UFC Fight Night 35 official weigh-in results: Rockhold, Philippou hit mark
The full UFC Fight Night 35 weigh-in results included:
MAIN CARD (FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET)
•Luke Rockhold (185) vs. Constantinos Philippou (185)
•Lorenz Larkin (185) vs. Brad Tavares (185)
•T.J. Dillashaw (135) vs. Mike Easton (135)
•Derek Brunson (185) vs. Yoel Romero (185)
•John Moraga (126) vs. Dustin Ortiz (124)
•Cole Miller (145) vs. Sam Sicilia (145)
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX Sports 1, 5 p.m. ET)
•Justin Edwards (155) vs. Ramsey Nijem (155)
•Elias Silverio (155) vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg (155)
•Brian Houston (185) vs. Trevor Smith (186)
•Alptekin Ozkilic (125) vs. Louis Smolka (125)
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 4 p.m. ET)
•Vinc Pichel (155) vs. Garett Whiteley (156)
•Charlie Brenneman (155) vs. Beneil Dariush (156)
10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 35
UFC’s Luke Rockhold on redemption, TRT and ghosts of knockouts past1. Middleweight title makeover
After closing out Strikeforce with two title defenses under his belt, Luke Rockhold (10-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) was in spitting distance of a UFC title shot when he migrated from the defunct promotion. Then Belfort concussed him with a spinning heel-kick at UFC on FX 8, and he was pushed further back in line. A win over Constantinos Philippou (12-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) isn’t a title eliminator, but if he’s able to rebound in impressive fashion, 2014 could re-solidify him as a contender.
2. Matchups make the man
Philippou’s heavy hands made him stand out early in his career, but wrestling was always a concern. After rattling off five straight victories, his deficiencies were again exposed when Francis Carmont smothered him at UFC 165. A matchup with Rockhold might not get him anywhere close to a title, but it offers a greater chance of bringing him the type of fight he likes: slugfests. That, as much as anything else, might be the best career rehab.
3. Suddenly significant co-headliner
Middleweight Brad Tavares (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has made it known he’s called for matchups with marquee names, only to get shot down by his relative obscurity. And while he’s put together an impressive four-fight winning streak, the names on his resume reflect his struggle to break out from the pack. Well, according to UFC President Dana White, his co-headliner against Lorenz Larkin (14-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) is the ticket to big things in the division. It’s a curious situation, but hey, it’s a storyline for a small card.
4. Bantamweight reboot
Bantamweights T.J. Dillashaw (8-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Mike Easton (13-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) face resistance from Bellator and ONE FC standouts in the 135-pound rankings, and among the UFC’s ranks, from one Brazilian named Raphael Assuncao. They’ve both stumbled in recent outings but retain their top-15 status. The question now is who can climb back up the ladder. Dillashaw, who’s one part of the small-statured dynamo Team Alpha Male, is a 2-1 favorite to do so.
5. Forging middleweight contenders
Olympic silver medalist wrestler Yoel Romero (6-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) shows incredible potential as a striker, having knocked out his first two opponents in the UFC (Clifford Starks and Ronny Markes). At times, though, the middleweight seems a little too pleased with his work in the cage, and higher in the division, that will cost him. Derek Brunson (11-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) isn’t a top-10 guy yet, but he is a foe who will bring the fight to Romero. An out-of-the-gate knockout against Brian Houston gave Brunson a boost after a lackluster decision win over Chris Leben, and now it’s his chance to put a big feather in his cap.
6. Flyweight title contender returns
John Moraga (13-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has the unfortunate honor of kicking off flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson’s current run of stoppages. Johnson locked in an armbar when they met this past July at UFC on FOX 8, and Moraga sat out the rest of 2013 with an injury. He returns Wednesday to rebuild momentum in a bout against Dustin Ortiz (12-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who earned a first-round TKO win over Jose Maria Tome in his debut at UFC Fight Night 32. Moraga could be back in contention by the end of the year if he plays his cards right.
7. Fight or KO of the night
Fans are likely to see a stoppage when featherweights Cole Miller (20-8 MMA, 9-6 UFC) and Sam Sicilia (12-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) meet. Miller is disgruntled over his place in the 145-pound class and wants to prove he’s worthy of the attention heaped on the injured Conor McGregor. Sicilia is tired of fighting Brazilians in their home country and thinks Miller is the key to marquee opponents. It adds up to favorable circumstances for an exciting clash, with Miller potentially locking in a submission if Sicilia doesn’t KO him first.
8. ‘TUF’ times for lightweight loser
“The Ultimate Fighter 13” veterans Ramsey Nijem (7-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) and Justin Edwards (8-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) have hit the skids in their recent UFC careers, and the loser of this fight could be facing a pink slip. Nijem, a finalist on the reality show, is on the rails after being submitted in short order by James Vick and getting brutally knocked out by Myles Jury. Edwards offered Brandon Thatch batting practice in his most recent appearance and hasn’t won more than two in a row since the show.
9. Undefeated flyweight prospect debuts
This past month, the UFC signed undefeated 125-pound fighter Louis Smolka (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who makes his octagon debut as one of the tallest guys in the division at 5-9. A stablemate of the recently victorious newcomer Russell Doane, who, like him, hails from Hawaii’s 808 Top Team, Smolka has finished all six of his pro opponents with four KO/TKOs. He meets Alptekin Ozkilic (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who makes a very short turnaround after a successful debut against Darren Uyenoyama at UFC on FOX 9.
10. The return of “The Spaniard”
Charlie Brenneman (19-5 MMA, 4-4 UFC) always looked undersized for the UFC welterweight division, and despite that, he put together a 4-4 record with his only losses coming against top-shelf opposition. After dropping to the lightweight division and racking up a four-fight winning streak in regional competition, he gets another shot at the big show against standout submission grappler Beneil Dariush (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who makes his octagon debut.
“My coaches, everyone just said, ‘Really? Vitor threw a spinning heel kick and caught you?’” Rockhold told MMAjunkie. “What else is there to say? You know, I got caught by a crazy, spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime kind of kick. I don’t see it happening again. I think that’s how we all kind of judged it.”
For the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, that’s just one of the elements to the loss that he’s spent the past eight months grappling with. There’s also the fact that it happened in his UFC debut, after he’d gone nearly six years undefeated. There’s the fact that this crazy head-kick knockout is bound to end up in highlight reels for the rest of time, so there’s that to look forward to.
Then, of course, there is the testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) thing. That part, Rockhold, admitted, just plain “sucks.”
“I’ll never be a fan of TRT,” Rockhold said. “It is what it is. It’s so prevalent in the sport that I guess we’re just going to have to deal with it. It sucks. … Especially guys that used steroids and now are on TRT, they lowered their testosterone, and they’re just trying to make up for it now. They want to find a way to get through the system and cheat. If there’s actual people who have real problems, sure, give them their exemption. But everyone’s pretty much cheating and trying to find a way to get away with it. It’s stupid.”
But herein lies the problem. Say you’re in Rockhold’s shoes. Say you share his view on synthetic testosterone users, as many do, especially in the case of Belfort, considering his past with illegal steroid use and his resurgence while using the controversial substance for fights in his home country of Brazil. Psychologically, how are you supposed to catalog this loss? Does it count? Is it a legitimate defeat that you can learn something from? Or do you put a great big asterisk next to it, telling yourself you got beat by a substance instead of a man, then move on?
Rockhold’s answer to that question, especially considering his take on TRT in general, was the part that surprised me.
“I don’t place an asterisk next to it,” he said. “I lost. If someone’s going to put an asterisk next to it, that’s for someone in your shoes, someone on that side of the sport. For me as a fighter, it’s a loss.”
Maybe that’s the only way he can look at it without driving himself crazy. Or maybe it’s just something he has to say so people won’t accuse him of making excuses.
Or, a third possibility: Maybe it doesn’t matter what he tells himself since either way he ends up in the same must-win position for his fight against Constantinos Philippou at UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday.
That’s the problem with ending up on the wrong end of a highlight in your UFC debut. You could give yourself any number of outs – octagon jitters, the TRT stuff, whatever – and that’s fine. But your second fight is the one people will use to determine if it was just a hiccup or a sign that you were never the fighter you were made out to be. That’s the one you’ve really got to win, lest a temporary setback turn into a trend.
The good news is Rockhold has a lot of things on his side in this matchup. He’s likely the more well-rounded fighter of the two, and probably has the edge in speed as well. A lot gets made of Philippou’s boxing, but as Rockhold was quick to point out, that’s only one aspect of the fight. Oddsmakers seem to agree, favoring him by a nearly 4-1 margin.
With this bout, Rockhold said, his aim is to “block out the pressure,” to forget about what happened and what’s to come and focus solely on what’s in front of him. It’s easier said than done, especially after a difficult year in which he followed a knockout loss with an injury layoff, forcing him to put some financial goals, like buying a house, on hold.
It also forced him out of the gym – “That’s the toughest part,” Rockhold said – and gave him plenty of time to think, not all of which was entirely welcome. At least one good thing came out of it, though. He had a chance to come up with a goal for the future, something to motivate him in his return. Yeah, you can probably guess.
“I want to get back in there and redeem myself [against Belfort], return the favor,” Rockhold said. “It’s definitely a fight I want in the near future. I don’t believe a spinning heel kick tells the tale of our two skill sets. I’d like to do that over.”