Last night (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) Top-10 Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou squared off in the pivotal main event of UFC Fight Night 35 from The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
To watch full fight video highlights of Luke Rockhold vs. Costa Philippou right now click here.
Former Strikeforce 185-pound champ Rockhold gained many critics following a UFC debut that saw him knocked out by a vicious Vitor Belfort spinning wheel kick at UFC on FX 8. He needed a big win to prove that he wasn't just a product of facing lesser competition, and he had his hands full with talented boxer Philippou.
Philippou came in off a loss to Francis Carmont at UFC 165, but he was on a five-fight win streak prior to that. The former professional boxer had made a successful transition into mixed martial arts (MMA), earning him a golden opportunity to beat one of the top-ranked middleweights in the world.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn't his night. Rockhold silenced his doubters with ruthless efficiency, and he got the job done in Philippou's perceived area of expertise by ending the fight standing in the first round. Let's take a look back at Rockhold's convincing performance from Georgia.
Not surprisingly, the fight started with Rockhold throwing one of his crisp kicks to the body of Philippou. He controlled the action, closing the distance to land a good right hand that stunned Philippou. Rockhold didn't appear to be the least bit scared of engaging with Philippou. He pushed the fight against the cage, but Philippou countered by keeping his movement level high and utilizing good boxing angles.
Philippou began to find his distance a bit with some hard right hooks, but that was the extent of his offense. Rockhold smashed him with a brutal kick to the liver, and then followed with another that was even worse, crumpling Philippou to the mat for his first UFC stoppage.
After the fight, Rockhold called out for a rematch with the surging Belfort, who's been linked to a title shot against Chris Weidman in Las Vegas sometime later this year. Realistically Rockhold may be a fight or two away from facing "Phenom" once again, so he also brought up Michael Bisping's name. Bisping is currently on the shelf with a detached retina. "Count" will have to await the results of a peripheral vision test before he returns, but if that goes as planned, No. 6-ranked Rockhold would make an excellent opponent.
Rockhold returned with a vengeance at UFC Fight Night 35, and he may just be a player in one of the most talented divisions in all of MMA.
Philippou has some soul searching to do after two straight losses. He has very strong boxing but may be a bit of a one-trick pony in a division full of complete talents. The fact that he couldn't get the job done against Rockhold when the fight was contested in his comfort zone doesn't bode well for Philippou. He can still put on some exciting fights so he'll most likely return to facing mid-level opposition. Philippou will need to string together a few wins to repair his reputation ... and his days in the Top 10 are most likely numbered.
Luke Rockhold looked like a man possessed at last night's UFC Fight Night 35, returning from a disappointing defeat to end Costa Philippou's night early. Who should the former Strikeforce titleholder fight next?