No world title fights. No battles for the No. 1 contender spot in any division.
But UFC Fight Night 40 can still pack a heavy punch by the time the dust settles Saturday night in Ohio.
With welterweights Matt Brown and Erick Silva in the main event, we are almost guaranteed at least one thrilling fight. Brown has won six straight, finishing five of those opponents, while Silva owns 13 career wins by finish.
Lorenz Larkin and Costas Philippou each need to come out swinging and have their hand raised in the co-main, putting added pressure on both middleweights.
Erik Koch-Daron Cruickshank, Neil Magny-Tim Means, Soa Palelei-Ruan Potts and Chris Cariaso-Louis Smolka may not provide the “name-brand” recognition of others, but they are eight fighters who prefer standing and trading to laying and praying.
Seven more fights comprise the prelims. So, without further hesitation, let’s take a look at what might come about on Saturday inside the U.S. Bank Arena.
Can Brown clear that final hurdle to a title shot?
I know I mentioned no No. 1 contender matches on the card, but Brown might be the exception. While a win over Silva doesn’t guarantee him anything – especially in a deep division – seven consecutive victories will be hard to ignore.
And, if Brown is able to become just the second fighter to finish Silva, he will gain even more ground.
The career turnaround of the 33-year-old from Ohio has been nothing short of extraordinary. If you haven’t see any of his past six wins, try to check them out. What Brown did to Mike Pyle, Jordan Mein, Mike Swick and Luis Ramos in succession over the past two years is quite the execution in how to finish fights.
Silva needs to be on guard from the opening bell, as Brown is going to look for his 12th career knockout to impress his friends and family that will be in attendance – and more importantly, the UFC bosses.
Will the real “Monsoon” please stand up?
Larkin entered the UFC on the heels of a decision victory over Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce. Yes, the same Lawler who just recently competed for the vacant welterweight title.
Granted, Lawler has changed his entire approach to fighting since that 2012 meeting, but a win is still a win. Heck, Larkin even has an official no-contest on his resume from a fight with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal after Lawal failed his post-fight drug test.
Since that time, though, he has won just once, losing decisions to Brad Tavares and Francis Carmont around a win over Chris Camozzi.
If Larkin is going to fulfill the promise and expectations he has for himself, it needs to start with Philippou. The veteran carries an impressive resume of his own – wins over Tim Boetsch, Court McGee and Uriah Hall – but he hasn’t tasted victory in over a year.
It might not be chopping-block-or-bust for either, but with the expanded roster and need for results, we might be looking at that.
Can Koch and Cruickshank steal the show?
In one word, yes, yes they can. Both Koch and Cruickshank have shown glimpses of excellence inside the Octagon, but sustained results have yet to be found.
Koch has won two “Knockout of the Night” honors and has three UFC wins, while Cruickshank is 4-2 with the promotion. Both also like to go for the kill, as evidence by their 20 career knockout and submission wins.
Which bout is a sleeper for “Fight of the Night?”
How about the televised prelim opener between bantamweights Eddie Wineland and Johnny Eduardo?
Wineland’s just a handful of months removed from fighting Renan Barao for the interim UFC title, but he’ll be forced to focus early on this night against Eduardo.
Eduardo hasn’t competed since a 2012 victory over Jeff Curran in his second UFC bout. Prior to a loss to Raphael Assuncao, he had won 11 in a row.
Can the Brazilian showcase what he did before being injured? Or can Wineland get right back into the title hunt with a finish?
Who are the likely “Performance of the Night” winners?
With no more “Knockout” or “Submission of the Night” honors, we have to think about “Performance” performances.
Look for Nik Lentz and Manny Gamburyan to put on a strong showing on the Fight Pass prelims, along with either Wineland or Eduardo to maybe grab one of them, as well.