The UFC returns to Cincinnati for the first time in nearly seven years with another Ohioan headliner, who despite his roots faces an uphill fight on home soil.
Welterweight Matt Brown, who once trained with previous main-eventer (and Cincinnati native son) Rich Franklin, is a 2-to-1 underdog against Brazilian Erick Silva.
Do bettors know something the general public doesn’t? “The Immortal” owns a six-fight winning streak at 170 pounds – no small feat in the marquee division. Silva has hopscotched between wins and losses in seven UFC fights, though he’s garnered an incredible amount of hype for his uneven record.
The younger Silva is not only an aggressive fighter, as Brown is, but explosive and unpredictable in a way his hometown opponent isn’t. The Brazilian also owns seven wins via submission, which historically is Brown’s Kryptonite. To add to that, Brown is returning after herniating two discs in his back late this past year. Between the injury and the perhaps too-perfect setup, the money is flowing toward Silva.
It’s not unlike the odds Franklin faced when he headlined UFC 177, dubbed “Hostile Territory,” at the same U.S. Bank Arena employed for Saturday’s event, which airs on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 and streams on UFC Fight Pass. But then again, no one would dispute those lopsided lines with “Ace” squaring off with now-former champ Anderson Silva, who had pummeled him one year before to begin his reign at middleweight.
Painting Brown as a guy coming into the fight with a chip on his shoulder is a nice storyline, but if you’ve been paying attention to anything he’s said over the past few years, he’s not the type to get riled up about much of anything. The only thing that’s gotten his pulse to rise, it seems, is his status in relation to the title. Other welterweights have walked a much shorter road, while he’s been forced to beat a murderer’s row of top prospects.
Brown’s shot to put himself on another level was scratched when his injury kept him from fighting Carlos Condit at UFC on FOX 9. Silva isn’t of the same stature, but the circumstances of Brown’s return and homecoming make this bout no less important.
Silva might be the favorite, but in reality, a win for him would be a huge upset in the division.
Here are the 10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 40.
1) A fiery clash
Matt Brown (18-11 MMA, 11-5 UFC) will have spent five months on injury layoff when he steps into the cage against the busy Erick Silva (16-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who only this past fall stumbled badly with a KO loss to Dong Hyun Kim. Brown built his current streak facing opponents who were all too happy to stand with him only to be corralled and bludgeoned in the octagon. Silva is fast and sneaky when firing on all cylinders, and his ability to finish fights quickly make this a dangerous challenge for the hometown favorite. If Silva plays a smart game plan, keeping Brown at bay with his kicks and staying unpredictable between strikes and takedowns, this is his fight to win. Brown’s power and raw aggression, though, has been his calling card.
2) Second in line?
Because of his layoff, Brown took a backseat to welterweights Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley, who both advanced earlier this year with high-profile wins. Now that he’s back, the division is crowded at the top, and there are several standouts who may lay claim to the No. 1 contender spot. The winner of MacDonald and Woodley isn’t guaranteed the opportunity, but an impressive performance might change that. Then there’s Robbie Lawler, who might jump back into contention with a win over Jake Ellenberger this summer, and Dong Hyun Kim, who wowed fans with a spinning back elbow KO of John Hathaway. Point is, Brown is going to need a heck of a performance to stand out, and the best he might be able to hope for with a win is a fight that would act as a title eliminator. It sucks, but injuries are career-killers.
3) Middleweight sluggers
Constantinos Philippou (12-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) looked great against guys who played to his fistic strengths, winning five in a row before Francis Carmont exposed his wrestling weakness. A return fight with Luke Rockhold showed he wasn’t ready for top-level strikers, either, and so now he resets again against the also-flagging Lorenz Larkin (14-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC). A bum decision against Carmont aside, Larkin was listless in the cage against Brad Tavares and handed over the fight. Now, the UFC will see who wants to stay a serious threat in the middleweight class, and who wants to move on.
4) Kickboxing showcase
Now established back in the lightweight class, onetime featherweight contender Erik Koch (14-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is working his way up the division after dispatching Rafaello Oliveira. In a matchup favorable to his striking skill set, he gets a meeting with Daron Cruickshank (14-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC), who offers an unpredictable standup attack that will either showcase his technical skills or leave him with a stoppage loss. Of course, the two could point fight their way to a decision, but something about the mixture of Cruickshank’s loose and easy style with Koch’s straight lines seems to promise a stoppage.
5) “Dirty Bird” returns
Welterweight Tim Means (20-5-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) flamed out of the UFC quickly with back-to-back losses in his first UFC stint. But if you watched him dismantle veteran Pete Spratt and Artenas Young, he looked a whole lot more like someone who should be in the big show. Of course, fans will find out if he really has turned things around or simply has a good manager. Opponent Neil Magny (9-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) hasn’t looked like much of a world beater and has only been able to best entry-level octagon competition. If Means can’t get by this one, he might be headed back to the regional circuit sooner than expected.
6) “The Hulk” skulks
Heavyweight Soa Palelei (20-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) recently redeemed himself from an abominable return to the UFC via snoozer, pounding out Pat Barry in the first round this past December. He now welcomes the first veteran of Africa’s EFC promotion to reach the UFC, Ruan Potts (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who held the title in the international promotion but hasn’t faced any top-level competition. Palelei, on the other hand, has had a long career interspersed with wins over UFC veterans. Coupled with the nerves Potts is bound to experience, this could be Aussie Palelei’s time to cut some highlight-reel material.
7) Worthy of a Wikipedia page?
You might forgive all but the most hardcore fans for missing Louis Smolka (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in his UFC debut, but if you caught it, you saw an exciting blend of high-level striking and grappling ability that drew raves from the MMA media. The young Hawaiian passed the test of beating a grappler when he outpointed Alptekin Ozkilic, and now he gets the chance to prove he’s a more technical striker than Chris Cariaso (16-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC), who is always game for a good scrap. This flyweight bout should be fast and furious.
8) Former Tachi champ’s reboot
Darrell Montague (13-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) didn’t live up to his promise in his UFC debut, getting knocked out by onetime title challenger John Dodson at UFC 166. But the former Tachi Palace champ’s resume still holds promise, with his only three losses coming to UFC vets Dodson, Ian McCall and Robbie Peralta. He’s racked up several knockouts after setbacks, and former Shooto champ and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto training partner Kyoji Horiguchi (12-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) would be a good way to redeem himself.
9) Wineland continues comeback
Onetime bantamweight title challenger Eddie Wineland (21-9-1 MMA, 3-3 UFC) got back to business with a TKO over Yves Jabouin, and he’s hungry for a rematch with champ Renan Barao. Against Johnny Eduardo (26-9 MMA, 1-1 UFC), a Brazilian fighter with an uneven record, he is a favorite to win, and probably win impressively.
10) Lentz on the mend
Former lightweight Nik Lentz (24-6-2 MMA, 8-3-1 UFC) picked up a trio of high-profile wins as a featherweight only to be stopped by onetime title challenger Chad Mendes. Now, the former grinder puts his wrestling skills to the test against Manny Gamburyan (13-8 MMA, 4-6 UFC), who squeaked by Cole Miller before losing a decision to Dennis Siver that was overturned when Siver tested positive for a PED. Gamburyan reportedly has been focusing more on his judo roots, which might pay dividends in a ground fight. But he’s also not safe against Lentz, who’s a better striker than most give him credit for.
For more on UFC Fight Night 40, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.