In the relatively thin contender ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division, an impressive win in the UFC 155 bout between Tim Boetsch and Constantinos Philippou could catapult the victor into legit title-contender status in 2013, especially if it is with the kind of signature verve and violence mixed martial arts (MMA) fans remember.
Since dropping to 185 pounds, Boetsch has fought with the kind of big-man swagger he simply didn't have at Light Heavyweight, where his decent wrestling credentials and heavy hands simply didn't overwhelm as they have 20 pounds south. "The Barbarian" has also shown a considerable amount of fortitude, winning bouts he was pegged an underdog in against Yushin Okami -- where he was hopelessly behind prior to a thrilling knockout win -- or in decisioning much-hyped Hector Lombard, where most insiders figured Boetsch was being served up as a sacrificial lamb of the promotion's newest acquisition.
Philippou's progress has been steady, almost overlooked in the context of workmanlike wins. His sharp stand up and improved takedown defense have marshaled him to a splendid decision victory over tough Court McGee in March, where Philippou's accuracy, upper-body strength and good combinations kept the fight standing enough for him to outpoint The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 11 winner. It was a quantum leap for a guy who nearly hit empty on the gas tank in taking a split decision over the worn Jorge Rivera.
Boetsch's edge is tactical in that he can try wrestling if the stand up game doesn't work. However, "Costa" has shown an excellent ability to stuff takedowns and consistently battle in close to prevent being put into bad positions. Neither fighter is particularly comfortable playing the role of counter-fighter, and the battle of the initiative will unfold virtually from the opening moments.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 155 Middleweight main card match up between Tim Boetsch vs. Constantinos Philippou below:
Boetsch's hands, while heavy and demanding respect, can be sloppily unleashed. He wings punches with bad intentions and at-times, equally bad technique, winging shots while wading into exchanges. Thus far, his solid chin and tenacity have been enough to compensate, but you have to wonder if Philippou won't be able to drill counters and make him pay, especially early while they're both fresh and aggressive. He rarely -- if ever -- kicks effectively, which is another weapon Philippou has, though it's somewhat underutilized -- if he falls behind in the stand up game early, will Boetsch ditch the prospect of his power bailing him out against a talented and composed striker, or will he revert to trying takedowns to dictate the action and points? And while Boetsch has looked increasingly comfortable at 185 since dropping down, Philippou seems to have a huge frame at the weight, and his stamina could be questionable, especially if he's taken down early and ground down in a cardio-sapping fight from the bottom.
This has all the makings of a middleweight war, and with some compelling ebbs of momentum. Look for Philippou to land precise, crisp counters in the opener, using lateral movement as he dials in-and-out of range, while Boetsch flails ineffectively and seems a beat behind.
Philippou will deny Boetsch's takedowns in the first half of the fight, painting by the numbers, as it were, as his accurate stand up and timing pushes the point home. Boetsch will rally late in the second, forcing wild exchanges as Philippou tires, and planting him to the mat for some roughhousing and general mayhem.
Look for Boetsch to try and close hard down the stretch knowing he's behind on points, as Philippou lands just enough on the feet and survives some bad spots on the mat en route to a competitive but unanimous decision win.
Philippou via unanimous decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 155 main card action later this evening (Sat., Dec. 29, 2012), which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst