UFC Fight Night 35: Rockhold vs. Philippou Main Card Preview

Since I never was the guy to write a salient, coherent intro, let’s get right to it.

Coming to you liiiiiive … from Duluth, Georgia (God’s country) …. it’s UFC FIGHT NIGHT 35!!!!

Cole Miller vs. Sam Sicilia

Cole Miller is not my favorite fighter. I wouldn’t say that I’m a fan of his. In fact, I wouldn’t even say that I particularly like him. But he earned my undying respect when he referred to UFC featherweight ignoramus Conor McGregor as a “show pony”. Perfect. Miller thinks McGregor is a show pony, and Chael Sonnen thinks Jon Jones is a dork. Sometimes, with trash talk, less is more.

But ANYHOO, Miller takes on Sam Sicilia in what should be a fun brawl. Cole can look fantastic at times, the kind of fighter that seems tailor made for 145 pounds. He’s a tall, rangy dude with a good guard and good submissions, not to mention a nasty streak. Hang on, I’m gonna go watch him knock out Andy Wang again. I need a laugh this morning.

Sicilia’s UFC tenure has consisted of him beating Cristiano Marcello (a man most famous for choking out a criminally inclined drug addict backstage at a PRIDE show) and Godofredo Castro (who probably isn’t good). He’s one of those guys who never seems to be out of a fight, even when he’s losing soundly.

Miller is trick or treat, and while a Sicilia overhand right finish could absolutely happen, Cole should have enough firepower to outclass Sicilia and take a decision.

John Moraga vs. Dustin Ortiz

Even though I would never fault Moraga for taking that fight against Mighty Mouse, these are the kinds of fights he should be fighting at this stage of his career. Getting dominated and finished the way he did might be a great learning experience, but at the time, it just seemed like a bummer for Moraga.

Still, Moraga’s only two career losses are to DJ and John Dodson, and he’s pretty much clowned on everyone else I’ve seen him fight (including Chris Cariaso, who definitely isn’t terrible). Moraga has the kind of power that Matt Brown would want to see out of a flyweight, and I see him using it to beat Ortiz. Moraga by KO, round 3.

(By the way, hat tip to Matt Brown for making it seem like he doesn’t even watch the UFC’s flyweight division. While Brown’s argument isn’t totally wrong, his reasoning is one dimensional. Yes, it’s true that smaller men don’t necessarily pack the power that heavyweights do, but that argument ignores the other attributes that the little guys bring to the dance. A huge reason you don’t see flyweights getting knocked out left and right is because FLYWEIGHTS ARE BETTER FIGHTERS THAN HEAVYWEIGHTS. They’re better athletes, they’re more coordinated, and most of the time, they fight smarter fights. We good? Excellent.)

Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson

After knocking out brick shithouse Ronny Markes, Yoel Romero is officially on “Contender Watch”. This dude is just a sensational athlete. In 2011, he fought Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in Strikeforce, and after that one, I was left dumbfounded. On the one hand, Yoel seemed to have little grasp of the strategic nuances of MMA, as he blew out his arms trying to finish Feijao with punches against the cage. Seriously, he threw at least 20 punches too many. After that, he was toast. But you could see the potential, just in the natural way he seemed to bounce around.

He seems to be figuring it out in the UFC. Brunson is another Strikeforce guy that isn’t quite as intriguing as Romero, but a good fighter nonetheless. He’s coming off a quick submission win against Brian Houston, but all that means is that he’s coming off a quick submission win against Brian Houston. Jokes aside, Brunson is the consummate grinder, a decent southpaw boxer with good wrestling chops and a frustrating trend of not doing much after he secures takedowns.

This fight is Romero’s to lose. He’s a better wrestler, better athlete, more dangerous striker, and has momentum, and even perhaps God (who he claims to be a soldier of) in his favor. The gas tank is always a question with ripply-muscled dudes like Yoel, but I like him to knock Brunson out in the second round.

TJ Dillashaw vs. Mike Easton

TJ has been racking up some nice wins recently, and they all showcase just how much better he’s gotten since losing to John Dodson in 2011. This dude was GREEEEN, all the shades of green combined. He still fought like he knew what he was doing, dropping his hands and dancing around, but he paid for it.

The good news is, now he actually DOES know what he’s doing. His boxing is probably the biggest improvement, although he’s developed the Alpha Male signature front headlock series as well as almost anyone. TJ can search for killshots now without being reckless, and it’ll be interesting to see how he stacks up against Mike Easton, a guy who never met a trigger he couldn’t avoid pulling.

Mike Easton is good at everything. The only thing he’s terrible at is actually doing any of the things he’s good at.

Dillashaw by decision.

Lorenz Larkin vs. Brad Tavares

This entire main card is a shining beacon of good matchmaking. I don’t have a single negative thing to say about it. Here’s another example of what I mean, as two heavy handed strikers go at it to find further legitimacy at 185.

Lorenz Larkin is one of those guys who seems to be on this earth solely to prove me wrong. Like most people, I picked Robbie Lawler to beat him. Nope. I definitely favored Francis Carmont to beat him, and though that fight shows up as a loss on his record, most reasonable people would agree that he won. Okay. Undeterred, I even thought Chris Camozzi might be able to grind out a W over “The Monsoon”. No siree.

Larkin is a quick, heavy striker with good technique, but even after everything I just wrote, this fight worries me if I’m a Lorenz fan. Brad Tavares is a horse who can take Lorenz down and hurt him on the feet with those anvils in his hands.

It’s possible that my issue with Larkin is due to the fact that I just don’t see him being well rounded enough to fight his way into contention. I feel the opposite with Tavares, who has made steady improvements since being on that one reality show. Remember, you’re reading a guy who said the same sorts of things about MMA’s version of watching paint dry, Mr. Francis Carmont. Yeah, but still.

I like Tavares to muscle Larkin around when he has to and take a close fight on the judges scorecards. Look for some entertaining action here, as both men are good strikers and solid in the clinch. Brad Tavares wins a decision and inserts himself directly into Dana White’s contendership “mix” that he likes to talk about.

Luke Rockhold vs. Costa Philippou

To watch Luke Rockhold fight other top flight middleweights, you wouldn’t necessarily peg him as one of the best in the world, even though he is. He doesn’t quite nail the eye test like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who he beat. But put him up against a guy a tier or two below him and he’ll absolutely rip the guy to pieces.

There’s just alot to consider when fighting Rockhold. He’s a physically imposing middleweight with squirmy takedown defense and a high volume kicking game. He’s not gonna get tired; that much we know for sure. As a casual fan, you remember Rockhold getting slept by Vitor Belfort, but don’t let that mental image deter you from picking him against a plodding puncher like Philippou.

Constantinos Philippou had a rough go of it last fight out, dropping three mind numbing rounds to Francis Carmont. That fight confused me, because Costa had generally been pretty adept at defending takedowns during his UFC tenure. Is Costa falling off, or is that physical monster Carmont just committed to taking guys down and not doing anything?

This ultimately comes down to kicking vs. punching (not to sound all inane and simplistic), and in this case, the kicker has the wider array of tools and the more fluid of movements. It’d be one thing if Philippou was the kind of boxer to put together classic combos, but he’s not; he goes for the one hitter quitter, and often runs on empty late in fights because of it.

I see Rockhold getting caught a few times, but forcing Costa into a bunch of swings and misses that deplete his gas tank. Rockhold wins on points.

May Mauricio Zingano rest in peace.

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