Few events have had people riding the emotional roller coaster quite like UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Silva. What was for many a dull and tedious card on paper came right out of the gate with some exciting, attention grabbing fights. The UFC's dire adherence to a preset pacing and time allotment meant that much of that attention was diverted as fans sat through 20 minute commercial and studio breaks on several occasions. This card was a battle of wills. On one side there were awesome fights, on the other side were all the little things that become bothersome about UFC telecasts. But, that's neither here nor there for my purposes.
Disclaimer Time: Had I been a gambling man, certain parts of this card would have treated me very well. Namely, the parts called Daron Cruickshank. For the most part, however, I got hammered. All of which leads me to my point about gambling and why I don't do it. I'd say I have kids to feed, but really I just have an ego I don't want crushed and a lot of financial goals that aren't centered around owing money to humorless men. So, this is all a theoretical exercise in picking for and against odds and trying to learn a little bit by doing so. If this helps one or two of you in your real pursuits to become masterful gamblers, then more's the power to you. I will be using BestFightOdds for each fight and taking the mode for each fighter.
- I know there are a few people who will pass this off as a meaningless win, based on Lapsley's performance, but I'm a firm believer in results. The results of this fight were just what I needed to see out of Tumenov. I feel that he has the potential to be one of the best, years down the line. But, if he couldn't stay upright in this fight, it might have been time to seriously re-examine that opinion.
- Still, it has to be said that Lapsley fought a terrible fight. I can't help but wonder if he saw none of Alcantara's fight against Tumenov. I know a lot of fighters watch absolutely zero film (or as close to it as possible), and whether or not that's the case here, Lapsley looked totally unprepared for Tumenov's patient, stalking pressure style.
- Where Tumenov goes from here is completely of his own accord. If he sticks to his defensive wrestling and grappling training and continues to evolve his striking he can be a really special fighter, if he rests too much on the skills he already has, he can be fun, but flawed. At the moment, the big goal is to keep winning the fights he should win. I imagine he won't be getting a huge step up next time out.
- Salas' striking really did look improved, but I'm not at all sure what that means for him going forward. He didn't just lose in his fight prior to this, he got dominated. A good win, even a dominant one like he got here, doesn't quite wipe that from my memory.
- Ben Wall may well stay in the UFC for a third fight due to his regional ties and low paycheck, but right now it's really hard to say he should. Garcia may be a man made monster, but Salas has all of three knockouts in his career before this fight. Wall has two UFC fights in two different weight classes and two lightning fast KO losses. His next fight, if it comes in the UFC, should be a long time coming and involve a lot of training and improvement.
- Of course, for Salas, the road ahead gets no easier. He's the kind of fighter I could see being a perrenial win/loss kind of guy, but it may always be about match ups. Next time out hopefully he'll get a strong test to prove weather or not he's really made some permanent adjustments to his game that he can carry from one round to the next.
- This could not have been a more prototypical Nik Lentz fight if you scripted it. Lentz looked utterly dominant for every second he was winning, and in serious trouble for every second he wasn't winning. I'm not sure how he makes that happen, and he's shown that he's able to win for more seconds that he loses, but it makes him a difficult fighter to really trust.
- Manny Gamburyan has consistently had these little flashes of technique, athleticism, and skill, that serve as reminders of the fighter he has been and can be, but the total game doesn't appear to be there anymore. He could fight lower down in the echelons of the division, but that seems kind of pointless for a fighter who's had his successes.
- Lentz, for his part, is calling for an opportunity to move up the rankings. His striking looks better, but I'm not sure he has a whole lot further up to go. The moments where he almost got dropped and where he got taken down and outworked were a pretty strong reminder that the best, most consistent fighters can handle what he has to offer.
- There were several narratives at play in this fight that fans, pundits, oddsmakers, really everyone can be forgiven for overlooking. Chief among them, however, is that MMA striking, even very good MMA striking, is not classically great striking. Really practiced, well tutored stand up fighters are going to have the advantage in an MMA fight contested only on the feet. Johnny Eduardo just had to remind us of that.
- For Eddie Wineland, it may be time to re-examine his time devoted to the sport. As a full time fire fighter, as well as a full time MMA fighter, there comes a point where being spread too thin is a factor. Wineland is athletic, skilled, and powerful, but his game hasn't changed much lately. That may be a function of not having the time to really change it.
- I have to think that the UFC gets everything they wanted here with an Eduardo win. Even if nobody saw it, they have a fighter they can now matchup with anyone in the top 10-15 in a division that badly needs fresh top ten talent. Eduardo may only go as far as his grappling takes him in future matchups, but just how far that is will be exciting to see.
- One of the lingering worries I had about Cabral, stemming from his Mitchell fight, was his inability to finish an opponent that he could obviously outgrapple. It's one of the reasons I picked against him here, and I'm now wondering if, despite his incredible technical tools, he really has the finishing ability to be a dynamic grappler in the UFC.
- Cummings may not open many eyes with his pasty midwestern build and uninspiring baldness, but all that is hiding a fighter that I really think could be a pretty decent UFC talent. He'll probably never be a great striker, but as a former light heavyweight and middleweight, he's big, powerful, and has a lethal combination of wrestling and grappling that he can use to neutralize and submit the unwary. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him slowly inch into Mike Pierce territory.
- For Cabral, this fight is his wakeup call. His win over David Mitchell is pretty much meaningless in the UFC's current welterweight landscape, and this loss puts him firmly in the "hyped BJJ guys without enough game" category. He has a good kicking game, but he needs to figure out how to integrate more skills that flow into his jiu jitsu, and he needs to get guys out of there when he gets an opening.
- Kyoji Horiguchi is pretty much the picture perfect definition of what you should look for when you say "elite prospect." Not only does he have a ton of natural athletic gifts, including speed, power, and agility, but he has a base skill set that is unique to him, that sets him apart from his peers. Moreso, he has obvious flaws that can and should be ironed out with more time. Horiguchi is good now, but he should be great in the future.
- Darrel Montague needs to get an easier fight, and he needs to take a closer look at what he's doing in the cage. He had some strong grappling exchanges with Horiguchi, by far Horiguchi's weakest area, but when those didn't materialize, Montague was more than willing to go back to working his strikes from the outside. Bad planning against a proven power striker.
- Unfortunately for Horiguchi, flyweight being what it is means that it's doubtful he gets many easy fights. Pague and Montague were decent steps up, but much of the rest of the division is guys who have a legitimate shot at being top 10 fighters. Horiguchi will have to fight tooth and nail to be among the elite.
- Rafael Natal is probably the ultimate in untrustworthy fighters at this point. When he was pressing the action in this fight he usually came out ahead, but he didn't have a distinct enough game plan for keeping the fight in his wheel house to win rounds.
- Ed Herman continues to prove that being tough as nails is enough to beat much of the UFC's middleweight division. Herman's got some power, and some wrestling, and some grappling, but mostly he just seems to refuse to get hurt or go away. Herman is basically indomitable will personified.
- Unfortunately this doesn't really do much for either fighter. We knew going in that Natal can't be trusted to win, and we knew going in that Herman is tough. I hoped that Natal would show more of those flashes of offense he's capable of, but he didn't and the result was a mess of a fight.
- The big lesson learned here for Smolka, and his fans, is that he's a really under developed wrestler, grappler, and range fighter. His biggest problem on the outside is his lack of straight punches, something which Cariaso exploited all fight. And his wrestling and grappling lack much of the nuance required to beat seasoned vets.
- Cariaso is still sort of a marvel to me at flyweight. The fact that a guy with his skill set and his body type can continue to win fights, speaks not only to the value of consistency, but also to the lack of quality range strikers among the lower ranks of 125. Cariaso, given space to work, has a very nice in and out kickboxing game. You have to brawl him to beat him.
- The next sensible fight for Cariaso is probably another young prospect. Horiguchi fought on the same card, and this would be exactly the kind of test that could show Horiguchi as a top ten fighter right now, or a fighter with a lot of gaps to fill. Otherwise, there are a few other seasoned vets lingering around that Cariaso could battle as fun showcase fights.
- Okay, okay. Anyone who picked Potts based on my recommendation, I'm sorry. I thought I saw something there that showed real potential to shock the world (or at least the parts of it that pay attention to lower tier UFC heavyweights). It turns out that while Potts may have what it takes to rule the roost on the regional circuit, Palelei is just a whole different beast.
- And Palelei really is a whole different beast. He's not gotten a lot of love, due to a less than spectacular level of competition, but Soa Palelei has been able to consistently win fights against the less spectacular masses at HW and he's been able to do it spectacularly. He needs a big step up to prove his mettle, but I won't be surprised if he can KO his way all the way to the top 10.
- There have been a few of my colleagues calling for Potts to get cut right away, and I can't say I see that. Maybe he's not ready for the UFC, that's certainly possible, but the way these divisions stay healthy is if they have a lot of guys getting fights, winning, losing, getting cage time. Potts should get another UFC fight or two, if for no other reason than to help build another rising heavyweight.
- When I pictured this fight in my head I missed one very crucial detail, Means' ability to let his opponent entirely dictate pace and range. Means is a fun fighter and against someone who's willing to take a lot of silly chances against him, he can be downright deadly. But careful fighters will always give him fits due to his unwillingness to create his own offense consistently.
- Magny really is improving a lot. This fight didn't always show it. Means put the screws to Magny a few times (that brutal knee comes to mind), but for much of the fight, Magny showed that he can stay on the outside against a powerful boxer. And that he can take over a sever disadvantage in the clinch with a superior takedown game. If he continues to progress he could put together a really nice career as a talented UFC fighter.
- All this said, it's time for Magny to continue up the ladder. Means and Umalatov represent the lower echelon of the welterweight UFC class. Magny almost beat Seth Baczynski and another matchup along those lines is what he needs right now.
Hindsight: Daron Cruickshank (+285) vs. Erik Koch (-350) (I picked Cruickshank, I was right)
- For all the apologies I offered on the Ruan Potts pick, this makes up for everything. Eric Koch matched up exceptionally poorly with Daron Cruickshank. Like so many quality range strikers, the best shot at beating him is to bully him and Koch just doesn't have a bullying style.
- It now should be clear that Cruickshank is deservedly among the best lightweight strikers. I'd argue that he's grown since his loss to Makdessi, but even if he hasn't, that's just a poor matchup for him. The big thing, and I've said this repeatedly now, is that fighters either have the skill set to beat Cruickshank or they don't. He is a fighter that will be made or broken on matchups and the right matchups could make him a star.
- It's probably too early to make any definitive statements on Erik Koch, except that he needs some time to really get to work on evolving his style. He may indeed be chinny, it's starting to look that way. And so the question is, whether or not he can make changes to account for that fact, or whether he's going to be another glass cannon?
Hindsight: Lorenz Larkin (-170) vs. Costas Philippou (+200) (I picked Larkin, I was wrong)
- I really didn't expect to see Philippou fight the way he did against Larkin. That may be the most agressive I've seen him early since Jared Hamman. Typically he needs a round or more to find his range and timing before he fires away with confidence. Anik and Florian suggested that it was possibly the lack of a takedown threat that did it. That could be it, as it's been a long time since Philippou faced a fighter that wasn't expected to stick him on his ass.
- Lorenz Larkin really looks like he solved his problem with volume striking. He came out aggressive and consistent and cracked Philippou hard early and often. Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, what he also showed in that aggression is that he's not a great combination striker. Larkin is great in ones and twos, but when he tries to sit down and throw three or four punches he gets a bit lost defensively. Philippou was more than ready to take advantage.
- It's taking some time to sort out, but the Strikeforce middleweight division is slowly falling into place. Rockhold, Kennedy, and Souza have all proven themselves to be top talents. But young guys like Larkin, who got pushed hard early in their career, may just need more time to be really competitive against the divisional elite.
- Alright, I've picked Matt Brown to win as often as not, but I may have to be done picking him to lose. Ed Herman may be tough bastard personified, but only because Matt Brown has a lot more skills than just being tough. Tough is a big part of it, but his offensive output will always be a piece of ultra-violence to treasure.
- For as wrong as I eventually was, the start of this fight looked about like I thought it would. Silva came out, found a home for some strikes with Brown's open defense and then made this a grappling battle. But Brown's grappling has evolved a lot and he was able to show a lot of skills he just hasn't had to use much in recent fights where he's largely remained upright.
- Silva's problem isn't a gas tank problem, and it may be arguably a fight IQ problem, but essentially it's a problem of pacing. He reminds me a lot of Diego Brandao, in that when he tries to be cautious and save his energy he often ends up getting frustrated and sloppy. And when he decides to throw caution to the wind he has a 50/50 chance of ultra violence where he'll either stomp someone or burn through all his energy so fast that he'll TKO himself. It's a tough place to be and it may be a nearly impossible problem to manage.
Those are my collected scratchings on UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Silva. There was a lot to learn in an event where so much went wrong for so many, and much of what I wrote seems obvious now. But as always, that's the benefit of hindsight. Until next time, when for the first time ever I'll be talking about Bellator and the aftermath of their pay-per-view, on a very special episode.