After a very uncommon week off in 2014, the UFC is right back at it. On Saturday night, the UFC returns to Fox Sports 1 with UFC Fight Night 40. This also marks the UFC’s return to Cincinnati. The last time the Octagon touched down in the Ohio city was way back at UFC 77. That card was headlined by hometown hero Rich Franklin in his rematch against Anderson Silva. The crowd at the U.S. Bank Arena won’t have Franklin to cheer for this time, but they get something close.

The main event features an Ohio native and one of the most unlikely figures in UFC history to get a card built around him. That man is Matt Brown, who is looking for his seventh straight victory. To get that win and a possible title shot, Brown will first have to get through Brazilian prospect Erick Silva.

The co-main event also features a grizzled veteran against a prospect. Costa Philippou will look to get back on the right track after two straight losses when he faces Lorenz Larkin. Striking fans will also get their fix on Saturday when Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank go toe-to-toe. The rest of the main card is littered with exciting fighters. Tim Means makes his return to the UFC against Neil Magny, Soa Palelei will look to continue his recent success against Ruan Potts, and Chris Cariaso and Louis Smolka will get it all started with an intriguing flyweight bout.

Fans who tune in early won’t be disappointed either. Fox Sports 2 has fights featuring Ed Herman and Darrell Montague, and Fight Pass subscribers be the exclusive witnesses to a featherweight contest between Nik Lentz and Manny Gamburyan. Those prelims begin at 6:30 p.m. ET with three fights on Fight Pass. Fox Sports 2 takes over with four fights at 8 p.m. ET, and the main card will hit the airwaves on Fox Sports 1 at 10 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Dale De Souza, RJ Gardner and Trey Downey break down the entire lineup in this edition of the Round Table.

FlyW: Chris Cariaso (16-5) vs. Louis Smolka (7-0)

De Souza: Chris Cariaso and Louis Smolka represent one of those flyweight bouts that may not stick out in the sense of determining the next guy for Demetrious Johnson’s title, but it’s important because it can go a long way in figuring out who could stand as a possible dark horse in the division. Additionally, the bout represents a good contrast of styles, since Cariaso tends to strike more and Smolka prefers to grapple. In fact, it’s in the striking game where things get interesting.

Consider Cariaso’s career up to this point. Save for a WEC 53 loss to reigning UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao, Cariaso has outstruck guys without hesitation or struggle. Even when the guy loses, he still does a superb job of making sure his foes cannot do much of anything to him on the feet, usually by breaking them down with his leg kicks, solid hands and vicious Muay Thai game.

Smolka is a sweet striker in his own right. Against Alptekin Ozkilic, Smolka only passed his opponent’s guard twice, but he bested two-time All-American on the feet. Does this mean he can hang with Cariaso’s striking? Absolutely not, but it also gives Cariaso some incentive to tread cautiously on the feet.

If Smolka wishes to prevail, he will more than likely go to his bread and butter. That, of course, would be his grappling game. Thus far, only John Moraga can claim to have submitted “Kamikaze” at flyweight, but Smolka is capable of doing the same.

However, Cariaso will have other plans in mind for the Hawaiian prospect. He will break down Smolka on the feet and secure another unanimous decision win.

Gardner: Although this fight isn’t about establishing a No. 1 contendership, it is indeed an important fight in a flyweight division where champion Demetrious Johnson is absolutely running away from the pack. Both fighters are jockeying for position, and a win here would move either fighter into the upper echelon of the division.

Dale detailed how Cariaso is a very skilled striker who mixes his attack well and Smolka is a talented grappler. The contrast in styles should make for an entertaining back-and-forth fight that will be decided by the fighter who can dictate where the fight takes place.

Cariaso is a solid fighter, but he struggles against elite competition. Therefore, expect to see him struggle against a surging and undefeated Smolka. Smolka likely won’t finish Cariaso, but he will control the action and dictate the pace. Smolka wins this one via unanimous decision.

Downey: I’ve said it before: Cariaso is one of the most underrated fighters on the UFC roster.

RJ suggests that Cariaso struggles with top-flight competition, but who wouldn’t struggle against the men who have defeated the 32-year-old? Cariaso’s UFC losses came against the aforementioned Barao and Moraga, as well as Michael McDonald and Jussier “Formiga” da Silva. Cariaso is on a two-fight winning streak right now, and he could finally be on a run that could get him a title shot.

Smolka is standing in his way. The undefeated fighter posted an impressive win over “The Turkish Delight” in his UFC debut. A win over Cariaso would certainly say a lot about where the Hawaiian could go in the division. If the other names on the list of opponents who have defeated Cariaso provide any indication, then the sky’s the limit.

Smolka is a solid prospect, but he isn’t quite the blue-chip guy that I see in Justin Scoggins or even Darrell Montague. Cariaso is a great test for any up-and-coming fighter, and he will hand Smolka his first career loss when the fight heads to the scorecards.

HW: Soa Palelei (20-3) vs. Ruan Potts (8-1)

Gardner: This heavyweight bout between Soa Palelei and Ruan Potts has the potential to be memorable clash between a pair of massive finishers. All 28 of their combined victories have come by what of stoppage, so expect to see some real fireworks in this one.

Potts, who will be making his Octagon debut, enters this bout riding a three-fight winning streak. All three of those victories came by way of first-round submission. Palelei, on the other hand, enters the cage on a 10-fight winning streak with all 10 wins coming by way of knockout.

Although most of Palelei’s wins have been secured using his fists, he is a very skilled grappler who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Add his height, reach and experience advantage to the equation, and Palelei should have the advantage when the cage door closes.

Potts is a game young fighter with a ton of potential, but Palelei will be too much for him. Palelei wins this one via second-round TKO.

Downey: Heavyweights with heavy hands, always a good way to kick off a main card. A lot of times when it seems inevitable that the fight won’t go the distance, the MMA gods trick us and we have a decision. This fight, though, isn’t going 15 minutes.

Potts tends to make quick work of his fights, and the South African fighter will have to continue that trend as he transitions into the Octagon. Potts is making his UFC debut at age 36, but he has only been fighting for three years. To say he is getting a late start in the game would be an understatement.

Palelei is also 36, but the Australian-based heavyweight made his MMA debut way back in 2002. He looked amazing in his last fight, where he took down and pounded out Pat Barry in quick fashion. Barry was never known as a great grappler, but no one expected Palelei to look as good as he did.

Palelei will impress again in this one on his way to getting a bigger name in a co-headlining bout on the UFC’s trip to New Zealand this summer.

De Souza: Potts and Palelei bring some intrigue to this bout because of what both have done recently—Potts with wins in his last three bouts inside of one round, all via a form of submission, and Palelei with stoppages in every single one of his career victories. At this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Palelei will finish Potts, right?

After all, Palelei power, while certainly not in the league of a Junior dos Santos or a Cain Velasquez, still presents a threat to anyone in the heavyweight division. Factor in Palelei’s refusal to involve the judges, who just might be Potts’ only reasonable means of winning his UFC debut, and on paper, Palelei should take this bout without a second thought.

The thing about MMA is, not every fight plays out the way it looks on paper. The only time that Potts ever went to a decision, he lost the bout by a unanimous verdict to Andrew van Zyl, against whom Potts scored a submission win earlier in his career. Potts scored another submission win over van Zyl in his most recent bout.

Also, consider that we’re talking heavyweights here, and it makes sense to guess whether or not Potts possesses power in his own strikes—he does.

The aura of the UFC debut can affect a man in multiple ways, but it shouldn’t affect Potts negatively here. Potts and Palelei will not go to decision, that much is true. However, it is Potts who will find an opening to rock Palelei and then overwhelm him with strikes. In other words, Potts takes the victory with a stunning first-round TKO.

WW: Neil Magny (9-3) vs. Tim Means (20-5-1)

Downey: Usually late replacements don’t make for more intriguing bouts. This fight between Tim Means and Neil Magny is the exception to that rule.

Means will make his return to the UFC on about a month’s notice after William Macario was removed from the card. Means is coming back into the UFC after two straight wins outside of the organization. He ended his first Zuffa stint with two controversial losses in a row to Jorge Masvidal and Danny Castillo. His release, however, had more to do with his problems cutting weight than his performance in the cage. Now, Means returns at welterweight instead of making the cut all the way down to 155 pounds. He has always been an exciting fighter, and he will look to use his lanky frame and unorthodox striking to soften Magny up for a submission finish.

Magny is one of the few fighters left from his season of The Ultimate Fighter. He probably saved his job the last time out with a decision win over Gasan Umalatov. Magny is a fairly well-rounded guy with finishes via strikes and submissions. However, most of those finishes took place before he reached the higher level of competition that is the UFC. His best bet here would probably be to try to take advantage of Means’ suspect takedown defense and grind out a decision while avoiding submissions.

It’s doubtful that Magny will be able to carry out that game plan. Means has more tools in his toolbox. He is on his way back into the UFC, whereas Magny might be on his way out. Means via triangle choke.

De Souza: Thank heavens that Means will fight as a welterweight. Once a fighter misses weight a time or two, they should really consider moving up a division so that they can fight at least a little bit closer to their walking-around weight. Besides, a fight like this one against Magny is a fun contest that could pay dividends for Means down the line.

Magny struck me as a lanky guy on The Ultimate Fighter 16, but that might have been mostly due to his 6-foot-3 frame. He’ll not only stand a bit taller than Means, but he’ll also have something going for him in the striking department. When it comes to defense in that area, Magny will look to do a better job of making sure that Means either doesn’t land anything or doesn’t connect flush with anything he does land.

I’ll grant anyone the point of Means’ questionable takedown defense. He has been taken down in fights, and Magny’s style falls in line with the kind needed to beat Means. Yet, if Means lands as accurately as he has in the past and he forces Magny to stay standing, that grinding style might not come into play until it’s too late, if at all.

Means won’t be able to take down Magny, but he will land enough to where he can set the table for a submission. Once that happens, expect Magny to have no defense for Means, who will cement a successful UFC return via rear-naked choke.

Gardner: It is great to see Means back in the UFC as a 170-pounder after a less-than-stellar lightweight run. He has a great and inspiring redemption story after a past darkened by drug addiction and a stint in prison. He deserves to be in the spotlight, but he is going to have his hands full with Magny.

Magny has a decisive five-inch reach advantage. If he can keep the heavy-handed Means on the outside, then he will have a great shot at picking up the victory. Magny is also a much better wrestler that Means, who really struggled in that aspect of his game at lightweight.

The problem for Magny, though, is that he will not be able to keep Means on the outside. Means looks like a different fighter at welterweight, and he will be able to close the gap. Means wins this one via first-round knockout.

LW: Daron Cruickshank (14-4) vs. Erik Koch (14-3)

Gardner: Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank are both looking to make a move and establish their presence in the UFC lightweight division. A win here will go a long way towards that goal. Both guys are young and talented fighters, but in a division as competitive as lightweight, even one loss can put a fighter in the unemployment line.

Since entering the UFC following his stint on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, Cruickshank has gone 4-2 in the promotion. His most recent win came by way of TKO against Mike Rio.

Koch looks like the hot young prospect he was before suffering back-to-back losses. He looks much better at lightweight. At the young age of 25, Koch will discover that this move in weight will be much better for his long-term career.

Cruickshank is a beast, but two of his four career losses have come by way of submission. That will be the difference in this fight. Koch is a skilled striker, but he also possesses a slick submission game. He just has too many weapons for Cruickshank to combat.

Koch will set it up on the feet with crisp combinations before getting the fight to the mat, where he will end Cruickshank’s night. Koch wins this fight via second-round submission.

De Souza: Two very unique styles—Koch’s taekwondo and Cruickshank’s karate—will be on display in this battle. Both men bring beautiful striking to the cage. They each picked up a recent win inside the Octagon and aim to put together a streak at the other’s expense.

Cruickshank, thus far, has looked good in early UFC victories over Henry Martinez and Chris Tickle. Recently, though, he has been just a tad inconsistent. He showed a nice mixed bag of tricks in his most recent bout with Rio. Cruickshank attempted submissions and showed off more developments in his ground game before finishing off Rio. At age 28, Cruickshank may by en route to showing the world his absolute best at this level of competition.

Cruickshank will need that mixed bag against Koch. In addition to his taekwondo base, the Hard Drive MMA co-founder owns an impressive array of submission wins—a full half of his pro victories, in fact. He hasn’t had to finish a fight by submission in a while, but he will have that weapon in his back pocket in case he sees a chance to make something happen.

This bout is a tough one to call, but ultimately, it depends on how well Cruickshank can get inside on Koch, who should be the taller and lankier of the two men. Koch definitely has the combinations to hurt Cruickshank, and he knows how to set up his submissions well. Cruickshank will fight his hind parts off, but it won’t be enough. Koch will submit Cruickshank in the second round.

Downey: We are in for a treat on the feet in this one. As my colleagues suggested, Koch and Cruickshank are known for their flashy striking games.

Koch is looking for new life in his move back up to lightweight after a streak of bad luck in the featherweight division. That streak of misfortune didn’t just include losses. Koch was scheduled to face off with Jose Aldo for the featherweight championship on multiple occasions, but injuries to Koch and the champ prevented that from ever going down. Remember how I suggested that Chris Cariaso’s history of losses tells us a lot about him? Well, the same can be said for Koch and the losses on his resume. He has suffered defeats courtesy of Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier, which makes for a very solid list of names.

Cruickshank’s losses shouldn’t spark a sense of shame either—men like Bobby Green and John Makdessi litter that list. Cruickshank could be the stronger fighter here. He has tree trunks for legs that really only Benson Henderson can rival in the lightweight division. If the two fighters do end up in a clinch situation, Cruickshank has the capability to overpower Koch.

There’s no certainty that we will see much clinching when these two men square off. Both guys have flashy styles on the feet and a lot of that is predicated on keeping the distance and utilizing kicks. This is a really tough one to pick, and it will be a tough one to judge. I anticipate a variety of different scores on my Twitter timeline as the fight comes to a close, but the judges that count—or at least two of them—will award the fight to Koch.

MW: Lorenz Larkin (14-2) vs. Constantinos Philippou (12-4)

De Souza: Get ready for a battle of hard hitters when Lorenz Larkin meets Costa Philippou.

Philippou has some extremely heavy hands. As a former member of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, he also houses a rather unique grappling game. Larkin, meanwhile, stands as a diverse striker who has come a long way since his days in Strikeforce. Put the two together, and it can only equal the potential for fireworks for as long as this bout lasts.

Plain and simple, Philippou needs a win here. He dropped an uninspired unanimous decision to Francis Carmont at UFC 165, and then went on to suffer a TKO defeat at the hands of Luke Rockhold earlier this year. Whatever adjustments he’s made in preparing for Larkin, he needs to put them on full display in this bout.

Larkin can struggle with guys that possess solid ground games, but even the smallest mistake against “The Monsoon” will not go unpunished. Larkin doesn’t go for takedowns all that often, but when he does find a way to get a dominant position, he stays on top of guys until either the ref intervenes or the round runs out.

This bout can end on either man’s terms, given that both can deliver on a finish. Facing a well-versed striker never stopped Philippou from standing, trading and looking to secure a knockout, but he never needed to stand and trade with someone who could strike as creatively as Larkin.

Philippou will look to show off something, but ultimately, he will not break Larkin down or nullify the 27-year-old’s striking game. Larkin secures a unanimous decision win.

Downey: Philippou really does need the win, but he’s not the only one. Philippou needs the victory if he wants to make one last run at a title bid in the suddenly ultra-competitive middleweight division. But this fight is very important for Larkin, too. A lot of people pegged him as a big prospect coming over from Strikeforce, but he has just one win in three Octagon outings. If he doesn’t pick up the victory here, he could start creeping into the realm of men who were overhyped.

Philippou success has been somewhat of an anomaly. Watch him fight, and there isn’t anything flashy about his game. He is a gritty guy with technical boxing who just gets the job done. He is going to have to try to grind out a guy like Larkin for the win. Larkin has had trouble with guys who have worn him out against the cage or scored takedowns against him. Philippou might not be successful with that strategy, but it is the strategy he would have to use to win.

A lot of people seem to forget that Larkin was the last man to beat Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce before Lawler went on his amazing UFC run. Philippou doesn’t have the grappling or athletic prowess of guys like Brad Tavares or the aforementioned Carmont, and he is not as good a striker as Lawler. They say MMA math is not a good strategy when it comes to picking fightsbut this isn’t common-opponent math we’re talking about here. It’s simply a review of the opponents Larkin has defeated and those against whom he has had trouble.

Philippou won’t give Larkin many problems. Larkin outclasses Philippou en route to a late stoppage or a decision win.

Gardner: Larkin and Philippou are bangers who look to trade heavy leather. Neither man backs down. Expect to see some serious boxing technique in this match-up.

Larkin is the younger fighter. He does have more tools, but he is weak in the clinch. If Philippou can get him pressed up against the cage and dirty box with him, he will win this fight. However, Larkin is too athletic to be trapped by the New Yorker. He will keep the distance and prevent Philippou from getting into a rhythm by mixing up his attacks and fighting at different distances.

Larkin wins this one via unanimous decision.

WW: Matt Brown (18-11) vs. Erick Silva (16-4)

Downey: Matt Brown in the main event of a UFC show—that is something I think we can all agree that we never thought we would see. Brown’s turnaround has been one of the most improbable in the history of MMA.

Brown has won six straight bouts coming off of losing three out of four fights. It isn’t just that the Ohio native has won six in a row, but how he has done so. Brown has finished all but one of those opponents, and he has looked like an absolute berzerker on the feet. If Brown were to win this bout against fast-rising prospect Erick Silva, it would be seven wins in a row. That is almost unheard of for non-champions in today’s UFC. It would be hard to deny Brown a shot at the welterweight title if he is victorious.

Silva will have something to say about Brown getting that shot. The Brazilian has long been touted as the next big thing at 170 pounds. He has showed glimpses of greatness that warrant that distinction, but he has also suffered from severe inconsistency. He is only 2-2 in his last four bouts, with losses to Jon Fitch and Dong Hyun Kim and victories over Jason High and Takenori Sato. The names behind those victories and defeats bring up the question of whether Silva can hang once he enters the division’s upper echelon. Brown is certainly at that threshold.

The way that Silva can end Brown’s streak here is with a submission. Brown has lost five times in the UFC, and four of those losses are via submission. SIlva has shown some slick submissions in the past, but he will have to be on top of his game against Brown.

Another thing to watch in this fight is how Brown competes coming off a layoff. Thus far during his streak, Brown has fought every few months. However, he had to pull out of his last fight against Carlos Condit with a back injury. He hasn’t entered the Octagon since August 2013, which amounts to almost nine months on the sidelines. It remains to be seen if that time off gave Brown a chance to heal or killed his momentum.

Silva is a big prospect in the welterweight division, but Brown has faced that type of challenge already in his streak. Brown went right through Stephen Thompson and Jordan Mein. He’ll bring the pressure to Silva and test the Brazilian’s chin, which failed him against Dong Hyun Kim. Brown gets the TKO and earns the most unlikely title shot in UFC history.

Gardner: Brown is on beast mode right now with wins in six straight, including five by way of knockout. That’s amazing when you consider he went 0-3 in 2010 and suffered the submission loss in all three of those affairs. Brown’s career revival has him knocking on the door of a welterweight title shot should he get a win over the Brazilian powerhouse.

Silva, on the other hand, has traded wins and losses in his last six outings. Although he is only .500 since 2012, he has shown flashes of brilliance. Silva is a powerful grappler who is also an explosive striker.

This fight has the potential to be a “Fight of the Year” candidate because of Silva’s explosiveness and Brown’s unrelenting toughness. If Silva can rock Brown early and take him out of his game, then the Brazilian will be able to get the win. That is much easier said than done, though. Brown is on an incredible run right now, and he is tough as nails. Brown wins this one via second-round TKO.

De Souza: I love this fight simply because of the potential it has to go down as one of the greatest welterweight battles in recent memory, let alone the “Fight of the Year” or “Fight of the Night.” What “The Immortal” and Silva have in common is that they both come with that kill-or-be-killed mentality and they flat out do not do decisions in this day and age. The only unfortunate thing about this showstopper of a main event is that, sooner or later, it must come to an end.

It may shock someone to hear that Brown does not do decisions these days, especially since his current streak includes a decision nod over the aforementioned Thompson, but his wins over Chris Cope, Luis Ramos, Mike Swick, Mein and Mike Pyle all came by some form of a knockout. That knockout tendency becomes even more relevant when one considers that Silva’s chin has been tested before. Silva tends to get reckless at times, and Brown seems all but a lock to take this fight.

Still, don’t count out the Brazilian. When he keeps his cool and picks his moments to snap on opponents with a blitzkrieg of strikes, he looks every bit of the man he appeared to be when he first debuted in the UFC. The question now is whether or not he will be able to keep himself calm and do what he needs to do to defeat a top-notch opponent like Brown.

Silva will reach the point in his career when he does prove himself ready for the upper echelon, but May 10 will not be his night. As intense as Brown’s battle with Mein was, this one may just prove more intense. Brown will implement a better, more technical striking game than Silva. With combinations and a high-pressure offense, he will overwhelm his 29-year-old counterpart en route to a late fourth-round knockout.

Preliminary Card
WW: Anthony Lapsley (23-6) vs. Albert Tumenov (12-2)

De Souza: Albert “Einstein” Tumenov just might have one of the most original nicknames in the game today. Seriously, who else uses “Einstein” as a nickname? It’s awesome. But I digress. The 22-year-old is coming off a split decision loss to Ildemar Alcantara, whereas Tumenov’s opponent, Anthony Lapsley, dropped a unanimous verdict to Jason High at UFC 167. Tumenov should be able to work better for takedowns and ground control than he was able to against Alcantara. That will allow him to take a unanimous decision, though a finish isn’t out of the question.

Gardner: Lapsley and Tumenov are both coming into this fight at 0-1 in their UFC careers. In a deepening welterweight division, the winner stays and the loser goes home. Lapsley has fought much better competition over his career, but Tumenov is a very skilled up-and-comer out to make an impact in the UFC. Tumenov wins this one via unanimous decision.

Downey: I agree with my fellow panelists’ assessment that this marks a make-or-break bout for both of these men. Furthermore, RJ’s opinion is awfully similar to my own thoughts on this fight. Lapsley has the better experience, but in watching these two men compete, it is clear that Tumenov should have the brighter future. Tumenov by decision.

LW: Justin Salas (11-5) vs. Ben Wall (7-1-1)

Gardner: Justin Salas and Ben Wall both desperately need a win here if they want to stay in the UFC. There is too much talent in the UFC lightweight division, and fighters have to win fights to stay in the mix. Salas is a well-rounded combatant with an excellent wrestling base. Combine that with more experience against better competition, and Salas emerges with the clear edge. Salas wins this one via unanimous decision.

Downey: The lightweight division is certainly the most talent-stacked weight class in the UFC, and it even extends beyond the confines of the Octagon to a variety of promotions and perhaps all of MMA. Salas does have some solid wins under his belt in the UFC. Wall, meanwhile, lost in his only time out with the UFC. That loss was to a really good prospect in Alex Garcia. Wall will defend the takedowns enough to earn a decision win.

De Souza: It’s true that Wall last loss to Garcia, but then how many guys can say they haven’t lost to Garcia? So far, only one man can claim such a thing. Besides, Salas isn’t Garcia. However, the Colorado native is an exceptional enough wrestler to where he can find a way to get Wall down at will. Even if he doesn’t finish the Australian fighter, he will do everything he needs to do to claim the unanimous decision win.

FW: Manny Gamburyan (13-7) vs. Nik Lentz (24-6-2)

Downey: Some of the bout placement on this card is puzzling, and this one above all else. Manny Gamburyan and Nik Lentz are well-known names in the top half of the UFC featherweight division. They are known for their grappling prowess, so we could see a ground battle in this one. Lentz impressed me with how he hung in there with Chad Mendes in December. He will stifle Gamburyan en route to a unanimous decision.

De Souza: I am baffled that Lentz goes from the main card of a Fox bill to the Fight Pass portion of a Fox Sports 1 card after a loss to the No. 1 featherweight in the world behind champion Jose Aldo. Lentz and Gamburyan bring different styles, though both can hit hard. This one sees the scorecards, and Lentz takes a split decision win.

Gardner: Gamburyan and Lentz are fighting to be relevant in the UFC featherweight division, but neither man is ever going to be a real factor in the title picture. That said, both guys can still put on solid fights. As long as Lentz can avoid the big power of Gamburyan, he will be able to neutralize him with his suffocating wrestling. Lentz wins this one via unanimous decision.

BW: Johnny Eduardo (26-9) vs. Eddie Wineland (21-9-1)

Gardner: Johnny Eduardo and Eddie Wineland are crafty veterans of the sport who have a combined 47 wins and 35 career finishes. Although he trains with two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world at Nova Uniao, Eduardo will not be able to handle the crazy power Wineland brings to the table. Wineland wins via first-round TKO and becomes the first fighter to knock Eduardo out.

De Souza: Eduardo’s name sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when anyone brings up Nova Uniao. With a team that houses champions Jose Aldo, Renan Barao and Eduardo Dantas, it doesn’t prove difficult for a talented guy on that squad to get lost in the discussion. Eduardo faces his toughest test to date in Wineland. Wineland can bring the power to Eduardo and finish him early, but he won’t. Eduardo will hang on for the first round, but Wineland will rock him in the second and finish the job midway through the fight.

Downey: In the end, this fight will end up being a showcase for Wineland. I might be in the minority, but I scored the first round of Wineland’s bout with Barao in the American’s favor. He did get caught in the second, but not very many guys have even shown glimpses of success against Barao. Eduardo just isn’t in the same tier as Wineland, who will win this contest by first-round knockout.

WW: Yan Cabral (11-0) vs. Zak Cummings (16-3)

De Souza: Yan Cabral is one of those guys that holds a lot of potential to do some great things in the sport, so long as he keeps looking dominant in fights. Zak Cummings scored his first UFC win last year, but then came in eight pounds overweight two months ago, thus canceling a planned bout with Alberto Mina. Cummings will triumph on the scale, but not in the fight. Cabral’s ground game will prove too much for him. Cabral will submit Cummings in the first round.

Downey: There is a lot of hate directed toward The Ultimate Fighter these days, but TUF 17’s cast was pretty darn stellar and still has the potential to turn out some long-term contenders in the UFC. Cummings was one of those men from that season. He was injured and couldn’t fight on the finale, but he got a win when it was time for him to make his debut. Cabral comes out of a great camp and is an undefeated guy. Before entering the UFC, he had 10 straight submission wins. When he entered the big stage, he went to the judges’ scorecards for the first time. He dominated that fight, but didn’t score the finish. In today’s UFC, you need finishes, and that is what the UFC probably expected from Cabral. He needs one here, but he can’t get too reckless against a solid guy like Cummings. There’s a chance of an upset here, but Cabral should win. He gets back on a new submission streak.

Gardner: There is no denying that Cabral is prospect with a ton of upside, but Cummings is no slouch either. Now that he is fighting at welterweight, expect to see a much better fighter. The problem is that Cabral is just going to be too much for him. Cabral wins this contest via first-round submission.

FlyW: Kyoji Horiguchi (12-1) vs. Darrell Montague (13-3)

Downey: Darrell Montague came into the UFC with a lot of hype, but a lot of that hype was blown away with one punch from John Dodson. Both of these guys are very young and continue to show how good the flyweight division will be in the coming years. Kyoji Horiguchi looked great in his Octagon debut, but I’m not jumping off the Montague train just yet. Montague gets a hard-fought decision.

Gardner: Montague is a talented fighter, but he got exposed against Dodson as someone who can’t hang with the true elite in the division. Horiguchi, on the other hand, is on his way to being one of the best in the game. As long as Horiguchi can keep this fight standing, then he will win. Horiguchi via unanimous decision.

De Souza: Horiguchi is a phenomenal product and a “Kid” Yamamoto disciple, but he needs wins over guys like Montague to prove himself as a top-tier flyweight. Luckily, his first UFC bout resulted in a win. However, with Montague’s loss to Dodson, it’s tough to say what kind of mindset Montague will bring to his fight against Horiguchi. Horiguchi will take a TKO win in the second round, but Montague will not go down easily.

MW: Ed Herman (21-10) vs. Rafael Natal (17-5-1)

De Souza: Rafael Natal suffered a recent defeat to Tim Kennedy at UFC Fight for the Troops 3. Ed Herman earned a split decision win over Trevor Smith, only to follow his win with a unanimous decision loss in his next outing against Thales Leites. Natal will hurt Herman on the feet, punish him on the ground and eventually secure a third-round TKO over a very game Herman.

Gardner: Herman is just one of those fighters who is always game and who will never back down from a challenge. Yet, I have to agree with my colleague. Natal simply has too many weapons for Herman to deal with. Herman is tough as nails, so Natal won’t get the finish, but “Sapo” should pick up the win. Natal via unanimous decision.

Downey: This is another bout that I thought could crack the main card when it was originally announced. It is a fitting “main event” to the prelims portion of the card, though. Herman has been around for what seems like forever. He seems to pull out wins when you least expect them. Herman gets one more of those victories before his career is over, and it comes right here when he locks a guillotine on Natal.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.