The Good, Bad and Strange from Fight Night 40

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The Good, Bad and Strange from Fight Night 40
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There are some fights that guarantee violent chaos.

That was certainly the expectation of the main event pairing between Matt Brown and Erick Silva at Fight Night 40.

Brown, the gritty Ohio native, came into Cincinnati on an impressive six-fight winning streak that drastically changed his position in the welterweight division.

Where “The Immortal” was once on the brink of unemployment after losing four out of five showings, the 33-year-old pulled one of the best “about faces” in recent memory as he began settling the opposition in brutal fashion.

The same could be said for Silva. The highly touted Brazilian prospect had shown flashes of brilliance during his relatively short time under the UFC banner as the 29-year-old dispatched four of his seven opponents in violent fashion.

Facing Brown was going to present a tremendous opportunity for the Team Nogueira fighter as he would have another chance to prove the hype surrounding him is legitimate.

A clash of aggression and a battle to move up in the welterweight ranks were the story lines heading into Fight Night 40, and it was Brown’s night to shine.

“The Immortal” lived up to his nickname once again as he overcame an early assault by Silva to surge back and secure the victory.

The Brazilian striker dropped Brown with a body kick early and took back mount looking for a choke, but the TUF alum survived and fired back with some violence of his own as he had Silva on wobbly legs at the end of the first.

The fight would go on another round and a half and was all Brown—he finally pounded out Silva with brutal shots in Round 3.

There wasn’t a ton of buzz surrounding the UFC’s return to Cincinnati in the lead up to fight night, but there was plenty of face-punching action to be had at the U.S. Bank Arena as savvy veterans held strong, and a few upstarts relished in the underdog role.

Let’s take a look at the good, bad and strange from Fight Night 40.

 

The Good

Matt Brown may have the best suited nickname in mixed martial arts today.

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There have been several times during his recent winning streak where he was hurt by shots and appeared to be ripe for the finish before he turned the tides and pulled out the victory.

On Saturday night in front of a lively home-state crowd, Brown added another impressive chapter to his impressive run as he bounced back from getting dropped early to defeat Erick Silva and earn his seventh consecutive win.

While the title hunt in the welterweight division has been somewhat up for grabs since Georges St-Pierre made his departure, Brown has made a strong case for a title shot.

Winning streaks of any variety are hard to accomplish at the highest level of the sport, yet the Columbus native has managed to put together a tear in the toughest division under the UFC banner—and has looked like a monster every step of the way.

That said, there is yet to be a name on his resume that currently resides in the upper tier of the division, and that could ultimately hurt him in his bid for a title shot.

Nevertheless, just as Brown has proven time and time again, anything that hurts him ultimately only makes him stronger.

***

Where Costas Philippou was once on the verge of becoming a contender in the middleweight fold, the momentum on that movement had grown chilly as of late.

He had a five-fight winning streak snapped by Francis Carmont last September at UFC 165, then followed that up in lackluster fashion when he was finished via liver kick by Luke Rockhold back in January.

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Coming into his bout with Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event at Fight Night 40, the 34-year-old needed more than just a win to remain relevant in the 185-pound mix—he needed to look impressive doing it.

Fortunately for Philippou he faced an opponent in Larkin who preferred to keep things on the feet, and Philippou made him pay for it. He knocked out the Riverside native with a big right hand in the first round of their tilt.

Defeating the Strikeforce veteran won’t necessarily restore the status he previously held. But it will keep the pulse alive as a player in a middleweight division that has grown more competitive than ever.

That said, there will still be more to prove where Philippou is concerned. Larkin is by all means a quality fighter, but he’s a few steps outside of the divisional elite.

The New York transplant will need at least one more solid win to get back up with the big boys at 185, and his next opponent will most likely come against someone else who is also standing on the doorstep.

***

The lightweight division is one of the most talent-rich collectives under the UFC banner and breaking through into the top level of competition is a difficult task to accomplish.

While Daron Cruickshank hasn’t quite crossed the threshold of the upper tier of the weight class, he took a strong step in that direction on Saturday night.

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The “Detroit Superstar” wrecked former featherweight contender Erik Koch and put on the best performance of his career in the process. While the two fighters took turns exchanging kicks in the early goings, it was the Michigan’s footwork that ultimately did the most damage as a left high kick laid the Roufusport fighter belly-down on the canvas.

Once Koch was wounded, Cruickshank’s killer instinct came to life as he swarmed in to finish the 25-year-old with a flurry of brutal elbows to secure the win.

With the victory, Cruickshank has now won back-to-back bouts and found success in three of his last four showings.

His win over Koch will guarantee his next opponent comes from higher up in the divisional hierarchy and will give him another opportunity to breakthrough into the deep end of the lightweight pool.

***

There is currently a lack of depth in the heavyweight ranks, and Soa Pallelei is steadily moving up the ladder. “The Hulk” picked up his third win under the UFC banner—his 11th consecutive going back to 2010—as he dominated newcomer Ruan Potts.

The Australian made short work of the South African-born fighter as he quickly moved to full mount position and planted a left hook on his opponent’s chin that left Potts staring blankly into space.

While defeating Potts won’t bring drastic changes in the level of competition for Palelei, a three-fight winning streak will certainly warrant some bigger challenges.

***

Chris Cariaso has been a staple on the bantamweight scene for years, but he’s never been able to quite get over the hump to become a title contender.

Setbacks in key fights have cost the former WEC fighter ground on several occasions, but “Kamikaze” has hung tough regardless and has been working to establish himself as a major threat in the flyweight division.

Over his past two fights the Californian has put on two of the best performances of his career, and he continued that run by defeating Louis Smolka at Fight Night 40. The San Jose native dictated the pace of the entire fight as he handed the young Hawaiian his first UFC loss.

***

The flyweight division is in need of solid talent, and Kyoji Horiguchi has officially put his name on that list.

The scrappy Japanese fighter picked up his seventh consecutive victory in a lopsided route over Darrell Montague on the preliminary portion of the card and marked a successful debut at 125 pounds in the process.

While the fight with Montague is only Horiguchi’s second showing inside the Octagon, both performances have been impressive. It will be interesting to see how quickly he moves up in the flyweight fold following his outing in Cincinnati.

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***

Zak Cummings has been building solid momentum as of late, and he kept things rolling on Saturday night by defeating Yan Cabral at Fight Night 40. The 29-year-old Texan outworked the Brazilian submission ace en route to a unanimous decision victory in Cincinnati.

The win was Cummings’ fourth straight successful showing, and his second under the UFC banner.

***

Making the most of the opportunities presented is the best way for a fighter to move up the ladder, and Johnny Eduardo certainly made the most of the biggest fight of his career.

The Brazilian not only defeated recent title challenger Eddie Wineland on Saturday night, but did so in impressive fashion as he earned a TKO victory over the Indiana native. Perhaps even more stunning is that Eduardo looked sharp after being away from the cage for nearly two years with injury.

By defeating Wineland, he made a big statement in the bantamweight ranks and will most likely draw another solid name in his next outing.

***

It wasn’t, pretty but there isn’t much Nik Lentz does inside the cage that ever is. “The Carny” has built a reputation for grinding out the opposition with his blue collar style, and that is precisely what he did to Manny Gamburyan on Saturday night.

The American Top Team product scored in some early striking exchanges, but found the majority of his success by either putting the TUF alum on the mat or pounding on him against the cage.

Lentz has now won four of his last five, and his victory at Fight Night 40 will keep him in the mix of a heated featherweight division.

***

Justin Salas needed a victory to keep his spot on the lightweight roster intact, and he delivered in a big way at Fight Night 40. “J-Bomb” put a clean left hand on Ben Wall’s chin that dropped the Australian to the canvas and opened the doors for Salas to end the fight via ground-and-pound.

With the win, Salas has now found success in three of his last five showings.

 

The Bad

In the tumultuous world of mixed martial arts, high risk/low reward fights are situations competitors have to deal with.

Just two fights back Eddie Wineland was making his bid to take the bantamweight title from Renan Barao. And on Saturday night, he was set to face an un-ranked opponent in Johnny Eduardo on the preliminary portion of the card.

Those circumstances put a chip on the shoulder of the Indiana native coming into Cincinnati as he was facing a dangerous fight that yielded very little upside with a victory.

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On the other hand, a defeat would be disastrous, and that is exactly where two right hands from Eduardo put him. The former WEC bantamweight champion was attempting to find his range when the scrappy Brazilian rocked him with a huge shot.

Wineland attempted to back out of the scuffle to regroup, but Eduardo turned up the heat and landed another crushing shot that put the Chesterton-based fighter on the canvas.

While Wineland has won three of his last five showings, his place in the hunt for the bantamweight title hunt evaporated with the loss to Eduardo. The upper tier at 135 pounds is starting to heat up, and taking an “L” against a non-top 10 fighter in the fashion he did will serve to knock him far down the ladder.

***

Although he wasn’t facing the same circumstances, Erik Koch came into Fight Night 40 with no room for error.

Where he was once slated to fight for the featherweight title against Jose Aldo back in 2012, the Roufusport fighter experienced a rough stretch that not only knocked him out of title contention at 145 pounds, but sent him packing from the division entirely.

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“New Breed” looked solid in his lightweight debut at UFC 170 back in February, but his previous track record as a featherweight was still lingering heavily over his profile.

He needed a solid win over Daron Cruickshank in Cincinnati, but just the opposite happened. The “Detroit Superstar” landed a blistering head kick that put Koch on his face then finished off the Milwaukee-based fighter with a flurry of elbows to bring an end to the fight.

While losing three of his last four will not cost Koch his job, it puts a serious dent in him being the legitimate prospect he was once thought to be. There is no doubting the Iowa native possesses talent, but he’s taken some rough beatings since returning from injury in early 2013 and his future as a UFC mainstay looks grim.

***

There are a number of dubious things a fighter can do to put their job with the UFC in jeopardy. Missing weight is a good way to upset the promotional brass and putting on a poor performance is another method to gain entry onto the express way to a pink slip.

Unfortunately for Anthony Lapsley, he showed up in both categories on Saturday night.

While the Indianapolis-based fighter eventually made the 171 pound weight limit after missing by four pounds at the official weigh-ins, “The Recipe” was on the receiving end of a trouncing issued by Albert Tumenov and will likely lose his roster spot in the coming weeks.

 

The Strange

Sometimes there are moments inside the cage that legitimize the existence of this category, and what was going on in Yan Cabral’s corner during his fight with Zak Cummings is absolutely one of those moments.

In between rounds, the Brazilian would lean back on his stool and kick his feet up on his corner man who was positioned between his legs. The position was a curious one and the fighter and his trainer repeated the process throughout every round of the 15-minute affair.

From my position cageside it was impossible to tell exactly what was going on in Cabral’s corner, and it appears that confusion was also shared by those watching at home.

***

This entry isn’t as strange as it is awesome but the beard Ben Wall rocked at Fight Night 40 was a thing of wonder. His trove of facial hair tip-toed the line between homeless and hipster and certainly deserved a mention in this category.

The "Manimal” made the right decision and abandoned the multi-colored locks he wore on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, and decided to put his focus on growing an amazing beard.

Unfortunately that brush patch wasn’t enough to protect his chin from a straight left launched by Justin Salas that left him staring up at the lights of U.S. Bank Arena. The Australian also gets solid points for shooting in for a single on the referee post-stoppage.

***

The final entry in this category has to do with the lack of buzz surrounding the card for Fight Night 40.

While Brown and Silva was by far the most interesting matchup on the ticket—both stylistically and where risk/reward were concerned—there were plenty of low-profile scraps that had the potential to deliver.

Being in Cincinnati for most of the week, there was nary a pulse on the street about the fights on Saturday. But when fight night rolled around, “Queen City’s” fighting faithful showed up with solid energy.

They were a bit slow to show up, but by the time the third fight on the card kicked off, the stands were filling up with fans hungry to see some action. I’ve been to a plethora of events all over the country, and Midwestern markets can be hit or miss. While the U.S. Bank Arena wasn’t filled to the rafters with people, the fans in attendance were a lively bunch.

Hats off to you Cincinnati….until next time.

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.

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