The second card of the UFC’s 2014 campaign takes place on the 15th of this month at the Gwinnett Center, in Georgia with the Fight Night 35 event being headlined by Luke Rockhold and Costas Philippou.
Rockhold is the former two time defending Strikeforce middleweight champion; he has one fight in the UFC.
Luke’s lone match in the senior circuit was a stunning round one KO loss to (now) title challenger Vitor Belfort. Since the May fight, Rockhold has been on the shelf and pretty much a non-entity in the division over the last eight months and in that time, much has changed. The division has a new champion, Anderson Silva is out with a broken leg (return status unknown), Lyoto Machida has dropped from 205 and joined the class, and Jacare Souza, the fighter Rockhold beat to win the Strikeforce 185 pound belt, has become a major force within the middleweight sort; 2 & 0, with two finishes, ranked number three in the division and considered a serious contender. Indeed, a lot has changed since UFC on FX 8.
However and ranked at number six in the class, Rockhold is in a great position to make a title run and with the division is so much flux right now, if ever that was time for a 185 pound fighter to have dreams of title glory, then this is it.
A week this Wednesday, Luke has the opportunity to again nurture his title aspirations as he takes on number ten ranked Costas Philippou. Costas is a fighter who appears to have fallen from grace in the title contention mix and, like Rockhold, is coming off of a loss; a three round domination from Francis Carmont.
As Rockhold sees it, Costas is more noted for his hands than anything else and that he (Luke), as the taller fighter, can “play out his distance with kicks and jab” and that if need be, he can take the fight to the ground and “dominate” Philippou on the mat.
However, that might be easier said than done. In his 12 professional fights, Costas has only garnered three losses, all by decision, and has yet to be stopped. Luke, on the other hand, has two losses through ten fights and both defeats came by way of T/KO. That said as Luke states, he is the taller fighter, does have a well-rounded game and does appear to have an advantage on the ground; 60% finishing rate vs. 8% on the mat, respectively. As such, perhaps he can keep his chin out of Philippou’s wheelhouse and take the win.
Regardless, the 29 year old is motivated for the fight and as such, looking to make the point that he’s a contender in the division. To that end, a win over Philippou would advance Rockhold’s cause. If he can take the victory, Luke’s next fight would apt to be against a top five fighter and a win there would probably put him at the title’s door. However, he has to get past Philippou’s formidable fists first.
All things considered, the match between the pair should be a good one and makes for a decent top-of-the-card bout for a FOX event.