Today there will be 6 fights on Fox Sports 1, headlined by Erick Silva facing off against Matt Brown. Brown landed this fight after an injury kept him from fighting Carlos Condit in December. Brown is riding a 6 fight winning streak with 5 finishes by KO or TKO in that streak. Describing himself as a technical brawler, it is clear that Brown will not look to score points to win a decision, he will be looking to finish Erick Silva every minute of every round until someone is unconscious or unable to continue. Silva might not have the winning streak that Brown has, as he is 3-3 in his last 6 fights, but the first loss came by way of a controversial disqualification due to blows to the back of the head during a TKO win, and the 2 losses came to Jon Fitch and Dong-Hyun Kim, who both are, or were, rightfully ranked in the top 10 of the welterweight division. While Brown is ranked at number 7, he has never beat anyone that has been rightfully ranked in the top 10, and the losses that Silva experienced recently might not be entirely representative of his time in the UFC since his quality of opponents as of late has been greater than Brown's.
Silva also likes to look for the finish on the feet much like Brown does, but with his black belts in judo and BJJ, he will have no problem exploiting Brown's deficiency on the ground, as Brown has lost 9 fights by submission. Silva usually looks for submissions after hurting his opponents on the feet, and this is a strategy that he will likely stick to against Brown. Brown will look to avoid the ground and secure his 19th win by (T)KO. Since all fights start on the feet, there will likely be some heavy exchanges on the feet early, and with the mutual desire to brawl and Brown's superior technical ability while brawling, he will likely be able to hurt Silva early. Silva tends to make technical mistakes when looking for the finish on the feet, and while this works against many opponents, it won't work against the upper-echelon of the division. Silva learned this lesson the hard way when he lost to Dong-Hyun Kim by knockout, and he will likely learn this same lesson against Brown in the second round.
When taking a quick glance at this card after the main and co-main events, it is evident that the UFC is not ordering this card too much by the quality or ranking of fighters, but is more concerned with putting exciting fighters who are likely to finish fights on the main card, with a couple guaranteed finishers who are overmatched on the prelim card as well.
In the co-main event, Costas Philippou will face off against Lorenz Larkin to see who will take the next step up the ladder of the crowded middleweight division. Philippou is coming off losses to Francis Carmont and Luke Rockhold after riding a 5 fight win streak before those setbacks. Larkin is 1-2 in his UFC career after transitioning over from Strikeforce, where he only had 1 setback that was ruled a no-contest after his opponent failed a drug test. Philippou and Larkin have had 1 common opponent within the past year, and they both came up short in decision losses to Carmont. Rockhold is ranked in the top 5 of the division and has been on a tear as of late with the exception of a knockout loss to arguably the number one contender Vitor Belfort. Brad Tavares, who beat Larkin in January, was on a lengthy winning streak against lower-tier opponents before losing to Yoel Romero in April. Despite coming off a recent 1st round TKO loss, Phillipou should not be overlooked because has faced a higher level of opponents recently and will look to learn from the Rockhold fight.
Both Phillipou and Larkin love to stand and strike, have the majority of their wins by KO or TKO, and only Phillipou has a lone win by submission. This fight will either end in a knockout, TKO or a decision resulting from the mutual ability to withstand punishment on the feet. Only Phillipou owns a single TKO loss, and this suggests that both fighters will be able to take punishment and keep throwing shots for the full 15 minutes. I think Phillipou's boxing experience will make the difference in this fight, and I see him taking a decision win after being able to land and avoid more shots than Larkin.
The fourth bout on the main card will see Erik Koch facing Daron Cruickshank. Koch is working his way up the ranks of the lightweight division after losing the chance of fighting for the title at featherweight due to injury, and moving up a weight class due to difficulty cutting weight. Cruickshank holds a 4-2 record in the UFC. He is slowly working his way up after fighting on the Ultimate Fighter Season 15. Koch always looks to finish a fight early, and has finished 11 of his 14 wins. Cruickshank has 8 knockout wins mostly outside of the UFC, but with 5 wins by decision, it is unlikely that he can put Koch away. Koch on the other hand, has fought top opponents at featherweight, and some have left the division and moved to bantamweight after feeling his power. Koch will only show improved power and conditioning at lightweight after being at featherweight for so long, and will use this new found advantage to finish the fight via strikes in the second round.
In the third fight on the main card Neil Magny will face Tim Means in the welterweight division. It puzzles me why this fight is so high on the card, as neither fighter is ranked, Magny is 1-2 in his last 3 and Means is coming back to the UFC after a two fight win streak in Legacy FC made Joe Silva and Dana White overlook his 2 fight skid in his last UFC appearances that earned him a pink slip. On top of that, Magny is not a finisher, and has the majority of his wins coming by grinding decisions. Needless to say, myself and many others are not overly excited for this bout, but there is some intrigue since Means has 15 wins by knockout. With Means' inability thus far to win big fights in the UFC, I see this trend continuing, and Magny capitalizing on that to grind out a decision win, likely coming in rather unexciting fashion.
The second fight on the main card will feature heavyweights Soa Palelei and Ruan Potts. Potts is making his UFC debut and Palelei is coming off of 2 straight wins by KO and TKO in the UFC, and 8 wins by KO or TKO before entering into the UFC. Potts is 8-1 in his career with 4 KO/TKO wins and 4 submission wins, but it is going to be hard to pick him to win this bout since Palelei has at least a 20 lbs. weight advantage over Potts, which could be even more significant if he cut any weight for this bout. Potts may be a little bit quicker, but based on his 100% finishing rate he will look to bring it to Palelei and when he is in close enough to be hit, Palelei will knock him out cold within the first round.
Chris Cariaso will face Louis Smolka in the flyweight division to start off the main card. This bout will guarantee a lot of fast paced, technical action, as does almost any fight in the flyweight division. Cariaso is 3-2 at flyweight and will look to win his third straight fight against Smolka, and Smolka is debuting in the UFC with a 7-0 with 6 finishes. There is always considerable uncertainty in the outcome of fights with debuting fighters because the quality of opponents in the UFC is generally greater than other organizations since the UFC has so many of the top fighters on the roster, and the infamous “octagon jitters” can have a big effect mentally, sometimes changing the strategy, aggression and cardio of the debuting fighter for the worst. While I don't see either of these 2 factors being detrimental for Smolka, I don't have enough evidence to pick him over Cariaso, and I can see Cariaso winning a fast paced decision to start off the main card.
I want to briefly discuss some of the prelim fights that have some implications on the future of the divisons that the fights will take place in. Ed Herman and Rafael Natal are facing off in the final prelim bout on Fox Sports 2 before the main card on Fox Sports 1 kicks off, and both fighters need a win to ensure they will stay employed, based on the UFC's recent tendency to cut fighters on a downswing. Natal is coming off a first round knockout loss to Tim Kennedy in the main event of the Fight for the Troops 3 event, and was on a 3 fight winning streak before then. Herman is 1-2 with 1 no contest in his last 4 bouts, and his lone win came by split decision over Trevor Smith. Both Herman and Natal have the majority of their wins by submission, with a combined 21 submission wins between the two of them. With 2 submission artists facing off the bout will likely be won in another way, since submission defense is a big part of the submission game, and I think Natal will take a decision win over Herman.
Eddie Wineland, ranked fourth in the bantamweight division, is facing unranked Johnny Eduardo in the first bout of the prelims. I have no idea why this bout is so early in the card, Wineland could easily be given a stronger opponent and one of the top spots on the main card, and the only possible reason I can see that makes sense of this order is the UFC wants to have a dominant finish start off the TV prelims. Wineland has 1 win after losing to Renan Barao in a fight for the interim bantamweight title, and there isn't a thing that I can see Eduardo offering in this bout that will beat Wineland outside of maybe his Nova Uniao submission game if the fight gets to the ground. Wineland will look to knock Eduardo out and avoid the ground while Eduardo is conscious, but I don't see Eduardo lasting the first round and I think Wineland will score a knockout or TKO very early in the fight.
Nik Lentz will fight Manny Gamburyan on the last fight of the UFC fight pass prelims right before the TV prelims will kick off. This is another bout that I can't easily justify airing on the subscription-only UFC fight pass, and the UFC must be looking to put this fight on their subscription network to have a somewhat well known and ranked fighter in Lentz draw some interest in paying the $10 per month. Gamburyan has been inconsistent in the UFC, going 2-3 with 1 no contest in his last 6, and with Lentz having a 3-1 record after dropping down to featherweight with his lone lost coming by decision to number one contender Chad Mendes, it isn't too hard to pick Lentz in this bout. I see Lentz beating Gamburyan, and I see this bout going the distance.
What are your thoughts on the fights set to air on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and UFC Fight Pass tonight? Please comment below with any ideas and feedback.