Two of the UFC's most consistent middleweight fighters will duke it out for a shot among the elite in the division this Saturday night (Dec. 29, 2012) as Tim Boetsch battles Constantinos Philippou on the UFC 155 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Boetsch enters the bout on the heels of the two most prolific victories of his career, with a miracle third round knockout of Yushin Okami at UFC 144 as well as a surprise upset split decision against the debuting Hector Lombard earlier this summer at UFC 149. He was expected to face Chris Weidman, but an injury forced a late opponent swap.
Costantinos Philippou has been on a tremendous roll in the UFC middleweight division ever since dropping his UFC debut, winning four straight including a solid showing against the likes of Court McGee and Riki Fukuda in his last two bouts. The Cyprus native was eager to accept a bout against Boetsch on short notice after his fight against Nick Ring fell apart at the last minute this past November.
Will Boetsch bring back his barbaric tendencies against Philippou? Can Philippou's boxing keep Boetsch at bay? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 15-4 overall, 6-3 in the UFC
Key Wins: Yushin Okami (UFC 144), Hector Lombard (UFC 149)Nick Ring (UFC 123)
How he got here: A natural athlete, Tim Boetsch tore through the local scene in New Jersey to start out his career before earning the opportunity of a lifetime when he stepped in on three days' notice to fight Vladimir Matyushenko at an IFL event East Rutherford. He would lose a decision to "The Janitory," but it proved that he could hang with the big boys.
Just five months later, "The Barbarian" was making his UFC debut against David Heath where he proceeded to lay a beatdown on the veteran, finishing him off with a series of knees and one of the most violent tosses you'll ever see, which won over a wide margin of MMA fans.
Perhaps thrown into the deep end too quickly, Boetsch would go 2-2 in his first UFC stint, losing to both Matt Hamill and Jason Brilz, but it would only take him one year away from the promotion where he stopped all three of his opponents to earn another invite.
He went 1-1 at light heavyweight, but was overpowered by Phil Davis, which convinced him to make the cut to 185 pounds. Since dropping down, Boetsch has won consecutive decisions over the likes of Kendall Grove and Nick Ring to go on the first UFC winning streak of his young career. The AMC Pankration fighter dug deep and scored a dramatic third round come-from-behind knockout against Yushin Okami earlier this year and then surprised Hector Lombard by staying out of his range and nearly doubling the former Bellator champion in significant strikes.
After a late notice opponent swap, Boetsch is ready to vault himself into the elite middleweights in the UFC.
How he gets it done: Tim Boetsch is not the fastest fighter out there, but he might be one of the strongest middleweights in the UFC. To take advantage of that, he needs to close the distance and get inside against Philippou.
If he can get inside, he possesses some powerful knees and his clinch is very dangerous, as we've seen him toss multiple people across the Octagon like rag dolls in his UFC career thus far. "The Barbarian" has some tricky judo attacks which can come from strange angles and catch his opponents off guard.
If he can't get inside immediately, don't be surprised to see Boetsch throw some nice push or front kicks as he can really snap his lead leg out there surprisingly quickly.
Look for Boetsch to try to take advantage of Philippou's occasional hesitancy to engage. "The Barbarian" possesses some serious power and has been working very hard to improve his conditioning so as to outwork and outpace his opponent. If Philippou isn't prepared for Boetsch's pressure, Boetsch is going to try to eat him for lunch.
Record: 11-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 4-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Nick Catone (UFC 128)
How he got here: Originally from Cyprus, Philippou moved to America and began training at Matt Serra's academy in New York.
He made his debut in the Atlantic City fight promotion Ring of Combat in 2008, fighting on five consecutive numbered events for the promotion and accumulating a 4-1 record in the process with his only loss being to eventual UFC light heavyweight Ricardo Romero in his MMA debut.
Philippou would fight four more times for Ring of Combat, going 3-0 with one "No Contest" before earning a shot in the UFC. He stepped up on short notice to face Nick Catone and would lose a unanimous decision to the wrestler. He was slated to face Rafael Natal before an injury to Alessio Sakara gave him an opportunity to step up in the biggest opportunity of his young career against veteran Jorge Rivera.
"Costa" seized the opportunity and defeated Rivera via split decision. He followed up that victory this past December by thrashing the durable Jared Hamman with a violent first round knockout. He's since scored consecutive unanimous decision victories over Court McGee and Riki Fukuda to secure a solid four fight winning streak in the middleweight division.
He was slated to face Nick Ring last month, but a fight-day illness prevented "The Promise" from competing and instead, Philippou substituted in to face Boetsch.
How he gets it done: Philippou is primarily a striker, having scored five wins by knockout. Thus, he's going to have to be very careful about utilizing his distance and being able to strike safely without risking being taken down or clinched.
Philippou loves to fight in the pocket, but he'll have to avoid Boetsch's attempts to bring the fight to the ground or shove him against the fence. It's all about footwork and timely aggression. He will have to work extra hard to maneuver around the Octagon without backing himself into a corner because Boetsch is going to be pressuring him constantly. He'll have to be ready to pounce at the slightest opening because "The Barbarian" is likely going to leave a few if he constantly moves forward.
The New Jersey based fighter has been plagued by an inability to be aggressive at times, especially considering how powerful and technical he is capable of being on the feet. If he starts to secure a lead in the striking department, he should really press it. Finishing Boetsch is likely not going to happen, but he can at least win a dominant decision if he can keep the AMC Pankration fighter at bay.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the letdown for Boetsch. He was preparing to take on Chris Weidman, one of the top three middleweights on the planet with a potential title shot against Anderson Silva on the line. Now, he's just got to win to stay even keeled with the rest of the contenders after Weidman got hurt. If his motivation is lacking, he could be setting himself up for a tremendous fall. He did not dominate in either of his last two victories so he could be particularly vulnerable to a hungry prospect like Philippou if he's not careful.
Bottom Line: This fight should be an interesting dynamic. Boetsch was prepared to counter an aggressive fighter in his last bout against Hector Lombard and it didn't happen, which resulted in a horribly boring fight. This time, he'll hopefully be back to his normally aggressive self. He'll need to be to try to overwhelm Philippou, who is not always looking to engage in striking wars. If anyone can force Philippou to stand and fight him, it might be Boetsch going back to his barbaric ways. This fight could be fantastic or dull. It will entirely depend on whether one of these guys steps up the aggression or not.
Who will come out on top at UFC 155? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!