In the main event of UFC Fight Night 35, which takes place tonight (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) at The Arena in Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., a Middleweight clash will have big divisional relevance when Costa Philippou takes on Luke Rockhold in a five round battle.
Both men are coming off very convincing defeats, but considering recent events, Philippou may be facing the most significant fight of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career this evening on FOX Sports 1.
With former training partner Chris Weidman definitively claiming and defending the 185-pound title, Philippou decided to switch camps heading into his fight with Francis Carmont at UFC 165, leaving the Serra-Longo team for another Long Island, N.Y., camp, Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. The logical explanations for this move would be that Costa wasn't getting the attention he wanted at Serra-Longo ... or to possibly avoid a possible championship conflict down the road.
Against Carmont, Philippou taken down frequently and, absorbing a good deal of ground-and-pound punishment. The switch may have had something to do with it because before the bout, Philippou had demonstrated that he was very good at stopping opponents' takedowns. Of course, this could also just be a testament to the wrestling ability of Carmont.
Regardless, the bottom line is that he was not prepared to stop Carmont's takedowns -- nor get back up from them -- which is what lost him the fight.
It will be interesting to see how Philippou has prepared for an opponent like Rockhold. Philippou's boxing past makes him a very good striker, and training with the Serra-Longo team seemingly made him an improved grappler. Rockhold is a very complete fighter, more than able to compete with Philippou in every facet of MMA, which is the reason "Cypress Slugger" has to be well-prepared ... for everything.
At this point in his career, Philippou, 34, needs to prove his worth now. He is no spring chicken. And a two-fight losing streak could squash whatever career hopes he has pretty definitively.
The good news is that Philippou has the technique and athleticism to make him a force in the atop the Middleweight division; however, that could mean nothing if he is unable to topple the elite competitors in the weight class. Rockhold is perhaps the best test to gauge where Philippou stands. Indeed, if he can defeat the former Strikeforce champion, don't be surprised to see Philippou make more surprising Middleweight moves moving forward.