is probably very tough for him to make 145. He probably figures he lost a couple of fights at 145 and doesn't have anything to lose by going up to 155.
He won't have to cut as much, and he'll probably be trying to see how much power he's going to keep and try to knock someone out at that weight class. And he's done it. I think we are going to see his confidence grow with every fight at lightweight and are going to see some good things from him in there. Whether his losses are erased or not is irrelevant. You are only remembered by your last fight—and the last fight from him I remember—he knocked someone out pretty bad.
B/R: One thing on this card I found strange for Fight Night 40 is the matchup and card placement of Eddie Wineland. Two fights ago, he faced Renan Barao for the bantamweight title—and while he lost via stoppage, he bounced back to drub Yves Jabouin in his next outing. On Saturday night, he will be facing an opponent who is nowhere near him in the rankings and name recognition in Johnny Eduardo and will be fighting on the low end of the prelims on Fox Sports 2.
Wineland told UFC.com he initially wasn't happy with the matchup, but he's a veteran and is going to show up and do what he has to. Do either of you agree this is a strange situation for Wineland to be in?
DC: To be honest, who cares what I think? Who cares what I think is weird and what isn't? It's already been stated and planned. The UFC has a plan for everything they do. I'm going to go ahead and assume the matchmakers have a reason they put Wineland there against Eduardo. They are either trying to build Eduardo or build Wineland. Either way, Wineland has proven how good he is. I think they are going to both do just fine in this fight.
When it all comes down, we are fighters...that's it. We just fight. At some point you just have to look at your job and do it. I think Wineland has plenty of experience in this sport to understand that. Whether he's happy with the position or not, you're going to see the best Wineland you can get.
MB: I know he wasn't thrilled about his positioning on the card. It wasn't long ago he was fighting for the title, and now he's pretty far down on this card, but it's a tough sport. Another fight on the card that is in a similar position is the bout between Rafael Natal and Ed Herman. Natal was in the main event of his last fight, everyone is familiar with Ed Herman since his days on TUF 3, and they are all the way down on the Fox Sports 2 prelims.
The sport of mixed martial arts is great, but it is a cruel mistress. One minute you experience success, then the next you are dwindling in the rankings and going down low on the card with a loss. It's a tough mistress, indeed.
B/R: I know you guys both do a good amount of research in the lead-up to the cards you cover. Is there a fighter or a particular matchup you believe fans should pay extra attention to on Saturday night?
MB: I think the fight between Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank is certainly one to look out for. The hardcore fans will know who they are, but I hope the new fans pay attention to this fight as well. I have been researching them for the past week and have thoroughly enjoyed watching all their fights. If you haven't seen these guys fight, make sure you tune in on Saturday night for a great show.
DC: I do like that Koch vs. Cruickshank fight a lot. We are going to see a lot of technical things, and we are going to see two completely different striking styles meet inside the cage. And that is rare. Most of the time you see guys throw the same basic stuff. Both of these guys have a lot of trickiness in their striking, and it's going to make for a lot of excitement. Fans need to keep an eye out for that fight.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.