Two top-10 middleweights with plenty at stake are set to collide in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35. Costa Philippou and Luke Rockhold will both be looking to rebound after poor showings their last time out. Philippou dropped a unanimous decision at UFC 165 in a rather dull affair against Francis Carmont. Rockhold was a first-round highlight reel KO victim at the hands of Vitor Belfort in his Octagon debut in Brazil.
It’s an interesting stylistic matchup as Philippou relies on his boxing background to try and get the job done in the striking department while the former Strikeforce champion Rockhold possesses superior grappling skills to go along with a more diversified striking attack. He’s more prone to rely on kicks to the leg and head than Philippou is. Rockhold also possesses a strong submission game.
Philippou saw his five-fight win streak end against Carmont who showcased his wrestling skills to keep the “Cyprus Slugger” on his back for much of the fight and effectively negate his offense. It was a definite reversal of fortune for Philippou who had previously turned in the most impressive performance of his Octagon career in destroying Tim Boetsch at UFC 155. To enjoy success Philippou will need to keep the fight standing. He’s recorded six knockout victories in 12 career wins and has never been stopped. Conditioning could be a key factor to watch as this will mark Philippou’s first scheduled five-round contest. Another setback for the 34-year old would be a tough pill to swallow at this stage of his career. After his dreary battle with Carmont, Philippou is looking to make amends by turning in an exciting performance in his first UFC main event.
As for Rockhold, last year couldn’t have gone any worse. His high level of confidence entering the Belfort fight was shattered by a well-placed head kick, and then he endured injury issues. Rockhold had been scheduled to meet Boetsch at UFC 166 but was forced withdraw due to a knee injury. He’s posted a 10-2 career mark and has been successful against strong competition. He won the Strikeforce middleweight crown by defeating the highly dangerous Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and also owns a victory over Tim Kennedy. Rockhold is no stranger to five-round main event fights and truly believes he has the skills to still make a serious run in the division despite a very rough Octagon debut.
In the new 185-pound landscape that has Chris Weidman as champion and former longtime former champ Anderson Silva out of the picture due to injury, every top-10 contender feels a couple of victories could have them potentially in the mix for a title opportunity. After suffering setbacks in their last contests, both Philippou and Rockhold will be looking to put on an impressive show to state their cases as ones to watch in the middleweight division moving forward.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports