UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou

Swinging Johnson

Sunday, December 22, 2013 4:22 PM GMT

Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 4:22 PM GMT

A pair of top ten middleweights clash when Luke Rockhold throws down with Costa Philippou on Wednesday night January 15th but which fighter will get our stamp of approval in our UFC picks?

Luke Rockhold (10-2, 2 KO's, 6 Subs)

Vitor Belfort's spinning heel slammed perfectly upon Luke Rockhold's chin sending the 6'3" middleweight crashing to the canvas. Belfort, sensing the kill, swarmed the defenseless Rockhold and within seconds the match was over. It was not the UFC debut Rockhold had anticipated but if it's any consolation, he lost to one of the greatest to ever grace the cage.

Rockhold, the former Strikeforce Middleweight champion, has been eager to get back to work after his stunning first-round KO in May of this year but a knee injury derailed his date with Tim Boetsch in October. Scratched from that event Rockhold set his sights on a January return and if his rehab goes smoothly he will be in the main event with a very tough MMA veteran in Costa Philippou. 

Rockhold is a cerebral fighter who picks his spots carefully and then exploits his opponents weaknesses as the fight progresses. He is also a much taller middleweight than most and at 6'3" that often sets him up for a distinct reach advantage. He will need every inch of that reach if he is to out-strike his opponent on January 15th.

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Costa Philippou (12-3, 6 KO's, 1 Sub)

Philippou's last fight saw him dropping a decision to French fighting sensation Francis Carmont who has not lost a match in his UFC career. Philippou will need to work on his ground game if he is to withstand the skill and alacrity that Rockhold brings to the table. In his last fight Philippou was able to weather the storm that Carmont brought to the ground but was unable to do much of anything else except merely defend and avoid taking too much damage. 

Philippou is a striker by nature but as he ascends the ranks in the UFC he will have to sharpen up his mat techniques. Prior to his defeat against Carmont in September, Philippou had reeled off five consecutive wins and there was none bigger than his TKO of UFC veteran Tom Boetsch whom he starched in the final round of their fight in December of last year.

Philippou has over 80 amateur boxing matches on his resume and that's the game he trusts. He knows he can hammer away with the best of them but he also knows he will need to work on his BJJ if he is to have any long term success in the world's premier fighting organization. His experience and drive make him a favorable contender in the UFC odds.

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Free UFC Pick:

Luke Rockhold has fought a better caliber of fighter but as we saw in his defeat at the hands (or should I say feet) of Vitor Belfort, he is clearly not ready for primetime in the middleweight division. That's not to say he won't be ready in the future but his opponent in this match, Costa Philippou, is more fitted to his level.

Rockhold's takedown accuracy percentage is a paltry 20% compared to 50% for Philippou. However, once the fight hits the mat Rockhold will have a distinct advantage. Knowing this, I believe Philippou will keep the fight standing and Rockhold may indeed welcome the opportunity to stand and trade. Though Philippou is a better pure striker I think that Rockhold is powerful enough to use his size advantage to outpoint Philippou and ultimately win a decision. However, if he does get caught it will be an early night for Rockhold. We'll be adding Rockhold to our UFC picks for this fight.

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