Five For Fighting (UFC Fight Night 40 Edition) – Matchups to Make After Matt Brown/Erick Silva’s Round of The Year, Et Al

UFC Fight Night 40 was about as perfect as a card you can have for a Fox Sports 1 card. A couple of middle of the road contenders moved ahead, a ton of upsets rocked some of the smaller weight classes and Matt Brown decided that putting violence on a guy was kind of fun. Hell, we may have seen the round of the year in the opening salvo from Silva/Brown. Now it’s time to play Sean Shelby and Joe Silva, figuring out what to do after a wild night of fights, with the most intriguing winners and losers from last night’s card.

Winners

Matt Brown vs. Johny Hendricks – Matt Brown may not have the gifts to be a world champion but no one can argue that he hasn’t maximized his potential. You’ll never look at his progression as a fighter and think he didn’t maximize his abilities, or get close to 99.999% of the fighter he could be. I think it’s why people en masse like him. He may not have the gifts but you know for sure he got as good as he did by working his ass off. And in a crazy world he might end up becoming Johny Hendricks’ first title shot. I would give it to him.

While I don’t think “The Immortal” gets a title shot with this win, nor did he really earn one, (I think he’ll get someone like the winner of Jake Ellenberger/Robbie Lawler) but at this point Brown’s a contender that’s easy to sell. He doesn’t have a win over anyone in the Top 10 despite a seven fight win streak, with six finishes in there, but it makes for a great marketing story. A guy on the cusp of being out of the UFC goes on an epic win streak, wrecking everyone in his path, and then calls out the champ in his first headlining opportunity. He basically did what Glover Teixiera did to get a title shot but in a more violent manner. He also has kept demanding bigger and better opponents, too.

Brown did everything you’re supposed to do. He had a big win, a finish and made no bones about how he wanted a title shot. In an era where plenty of fighters do the “I’ll fight whomever the UFC wants me to” Brown said “screw that” and demanded what he feels is his. Giving him a title shot would be a good precedent; it’s not enough to win. You have to demand title shots and finish guys, too.

My guess is Brown gets Ellenberger, if he beats Lawler, or the winner of MacDonald/Woodley.

Daron Cruickshank vs. The winner of Evan Dunham/Edson Barboza – Cruickshank surprised the hell out of me by lamping Erik Koch in short order. Cruickshank’s talent has always been undeniable he just doesn’t put it together all the time. The Koch fight was one where he did and it looks like he’s starting to come into his own. His standup is superb and the way he finished that fight was spectacular.

The one thing Cruickshank does better than nearly every fighter at lightweight is put together combinations with his whole body. He throws brilliant kick/punch combinations that set up finishing moments better than nearly anyone in the division besides Anthony Pettis. Now it’s a matter of him keeping this together and moving up the ladder. Koch is a nice step and now Cruickshank needs a veteran opponent, and win, to propel himself into a Top 10 level fight.

Costas Philippou vs. Luke Barnatt (if he defeats Sean Strickland) – If Barnatt wins he’ll be poised to move into the fringes of the bottom 15 of middleweight division. So far he and Kelvin Gastelum have had the best careers inside the UFC of that strong TUF 17 class. Philippou’s career has arguably peaked already and he’s on his way down; he’s on the other side of 30 and has shown he’s not going to be an elite fighter. Two dismantling losses to Luke Rockhold and Francis Carmont proved that. But he can stay a while in that 10-15 range as a high level heat check guy and Barnatt will be do for one of those with a win. Thales Leites might make a good fit in here, as well, and I could see the winner of Andrew Craig/Cezar Ferreira or C.B Dollaway (if he gets past Francis Carmont) in this slot as well.

Soa Palelei vs. the winner of Stefan Struve/Matt Mitrione – Palelei has gotten a couple of good matchups to begin his UFC career anew, of course, but in three fights he’s gotten three finishes. He’s on that cusp of being where the winner of Struve/Mitrione would be: ready to make a leap into a big fight with potential title implications. Roy Nelson might make sense here, as well, as Palelei is in an odd spot. He’s not quite a Top 15 fighter … but heavyweight is so shallow that you can make that case fairly convincingly right now.

Johnny Eduardo vs. Michael MacDonald – Eduardo walked into Cincinnati a huge underdog in what should’ve been a tune up fight for Eddie Wineland. What happens when you stop the #4 guy in the world? You get someone just as good. That’s the downside of Eduardo right now; he finished one of the elite guys and therefore you have to consider him at a minimum in the top 7. The downside is that he’s from that Nova Uniao camp, where his friend and training partner is Renan Barao. That camp could have their first moment where two teammates are fighting for a title, much like we almost had when Jose Aldo nearly had to face Diego Nunes for the featherweight strap.

MacDonald hasn’t fought since being choked out by Urijah Faber and right now he’s not far off from another fight with Barao. He’s taken Barao the furthest in his championship reign and we know “Mayday” is elite. We really don’t with Eduardo and here’s a fight that’ll either propel MacDonald back into a title eliminator or make things very interesting down in the best camp for lightweights and under in Brazil.

Losers

Erick Silva vs. Kyle Noke – Silva’s probably going to be out for a while, as he had to be stretchered out last night, and I think we can call him for what he is: Portuguese for “Joe Lauzon.” It’s not an insult to either, as well, as Silva is the toughest out at 170 … for about eight minutes. Then he’s very beatable. Noke makes sense as a rebound as I think Silva’s ceiling will be that fringe Top 10 guy who’s a tough, tough out early and can be beaten the later you get into a fight with him. Noke makes sense for a rebound as Silva is arguably going to occupy that space of being a very high level heat check guy from this point.

Erik Koch vs. Norman Parke – Koch got tooled by Cruickshank in spectacular fashion. I like him as a fighter and he’s got a ton of talent … but has he hit his ceiling already? Right now I think he needs to take a step back and I think he gets someone in that similar phase, the “How good is he going to be?” phase. Right now that’s the only way I can look at Koch. I thought he was going to run over Cruickshank and move into contendership quickly.

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