The co-main event at next month’s UFC Fight Night 66 features two quality middleweights in Gegard Mousasi and Costas Philippou. The UFC odds have Mousasi heavily favored, but Philippou’s no slouch.
Only two people have ever knocked out Dan Henderson in a pro fight: Vitor Belfort, and Gegard Mousasi. Both those knockouts occurred when Henderson was north of 40 years old, but it’s still a notable accomplishment – especially for Mousasi. The former DREAM and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion has enjoyed mixed results in the Octagon since making his debut in 2013. Beating Henderson puts Mousasi in the mix for a shot at UFC Middleweight champ Chris Weidman down the road.
First, Mousasi has to get past Constantinos “Costas” Philippou. They’ll meet in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 66 on May 16, supporting the headline bout between Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber. As we go to press, Mousasi is a big –475 favorite on the UFC odds board. Maybe too big. Is this matchup really that lopsided?
The early bettors in the marketplace are already asking that question. Mousasi (36-5-2 lifetime) opened at –555 this past Saturday at 5Dimes; it only took eight minutes before Philippou (13-4, 1 NC) supporters drove those UFC odds to their current price. There’s no question Philippou faces the tougher challenge in this matchup. He’s three inches shorter than Mousasi at 5-foot-11, making the Cypriot one of the smaller fighters in the middleweight division. Philippou is also giving up three inches in reach, and at age 35 is six years Mousasi’s senior. But he’s a live dog nonetheless.
Philippou, a former boxer who had three fights as a pro (winning all three) before making the transition to UFC, came up through the ranks at Ring of Combat in Atlantic City, winning their Middleweight championship and earning a majority decision over Uriah Hall. After a failed attempt to join the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 11, Philippou was inserted into a couple of PPV fights in 2011 as an injury replacement, splitting the pair. Then he won his next four fights in a row, including an impressive upset over Tim Boetsch (–145) at UFC 155, via third-round TKO.
But Philippou had trouble taking it to the next level. He dropped back-to-back fights to Francis Carmont (+135) and Luke Rockhold (–405), eating a nasty liver kick from Rockhold and losing in the first round of their main event bout at Fight Night 35. Philippou rebounded somewhat with a quick KO over Lorenz Larkin (–294) last May, but hasn’t fought since because of a rib injury, and finds himself on the periphery at No. 12 on the UFC’s middleweight rankings.
Mousasi’s profile is stronger after putting down Henderson this past January – he’s No. 7 on the UFC rankings and No. 8 at Sherdog. Like Philippou, the man they call “The Dreamcatcher” comes from a boxing background, reaching amateur champion status in the Netherlands, and he’s also 8-0 as a kickboxer. Mousasi already had 38 UFC fights under his belt by the time he arrived in the Octagon, so he’ll have the edge in experience next month despite being the younger man.
The raw stats are in Mousasi’s favor, as well. According to FightMetric, he lands strikes at a higher rate and with more accuracy than Philippou, while absorbing fewer shots. It’s much the same on the ground, although Philippou’s takedown defense is stronger at 72 percent to Mousasi’s 56 percent. Otherwise, the numbers point to a victory for the favorite.
It’s that –475 number we’re concerned about. Mousasi has also had trouble taking it to the next level, losing to Lyoto Machida (–294) and Ronaldo Souza (–250) before dusting off the aging Henderson (+450). That win may have caused some inflated expectations in the marketplace. Despite his shortcomings, Philippou is one of a handful of strikers who can go toe-to-toe with Mousasi, which gives us enough reason to add the underdog to our UFC picks at this price.
Free UFC Pick: Take Philippou +325 at 5Dimes