Luke Rockhold vs. Costa Philippou:
Mike Drahota: This fight presents an interesting match up between two Top-10 ranked middleweights. Both are coming in off a loss, so I expect the tensions to be high, especially given how crowded and talented the UFC middleweight division is right now. There’s no doubt that Philippou has some impressive boxing, but it’s tough to see where his game goes if that doesn’t work out. Rockhold, on the other hand, is simply more well rounded. Because of that, I expect the 6’3” Rockhold to keep Philippou at range with his kicks, eventually tying him up and dragging him to the ground to look for a fight-ending choke. My pick is Rockhold via second round submission.
Rory Kernaghan: Luke Rockhold will look to get back on track after a devastating KO loss to Vitor Belfort, but ‘Cyprus Slugger’ Costa Philippou is no pushover. Philippou has never been finished and recently became the first man to TKO Tim Boetsch. Rockhold has been finished by strikes in both his losses and I think he was unlucky to draw Costa in his second bout. I expect Philippou to dominate, although Rockhold is the favorite I’m going against the grain with my prediction; Philippou by TKO in round three.
Brian Cox: Luke Rockhold has a well-rounded game and can be particularly dangerous on the ground. He has struggled over the last year, losing his only fight in 2013, He’s now looking to get back to his Strikeforce championship ways. Standing in his way will be the T/KO happy hands of Philippou. Rockhold is the longer and rangier fighter, so if he can keep his distance or even take it to the ground he stands a good chance of taking home the victory. However, if Philippou can stay in the pocket and hit Rockhold he could easily knock him out. I think Luke will be able keep Philippou at range at take home a victory on points. I’m picking Luke Rockhold by way of unanimous decision victory.
Buster Evans: I think Rockhold has all the tools to beat Philippou on the feet or on the ground. My only concern is if Rockhold’s previous loss to Vitor Belfort has affected him at all. Philippou will also want to put on a show after his recent loss against Francis Carmont. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockhold pull of a submission later on in the fight, but I don’t think he’s going to get the chance. I think Philippou is going to take it to the former Strikeforce champ early, then get a stoppage later on. Philippou by TKO RD 3.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Brad Tavares:
Mike Drahota: This fight has gotten little to no publicity heading in, but it’s an under-the-radar blockbuster in my eyes. Larkin is an ultra-talented striker with only one loss on his record, and Tavares has quietly racked up four straight decision wins at 185 pounds. Both fighters love to stand and bang, but Larkin has shown sparse submission skills so far. Tavares has been largely relying on his boxing to pick opponents apart, but that just won’t do against the standup of Larkin. Expect Tavares to focus on not allowing Larkin any space to unleash his strikes. Tavares should be able to neutralize Larkin’s explosive standup by using his all-around skillset. If not, it could be a short night for him. Still, my pick is Tavares via unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Brad Tavares will look to extend his four-fight win streak when he squares off against Strikeforce crossover Lorenz Larkin. The skinny on this fight is that Larkin has too much in the toolbox for Tavares, and will win convincingly in my opinion. Look for Larkin to utilize his striking background en route to a second round KO by head kick.
Brian Cox: Styles make fights so I think this is going to be a ho-hum affair. Both fighters aren’t wowing anyone with how they win, with neither having a big (UFC) wvictory in the middleweight division. To be honest, this is not a co-main event fight to me. As Larkin usually has trouble with wrestlers and Tavares is not really that, I think he’ll probably carry the day. I’m picking Larkin by way of unanimous decision.
Buster Evans: This fight looks set to be a war and is my pick for “Fight of the Night”. Both men are talented strikers. Larkin is the more diverse of the two but Tavares has some ferocious power; more than enough to put Larkin’s lights out. I think Tavares is going to be more effective with his striking, leading to him knocking Larkin out midway through the fight. Tavares by KO RD 2.
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