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UFC Fight Night 35 main event preview: Luke Rockhold versus Costas Philippou

Luke Rockhold is a betting favorite in the UFC Fight Night 35 main event.
Luke Rockhold is a betting favorite in the UFC Fight Night 35 main event.

UFC Fight Night 35 has flown under the radar as the promotion is set to feature it's second card of 2014 on Wednesday, January 15th. Looking at the event ledger the main event is a very important matchup in the middleweight division that is now wide open for new challengers. Two of the UFC's top ten 185 pound fighters are facing off as Luke Rockhold and Costas Philippou are set for five rounds of action. After researching the two athletes featured this is shaping up to be a strong contest.

Rockhold and Philippou are two fighters that bring the type of pace that mainstream mixed martial arts fans desire. Even though Luke carries a very diverse skill set into the cage, he has been known to mix up with anyone willing to stand in his way. Outside being blitzed by current number one contender Vitor Belfort, Rockhold normally controls the fight with his elusive style of striking. When paired with the boxing heavy Costas, this creates a dynamic of two fighters who do not shy away from intense exchanges. Rockhold's ability to mix in a variety of kicks from range give him an advantage in this area.

What makes the situation worse for the New York native in Philippou is that he's been prone to being hit more than he can reach his opponents. According to Fight Metric reports, Costas lands only 2.39 strikes per minute while taking 2.45 during that same stretch of time. This may not seem like a large advantage, but Rockhold will clearly be the best striker that he's faced at this point in his career.

As mentioned before, Rockhold has the ability to mix in a wide range of offensive weapons that he doesn't readily use. Rockhold has serviceable wrestling skills, but he tends to use them in a defensive manner. Philippou is of the same ilk, but if Rockhold hits a key takedown his grappling abilities should be able to control the action on the mat. The former Strikeforce champion is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was able to survive the likes of Ronaldo Souza so he shouldn't have a huge challenge controlling his opponent in this fight.

Even the fact that this fight is a five round main event plays to Luke's advantage. In recent fights Costas Phillippou has faded in later rounds. While he has pushed through to remain aggressive, he's never competed for 25 minutes in his career. Rockhold, on the other hand, has been through “championship rounds,” and consistently performs well late in fights. For example, he kept such a frantic pace against Tim Kennedy back in 2012 that he is still one of the only opponents to wear down the former Army Ranger to such a point of fatigue.

In interviews leading up to this fight, Rockhold has said it loud and clear that he believes he will be able to outpace Costas in such a way that will open up the opportunity to finish the fight. Philippou has been the underdog in the past and it seems like he's ready to play that role once again. In this important main event fight at UFC Fight Night 35 he has the chance to upset the sixth ranked fighter in the middleweight division. Either way, this is a very tough test for both athletes and a victory should give them solid footing in a division that has captured the eyes of the MMA community.