It’s a nice, relaxing weekend on the dawn before Mother’s Day. We’ve got a great card on FS1 the weekend before Bellator drops their anchor in the PPV market with one of the biggest fights of the year (that no one will see). It’s kind of interesting that the UFC has two great cards buffeting Bellator 120 … but neither are primed to be massively watched cards, either. It’s an odd three weeks in MMA, for sure.
Now it’s time to get on with my usual predictions for tonight’s card.
Chris Cariaso vs. Louis Smolka
Smolka’s making his UFC debut against Cariaso, a Top 10 flyweight on a two fight winning streak. This feels like this could be the card’s biggest upset, potentially, as Smolka is coming off a big win in January. He’s getting baptized into fire with this fight, that’s for sure, as he’s being dumped straight into contender territory right away. The division is shallow enough that it’s not all that shocking.
I like Cariaso in this. I’m not sure he’s ready for a fighter like Cariaso right now. Maybe in six months … but not now.
Prediction – Cariaso
Soa Palelei vs. Ruan Potts
Palelei had a hell of a post UFC run to get back into the company and has made the most of it so far. He’s got two wins, both finishes, and is looking like his stint outside the UFC got him to take the MMA game more seriously. He looks like a much different, and much better, fighter than the first time around. He came into his first fight back against Nikita Krylov and finished him, albeit in one of the year’s worst fights, but rebounded to retire Pat Barry from MMA.
Potts, on the other hand, has fought exclusively in South Africa and has two wins over the same guy in an EFC trilogy. He’s gotten into the UFC by being the best heavyweight in South Africa … which is about as good as being the best heavyweight in the midwest. He’s beaten a bunch of guys who’ll never sniff the UFC; he’s a bum slayer, nothing more.
Palelei runs through him.
Prediction – Palelei
Neil Magny vs. Tim Means
Magny is the best fighter to come out of TUF season 16 so far, which isn’t saying much if anything at all. Means is making his return to the UFC after a quick pair of wins in Texas for Legacy FC. He’s been at lightweight for a while and is now returning to welterweight; it looks to be a more natural weight for him. In two fights outside the UFC he looked like he belonged at 170 and I think his return is a victorious one.
Prediction – Means
Erik Koch vs. Daron Cruickshank
Erik Koch was an elite featherweight who should’ve fought for the title but didn’t due to circumstances outside his control. He also had a massive weight cut, one in which his coaches noted for a couple years before he exited the division was sapping a lot of his ability. Duke Roufus has discussed that Koch’s weight cut was rough and now Koch is at lightweight.
So far he looks like he belongs there, and will be an elite lightweight sooner than later. Cruickshank is never dull but he hasn’t put it together yet; he’s a great talent but he’s been very inconsistent in his UFC career. I think his ceiling is about what it appears to be: good heat check guy. Koch is designed to run through guys like that.
Prediction – Koch
Costas Philippou vs. Lorenz Larkin
Philippou has had a rough go of it as of late. He looked to be a fight away from an interesting matchup with former teammate Chris Weidman for the middleweight title … and then both Luke Rockhold finished him in spectacular fashion after Francis Carmont ragdolled him for 15 minutes. He’s on the verge of being out of the UFC with a loss here after being within a win of a title shot not that long ago.
Larkin’s an interesting matchup here. He was out landed by Brad Tavares in a decision loss and has had problems with guys who can either outbox or outwrestle him. Philippou can do the former and I think he outboxes him for 15 minutes this time around.
Prediction – Philippou
Erick Silva vs. Matt Brown
Silva is dangerously close to being a welterweight version of Joe Lauzon; a tough out for five minutes but definitely beatable after that. He’s about to hit 30 and you can’t call him a prospect anymore, either. This is put up or shut up time right now.
He may be the betting underdog but Matt Brown’s clinch game is the difference here. I think it’s close in the first, ala the Jordan Mein fight, and then Brown plants him sometime before the 4th round starts.
Prediction – Brown
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts, UFC Fight Night 40