The next serving of UFC comes to us on January 15th, 2014 from Duluth, Georgia with the FIGHT NIGHT 35 card set to air on Fox Sports 1. The main event features Middleweights as Luke Rockhold taking on Costas Philippou. It is a matchup of two men coming off losses that shook up growing bandwagons. Rockhold was all business and was saying all the right things and as a former Strikeforce Champion, he had a solid resume coming in, but he dropped his UFC debut against Vitor Belfort fast. Philippou too saw his rise derailed with a loss to Francis Carmont, so both are in need of a redemptive.
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For both men, they watched their opponents move into the upper echelon of the division, so they have to feel they were close. Belfort is the next contender for the Middleweight title, partly based on his decisive win over Rockhold, while Carmont is slated to face off against Ronaldo Souza next in a match that could yield the next contender for the belt.
Rockhold has proven to be a tough, wrestler based competitor with a strong mind game and a lot of confidence. At times, he has seemed to fall in love with his boxing and striking, which have improved but are still completely average for the division. He is going to have to avoid the tendency to stand and box with Philippou, who is an excellent striker.
The formula to beat Philippou was exposed by Carmont. If Rockhold, who is a better wrestler than Carmont, is able to keep Philippou down and punish him, he is on his way to winning the fight. Philippou is unlikely to have added finishs from his back to his arsenal at a level he can use, so it is in this position that Rockhold is safest.
Though they are different fighters, Philippou would do best to work strongly on his takedown defense, perhaps modelling his style after former UFC Champ Chuck Liddell. If Philippou can stay on his feet and make Rockhold or anyone work for the takedowns, they get harder and harder as the match wears on, and Philippou has the striking to make them pay. What we are betting on here is who will get the type of match they want.