There may have been a lack of star power at UFC Fight Night 35 last night (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia; however, several up-and-comers delivered with their respective performances.
Luke Rockhold stopped Costas Philippou in the first round of their main event Middleweight scrap with a liver kick (watch full video highlights here), which headlined the mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1.
Looking cool, calm and collected, Rockhold won his first fight inside the Octagon by mixing up his shots and going to the body often until the final crushing blow had Philippou doubled over in pain.
Unfortunately, in a sport like MMA, each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the eight-walled cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from the event in "The Peach State:"
Biggest Winner -- Luke Rockhold
The former Strikeforce Middleweight champion's main event fight with Philippou was supposed to be competitive.
It looked anything but.
Stopping Philippou with a liver kick in the first round, it seems like the real Rockhold has finally landed in the UFC, putting the Middleweight division on watch with a "Knockout of the Night"-winning performance.
Sure, Rockhold ate some punches, too, but stylistically he looked light-years ahead of his opponent, who was stopped for the first time in his career.
With several possible fights ahead of him, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained product will have his work cut out for him, but at the same time, he now finds himself in line for a huge fight that could get him closer to the title.
Runner Up -- Yoel Romero
After Romero was rocked, taken down and on the verge of being finished on a few occasions (more specifically in the first round), Romero caught Derek Brunson with a left hand and poured on the beating shortly after.
Their fight was perhaps the most entertaining one on the main card broadcast. And the reason Romero deserves the recognition is because he was losing the fight ... physically and on the scorecards (assuming he was, since there were a few odd decisions on the night).
Romero finished Brunson in the third round with a barrage of punches on the ground followed by elbows to the body The damage was significant, too, after seeing the shape Brunson was in post-fight.
So far, "The Soldier of God" holds the tag of the best comeback of 2014.
Biggest Loser -- Lorenz Larkin
It seemed like Larkin would have been ready for a Top 10-ranked opponent and some type of fighting notoriety if he could get past Brad Tavares on Wednesday night ... especially since he was the favorite
Not only did Larkin fail to do so, he was pretty much beaten in every aspect of the fight: On the feet, in the grappling exchanges and on the mat (for as long as the fight lasted there).
Keep in mind, Larkin steamrolled through Robbie Lawler 1.5 years ago, which is truly mind-boggling after watching his lackluster co-main event performance.
With the chance to muster up a win streak and cast further doubt on the decision in the fight he had against Francis Carmont, Larkin finds himself in a pack of Middleweights with no sense of individual direction at the moment.
Runner Up -- Costas Philippou
Costas Philippou may be regretting leaving the Serra-Longo fight camp, because his since departure in May 2013, he has suffered the two worst defeats of his career.
First was the mauling from Carmont, who smothered Philippou for three rounds. To make matters worse, if someone thought that fight was anything but competitive, his main event loss to Rockhold was excruciating to watch, lasting little more than two minutes and being stopped by a kick to the body.
It was the first time Philippou has been stopped in his career. And although his two-fight losing streak is not extremely damaging, he faces a steep mountain to climb if he wants opponents of that caliber sometime soon.
Luckily for Philippou, it is only his third loss in the Octagon during a eight-fight tenure, so his job is definitely safe since he usually comes to trade at all times.
It's just a rough patch to overcome for the slugger.
For "UFC Fight Night 35: Rockhold vs. Philippou" recaps and fight coverage, check out our story stream here.