UFC Fight Night 35 preview

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
11:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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A midweek UFC card is on tap for Wednesday, pitting middleweight contender Luke Rockhold against Constantinos Philippou in Duluth, Ga. Here’s how it breaks down.

Rockhold (10-2) versus Philippou (12-3), middleweight


Here’s something you never want to see take place in the corner of a UFC fighter you picked to lose/bet money against.

Trainer Firas Zahabi walks in from the corner of the screen and says: “If you fight intelligently, this is easy. Do the exact same thing.”

Oh no. That scene probably makes most of you think about Georges St-Pierre, but it actually came from a middleweight fight between Francis Carmont and Philippou at UFC 165, where Carmont cruised to a decision win in.

We’ve reached an unfortunate conclusion in the career of Philippou, who briefly fought in the professional boxing ring before transitioning to MMA in 2008: He can’t wrestle.

His takedown defense through seven UFC fights is 73 percent, which doesn’t sound bad, but that number is deceiving. He was outwrestled badly in his Octagon debut against Nick Catone, in March 2011. He lost that fight via decision.

Tim Boetsch put him on his back in the first round of a fight at UFC 155 in December 2012. Boetsch broke his hand in that round and was unable to do much of anything the rest of the fight. Philippou took advantage and finished it in the third.

Then the Carmont fight. That’s enough of a sample size to assume that Rockhold, who can wrestle, is going to own Philippou on the ground on Wednesday.

Philippou is good enough with his hands that he’ll force other strikers into trying to take him down -- meaning guys who don’t usually wrestle are forced to try it. That has contributed to his percentage when it comes to takedown defense.

The big question, which we pretty much know the answer to already, is can Philippou keep it on the feet? In a five-rounder? If you’re delusional and say yes, you still have to ask whether he can beat Rockhold on his feet -- which is another no. Rockhold by submission in the second round.

Brad Tavares (11-1) versus Lorenz Larkin (14-1), middleweight

Tavares is a classic example of a guy who won’t beat himself. He’s going to come in shape. He’s not easy to hurt. Won’t take many crazy risks.

If he can put Larkin on his back, he should do it. He doesn’t necessarily have to do it to win the fight, but if you can put Larkin on his back, you put Larkin on his back. He can’t spend too much time trying for it, though. If it’s not happening, abandon it.

This is because Larkin has great balance and he’s not a guy you want to try and hold up against the fence and neutralize. In those clinches, he’ll build toward the right opportunity and unleash these quick inside flurries.

Tavares really isn’t a clinch fighter, anyway. He likes to keep opponents on the end of his very straight, accurate punches. He can be somewhat predictable, but he’s fine with that. He’ll throw with volume and he’ll walk forward throughout a fight.

Two things: I think Larkin targets the lead leg of Tavares with kicks -- and I don’t think Tavares is quick enough to avoid that. He’ll attempt the lesser of two evils and try to work inside, but get outpointed in the process. Larkin by decision.

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