That’s right boys and girls, we’re heading back to Cincinnati for another award winning edition of the Downes Side! There’s always a certain amount of pressure that comes along with making predictions, and while I’m clearly knowledgeable and well spoken, people tend to look at “results” as the sole indicator of proficiency. Regardless of how this week’s event turns out, at least I’ll know my predictions couldn’t possibly be as bad as Cincinnati-style chili.
No matter your chili con carne preferences, be prepared to enjoy UFC Fight Night Cincinnati live from the U.S. Bank arena in...you know where. The main event of the evening pits two welterweights trying to position themselves in the upper echelon of the 170-pound division as Matt “The Immortal” Brown takes on Erick Silva. In the co-main event of the night, middleweights Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin try to rebound from recent setbacks. Skyline may max out their chili at five-way, but with tonight’s slate of fights we’re going six ways!
CHRIS CARIASO VS. LOUIS SMOLKA
The main card opens up in the flyweight division with Chris Cariaso and Louis Smolka. A nine-fight UFC veteran, “Kamikaze” Cariaso comes into tonight with a two-fight win streak. A kickboxer first and opportunistic grappler second, Cariaso attacks in well-timed combinations. Louis “Da Last Samurai” Smolka steps inside the Octagon for the second time after a successful debut in January against Alptekin Ozkilic. Not only does he have a lot of power in his hands, we know he’s smart because he knows how to avoid paying Tom Cruise royalty fees.
Da Last Samurai may have da power advantage (Cariaso has only finished one UFC opponent), but his striking defense does have gaps. Even in his losses, Cariaso has been able to outland his opponents on the feet. He has a great sense of range that not only allows him to time his strikes, but also avoid absorbing unnecessary damage. Expect Cariaso to bounce in and out, tag Smolka and then circle back to da middle of da cage. Smolka just needs to connect with one punch to change da momentum, but he’ll drop da unanimous decision.
SOA PALELEI VS. RUAN POTTS
We move from the lightest guys on the roster to the heaviest for Soa Palelei and Ruan Potts. Undefeated in his last ten fights, Soa “The Hulk” Palelei has never seen the judges’ scorecards. A hard hitter who loves to bring the ground and pound, The Hulk also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Potts’s wins are evenly split between knockouts and submissions, and he has a variety of different ways to attack. Nicknamed “Fangzz,” he possesses so much power that it couldn’t be contained in one z. Seeing that the letter z is equivalent to like five s’s, that’s a lot of power.
You can only make a first impression once, and bad ones are hard to overcome. That’s why I never really got into Soulja Boy, and fans haven’t embraced Soa Palelei. His UFC return in 2013 was admittedly sloppy, but he went into that fight with a fractured rib and still pulled out the TKO win. Potts has the athletic ability to do things in the heavyweight division, but he’s outmatched here. He’s never faced someone with Palelei’s abilities and he’ll struggle with the talent gap. The Hulk comes in, gets the takedown and smashes his way to a first round TKO. Remember, even David Bowie flopped his first time out.
NEIL MAGNY VS. TIM MEANS
We drop down to welterweight for Neil Magny and Tim Means. A TUF 16 veteran with the longest reach in the division, Magny returned to the winner’s circle with a decision win over Gasan Umalatov at UFC 169. Tim “The Dirty Bird” returns to the UFC after being cut last year. We often hear about fighters dropping down a division, but after struggling to make 155 pounds, Means’s move to welterweight has served him well and he’s maintained that knockout power.
Justin Bieber has a better chance at becoming grounded than this fight. Both fighters like to stand and trade, so expect this fight to turn into a kickboxing match. Magny is certainly the more dynamic striker. He flows much better and has superior footwork. Means has the advantage in the power department though. While we haven’t seen a lot from him at the new division, he can still drop opponents with a single shot. If Magny can keep Means at the end of his reach, it could be a long night for the Dirty Bird. But Magny has the reach advantage in all his fights and often crowds his range to clinch and knee. He’ll go to the well one too many times and he’ll regret it. Means by TKO in round two.
ERIK KOCH VS. DARON CRUICKSHANK
We move to lightweight for another standup-heavy fight between Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank. Once slated to fight Jose Aldo for the featherweight title, weight cut issues forced Koch to move up a division. After a first-round TKO over Rafaello Oliveira in his UFC lightweight debut, it looks like he’s here to stay at 155 pounds. Cruickshank is another decorated striker coming off a spectacular spin kick knockout of Mike Rio in January. A win here could catapult the “Detroit Superstar” to Tom Selleck levels of stardom.
Just like the last fight, this is a matchup between two disparate striking styles. Koch is slow, methodical and doesn’t have a tremendously high output level. When he connects, though, his strikes are much more devastating. Cruickshank throws more volume and hand fights a lot. He uses more spin techniques than his opponents, but Koch competed in Taekwondo for over a decade, so he should be familiar with many of the moves. Cruickshank throws many kicks at a high volume, but he often falls in or loses his stance after attacking. Normally he doesn’t pay for it, but Koch’s counter striking will be too much to handle. Cruickshank will take the first round, but Koch will eventually get his timing and hit him with a left cross. Koch takes the second round TKO and Cruickshank is relegated to Tom Sizemore levels of fame.
COSTAS PHILIPPOU VS. LORENZ LARKIN
We bump up to middleweight for Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin. After winning five in a row, two straight losses to Francis Carmont and Luke Rockhold have knocked Philippou back to the middle of the pack. Primarily a boxer, his 72.5% takedown defense helps him stay on his feet. Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin rains down punishment in a variety of ways. He can strike at a distance, or do damage inside the clinch. After losing two of his last three, he too is searching for some momentum.
Larkin has a lot more weapons at his disposal, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to catch Philippou. Part of the reason for Philippou’s high defense rate is his footwork. He doesn’t stand flat-footed and expose himself to attacks. He may only have his hands, but his superior hand speed will give him the advantage. He’ll tag Larkin on the feet and get out of the pocket to avoid knees and elbows. Philippou proves that “less is more” even applies to MMA, as he boxes his way to a unanimous decision victory.
MATT BROWN VS. ERICK SILVA
Time for the main event! A professional fighter since 2005, Matt Brown’s late career resurgence has been fun to watch. In his last outing, the 33-year-old only needed 29 seconds to TKO Mike Pyle last August. He also holds UFC welterweight records for number of KOs and striking accuracy. Once a highly-touted prospect, inconsistent performances have caused fans to ask for the real Erick Silva to please stand up (that’s still a hip reference, right?). An incredibly aggressive and explosive striker, he holds the record for shortest fight time of any active fighter on the roster.
Much like my attitude toward leftover Easter candy, Silva’s fighting style is feast or famine. All his wins have been by devastating first-round finishes. A questionable DQ loss to Carlo Prater aside, his losses to Jon Fitch and Dong Hyun Kim have shown that his aggression borders on recklessness. Silva has the potential to score the early submission win, but Brown will most likely try to clinch and push Silva against the fence to limit his athleticism. Once he slows Silva down, he’ll start pouring it on and secure the third-round TKO.
That wraps up another Nick Lachey-approved edition of the Downes Side! Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own thoughts, predictions, pet peeves and favorite 98 Degrees song on the page here. There are so many classics, but I have to say that “Microphone” off their latest album is pretty catchy.
The Downes Side: UFN Cincy Predictions
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Silva, taking place Saturday, May 10