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Matt Brown's improbable run through the UFC welterweight division continues.
In his first appearance since a serious back injury late last year, Brown (19-11) lit up Brazilian welterweight Erick Silva on the feet and on the ground en route to a TKO finish at 2:11 of the third round inside the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati at UFC Fight Night 40 on Saturday night.
Fighting out of Columbus, Brown earned the win, his seventh in a row, despite a rough first round in which he was nearly finished by a kick to the liver. With the home crowd behind him, he managed to survive and even take it to Silva late in the frame.
"I was hurt pretty bad," Brown said. "It got my stomach. I wasn't really warmed up well enough.
"I just did what I do tonight. I didn't feel my best. It was my first main event in my home state, close to my hometown. The pressure got to me a little bit. Once I feel the groove of the fight, I start pulling things together."
Silva (16-5), who entered the bout a 2-to-1 favorite, immediately took Brown's back after hurting him with the liver shot in the first. He sunk in both hooks and slipped the right arm across Brown's face in a rear-naked choke attempt.
Brown, who lost three consecutive fights in 2010 and was on the verge of being cut by the UFC, managed to escape the position and immediately went to work on Silva with body shots on the feet. He hurt Silva with several knees to the body from the Thai clinch and elbows near the fence.
Despite nearly being finished twice, Brown won the first round on all three judges' scorecards.
"My power just didn't feel there today or I guess he's just that tough," Brown said of Silva after the fight. "Most people I hit like that, they go down."
Brown continued to push the pace on a tiring Silva in the second round, although Silva proved to still be dangerous with a handful of haymaker counters. He made Brown wince midway through the round with a left hook back to the liver.
With 90 seconds remaining in the round, Brown took Silva down, moved to mount and eventually rolled to an armbar attempt.
It was more of the same in the third, when it finally appeared as though Brown's pressure broke the 29-year-old Silva. He surrendered another takedown early and suffered a facial cut shortly after due to a Brown elbow.
Philippou levels Larkin in Round One
A head-hunting Costas Philippou earned his first win since December 2012 - and he did it in the first round.
Philippou (14-2) snapped a two-fight skid with a devastating first-round knockout against Lorenz Larkin. Referee Keith Peterson stopped the bout at the 3:47 mark.
The New York-based middleweight's intentions were clear from the start, as he stalked Larkin around the cage while loading up the right hand. Larkin (14-3) managed to avoid many of them - but it only took one to change the fight.
"It was a big win for me," Philippou said. "It followed two very disappointing losses. Before my last fight, I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep fighting and it showed. I looked awful. But the UFC called and gave me another shot."
The aggressive style of Philippou put Larkin on the fence early and often, which robbed him of his ability to throw combinations. In space, Larkin's speed was a distinct advantage, but he struggled to stay off the fence. He had his back against it when Philippou knocked him out with a right hand to the chin.
Philippou is back in the win column following back-to-back losses to Francis Carmont and Luke Rockhold. He was on the receiving end of a first-round knockout to Rockhold at a UFC Fight Night event in January. Larkin falls to 1-3 in the UFC.
Cruickshank dispatches Koch
Daron Cruickshank scored arguably the biggest win of his career, knocking out the highly touted Erik Koch in the first round of their lightweight fight.
Cruickshank (15-4) used a left head kick to drop Koch midway through the first and then finished him with elbows on the ground.
Referee Gary Copeland called a TKO stop at the 3:21 mark, handing Cruickshanks his ninth career knockout.
"It's a great night for me," Cruickshank said. "I showed up. When I show up, I can beat anyone. I know I belong among the best in my division and I think I proved that tonight."
As expected, the fight played out exclusively on the feet, as both lightweights sought to find range early. The southpaw Koch (14-3) looked to establish his straight left early, while Cruickshank answered with counter right hands.
The finishing sequence was a thing of beauty for Cruickshank. He threw a right head kick, right hand combination, which Koch attempted to parry and counter. As Koch loaded with the counter right, however, Cruickshank dropped him with the left kick.
Koch was essentially out when he hit the floor. Copeland gave him every opportunity to continue, but the series of follow-up elbows by Cruickshank put a clear end to the fight.
"I just got to hand it to Cruickshank," Koch said. "I never got hit with a head kick like that. He proved he was a great striker and he did it against a great striker. Kudos to Darren."
Cruickshank, 28, improves his UFC record to 4-2, including three knockouts. Koch, who fights out of Roufusport in Milwaukee, drops to 1-1 as a UFC lightweight. He moved up from the featherweight division this year, following back-to-back losses.
Magny upsets Means
Neil Magny moved to 2-0 in his past two fights with an upset unanimous decision win over Tim Means.
Fighting out of Grudge Training Center in Denver, Magny (10-3) dropped Means in the first round and scored a few timely takedowns to prevail on the scorecards. All three judges scored it in his favor: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
"I feel like the fight went well," Magny said. "It didn't go according to plan; his range and his build were a little different, so I had to adjust during the fight.
"Having to adjust to a guy who is as long or longer than me was an adjustment for me. He's a hard guy to find a training partner for, difficult to imitate.
A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter," Magny landed the most significant punch of the fight in the form of a straight left late in the first round. Means (20-6-1) somersaulted backward from the shot, but recovered quickly.
Means evened the score in the following round, as he caught a body kick attempt by Magny and used it to flip him to the canvas. Magny managed to wall-walk back to his feet, but he paid a price as Means landed several hard punches and a knee.
Momentum was still on Means' side heading into the third and he hurt Magny early with a knee in the clinch. Magny responded well, scoring a takedown moments later. He controlled Means on the ground for the majority of the round.
After dropping back-to-back fights to close out 2013, Magny has rebounded with a strong start this year. Means falls to 2-3 in the UFC.
Palelei crushes Potts
Make it 11 knockouts in a row for Australian heavyweight Soa Palelei.
Palelei (21-3) is now 3-0 since signing with the UFC last year, following a first-round knockout over Ruan Potts. The official time of the stoppage was 2:20.
"I was just really careful; he has good submission," Palelei said. "I want to keep improving. I have a lot to learn, a lot to iron out. That was, though, a Hulk smash win.
"A lot of my fights don't go past the first round. I work well on the ground."
An early Palelei takedown set the tone of the fight within the first minute. Eventually he worked into full mount and landed a short left hand that put Potts (8-2) out cold. The personable Palelei celebrated by kissing referee Keith Peterson.
Palelei, 36, has made an immediate splash in the Octagon. He knocked out Nikita Krylov in his UFC debut last August and then followed that performance with a first-round destruction of Pat Barry in December.
"I think the hard work and my good coaches have helped," Palelei said. "Relentless training is the key. I've been working hard and want to prove to everyone that I belong in the UFC."
Potts, of Cape Town, South Africa, sees a three-fight win streak snapped.
Cariaso sneaks past Smolka
Chris Cariaso improved to 4-2 as a UFC flyweight, handing prospect Louis Smolka his first professional loss in the process. Cariaso (17-5) outpointed the 22-year-old Smolka in a split decision victory. Final scores read in Cariaso's favor: 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. ESPN.com scored the bout for Cariaso, 29-28.
Experience was certainly on Cariaso's side, as he dictated range and threatened to finish Smolka (7-1) with submission attempts on several occasions.
"I thought the fight was awesome," Cariaso said. "I started out faster than I normally do which I was happy with. But towards the end I got a little tired.
"I was looking for submissions all the time. When guys get low, they get susceptible to submissions, so I tried for them. We expected him to come forward right away, which is exactly what he did, so the fight went according to plan."
Smolka looked to take Cariaso down in the early rounds, but had limited success. He settled on holding Cariaso against the fence for long periods in the first, scoring occasional points with punches to the body.
He continued the strategy in the next round, but gave up his back when he grew too aggressive on a throw attempt. Cariaso quickly put both hooks in and searched for a choke, although Smolka eventually escaped. Cariaso finished the round with a ninja choke attempt off a front headlock.
Smolka came into the final round with a clear sense of urgency, which Cariaso turned against him. He started picking Smolka apart with counter punches and inside leg kicks, even sweeping him off his feet at one point with a low kick. Smolka, however, continued to press forward throughout the round and appeared to hurt a tiring Cariaso late in the fight near the fence.
Cariaso improves to 4-2 since dropping to the flyweight division in 2012. He is currently on a three-fight win streak.
This article first appeared on ESPN.com