UFC Fight Night 35 preview: Five 'Burning Questions' heading into 'Rockhold vs Philippou' in Georgia


Before every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans toggle between possible scenarios and what to expect days before it all unfolds in front of their eyes. Probable outcomes, distinguishable facts and head-scratching theories are all apart of the mystique that surrounds the fights on any given night. We ask ourselves the same questions … and try to come out with different answers.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to Georgia for the fifth time later this week (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) for another free installment of mixed martial arts (MMA) fight on FOX Sports 1.

UFC Fight Night 35: "Rockhold vs. Philippou" (see full fight card here) will take place at The Arena in Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., showcasing a pair of top Middleweight contenders -- Luke Rockhold and Constantinos Philippou -- who will look to raise their respective stocks and get back into 185-pound title contention.

In the co-main event, Lorenz Larkin -- who wants to make it two straight wins inside the Octagon -- will collide with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 11 alum, Brad Tavares, in another Middleweight scrap.

Here are "Five Burning Questions" heading into Georgia this Wednesday evening:

5. Could this be Lorenz Larkin's calling?

Larkin has fought 15 times since mid-2009, and despite two questionable setbacks, his 14-1-(1) record, which includes wins over Robbie Lawler and Gian Villante, seems to go unnoticed.

Perhaps it's because Larkin was on the receiving end of a brutal beatdown at the hands of Muhammed Lawal at Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" in early 2012; however, that decision was overturned to a "No Contest" after "King Mo" tested positive for banned substances (Drostanolone, to be exact).

That means Larkin's only loss came to Francis Carmont at UFC on FOX 7, a controversial result that could have gone both ways (or better yet, which judge was summoned to work that night in San Jose, California).

Nevertheless, it was an impressive debut for "The Monsoon." And if he can score a win over another prospect in Tavares, we may be looking at one of the most underrated competitors in the 185-pound division.

4. Will Cole Miller deliver after turning heel in Europe?

The last time we saw "Magrinho," he was able to defeat Andy Ogle in Manchester, England, at UFC Fight Night 30 back in Oct. 2013. In his post-fight interview, Miller ripped European fighters, while praising himself for getting the better of them, and finished it off by calling out Conor McGregor and purposely mispronouncing his name.

Whether some feel it was embarrassing or disrespectful, Miller received attention for his antics and he flipped the switch, becoming one of the few "bad guys" in the Featherweight division.

For someone who has had 15 fights with the promotion dating back to 2007, Miller is still young enough to become a respected title challenger; however, that has not materialized thus far ... and there is a chance it never will.

If Miller wants to make an impact at 145 pounds and live up to his words, he needs to defeat the heavy-handed Sam Sicilia because at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.

3. Will Luke Rockhold use this performance to rise above his divisional counterparts?

Rockhold was on a tear before making his Octagon debut at UFC on FOX 8 in summer 2013 in Brazil.

Being the last combatant to ever hold the Strikeforce Middleweight championship, Rockhold defeated Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza to win the gold and then successfully defended it against Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy before moving to the largest organization in the sport.

Rockhold was favored at the time when he entered Octagon against Vitor Belfort, but he suffered his first loss via spinning heel kick to the head in little more than 2.5 minutes, looking nothing like a favorite ... nor a champion for that matter.

With that performance behind him, if Rockhold wants to re-enter the group of elite at 185 pounds, he needs to defeat Philippou impressively.

2. Does this fight card lack a true main event?

No disrespect to the two fighters headlining this card, although it begs to ask the question if there is any fight on this card that truly matters. Even if Rockhold and Philippou will battle for bragging rights in the division, this is a fun fight that would make the cut on any fight card with no real excitement from fans who tune in habitually.

Of course, they matter to some degree. And we cannot judge a book by its cover when it comes to predicting an event before it happens because they have the ability of being great fights.

These free cards are a treat (especially on a Wednesday); however, none of these fights are deemed with importance in their respectful scenarios.

1. Will fans get accustomed and embrace the plans for 2014?

With that being said, we obviously know this is a sign of things to come. As a matter of fact, we knew that already after watching last week's UFC Fight Night 34 in the wee hours of the morning.

This will be the second "Fight Night" event of 2014, and despite the lack of hometown fighters with few fights to their names who are under contract solely for global expansion purposes, these line ups are eerily similar.

After UFC's closest frenemy, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announced its WWE Network, which completely blows "Fight Pass" out of the water in terms of content and the inclusion of pay-per-views, these plans for global domination are mostly concentrated on hosting close to 50 fights cards in one year.

For the meantime, think of UFC as a steak with too much fat on it. Yes, there are good parts; however, you need to trim away the excess to really enjoy the sweet meat.

Bon appetit?

For news regarding UFC Fight Night 35: "Rockhold vs. Philippou" be sure to hit up our comprehensive preview stream right here.

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