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The Juggernaut MMA News Report 1.09.14: UFC Fight Night - Rockhold vs. Philippou Preview
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 01.09.2014

UFC Fight Night Preview - Revenge of Rockhold

The UFC is back under the bright lights next Wednesday in Georgia and the main event will see Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou look to bounce back from losses last year.

Rockhold was knocked out in only 2:32 against Vitor Belfort last spring, traveling to Brazil for the fight. The loss was his first in nearly six years and erased any hopes of launching him into the title picture. Looking back now, that's exactly what happened as Belfort (following a win over Dan Henderson) is now the top challenger for reigning champion Chris Weidman.

Elsewhere, Philippou lost a decision to Francis Carmont in September and instead of the former continuing to emerge as a threat at 185-pounds, it's the latter with the hot streak (Carmont is 6-0 in the UFC now).

Lorenz Larkin vs. Brad Tavares

Strikeforce Never Die! Aside from Rockhold (and later, Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson), we'll be treated to action from another former Strikeforce-turned-UFC fighter in the form of striker specialist Lorenz Larkin.

The 27-year-old Californian is 14-1 (one no contest thanks to King Mo's failed drug test) and coming off his first UFC win when he topped Chris Camozzi in November. Also, recall that he is the last man to defeat current welterweight title contender Robbie Lawler (the Ruthless one's final bout at middleweight in 2012). A stocky light heavyweight, Larkin dropped to 185-pounds in the win over Lawler and is dangerous against anyone as long as they're not a takedown machine.

Brad Tavares is no takedown machine.

The 26-year-old Hawaiian may be doing it quietly but he is 6-1 in the UFC since debuting following The Ultimate Fighter in 2010. After losing his first (and to date, only) fight in 2011, he has won four consecutive and each has gone to a decision. We last saw him late in the summer when he defeated fellow former TUF competitor Bubba McDaniel.

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Mike Easton

Can Mike Easton avoid a career road block that comes with a three fight losing streak? At one point, he was considered arguably the best prospect at bantamweight. He even started his UFC career with three wins but it hasn't gone so swimmingly since the summer of 2012. He lost to Raphael Assuncao (who has emerged as a top 5 135-pounder) and Brad Pickett, both in decisions.

T.J. Dillashaw, best known for being among the quality guys at Team Alpha Male just saw his four-fight UFC win streak come to a halt in October thanks to Assuncao.

Easton is a BJJ black belt and boasts a 70" reach (about a four-inch advantage in this match-up), so perhaps Dillashaw may not be so inclined to get the fight to the ground. Then again, has the former displayed a dangerously offensive guard in recent fights?

Both men looking to desperately right their ships in the new year, it should provide for potentially show-stealing action.

Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson

Oh hell yes. Yoel Romero is a sight to see. He looks like he's built out of bricks and he is one hell of a knockout puncher. Every single one of his seven pro fights have ended by TKO or KO (including his one loss, to Feijao Cavalcante over two years ago). His violence transitioned to the UFC in quality fashion as he knocked out both Clifford Starks and Ronny Markes last year.

The Cuban Olympic wrestler (2000 silver medalist) with THAT kind of power is all kinds of dangerous.

He's taking on a former NCAA Division-II wrestler in the form of Derek Brunson. He's only been finished once, in 41-seconds against Jacare Souza almost two years ago. Since then, he beat Chris Leben and choked out Brian Houston in under 50-seconds. Although he finished each of his six fights before making his way to Strikeforce, he is perhaps best known for utilizing his wrestling to control fights since then.

This may not make logical sense if he's to do damage to Romero. Assuming Greg Jackson is indeed in his corner on fight night, I can't wait to see the game plan they constructed to try and take Yoel out.


- In the never-ending rumors department, LA Times writer Lance Pugmire tweeted earlier this week that according to Dana White, the UFC promoter has been "talking" to current WWE wrestler/former UFC champion Brock Lesnar, "but wouldn't announce anything until a signing."

The simple issue at hand is whether Lesnar has the legal ability to even sign with the UFC while he is still working for WWE. It's awfully difficult to believe a contract agreed to by Vince McMahon's company would freely let one of their big names walk to compete in shoot fights. Aside from that, Lesnar is expected to be one of the major names headlining Wrestlemania in April, so perhaps these rumblings are geared more towards the summer or fall.

Of course, perhaps Lesnar and White are talking about what kind of food is best to feed farm animals.

- The punch-in-the-gut news of the week centers around 28-year-old UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. After building himself up into a champion in WEC by 2010, his biggest opportunity arrived the following year when that promotion was absorbed by the UFC. However, after two dominant title defenses, he suffered an ACL tear in 2012. His recovery did not go smoothly, forcing him from returning until what was to be next month's title unification bout with Renan Barao.

Unfortunately, Cruz tore his groin as announced by Dana White on ESPN on Monday. His return is now a complete question mark and for those who may have forgot, he last saw action in October 2011 when he beat Demetrious Johnson.

In the meantime, the new UFC 169 main event will see the new undisputed champion (Barao) defend against Urijah Faber. Cruz is now a former titleholder and it's been almost four years since he was last a challenger.

- The UFC has signed Pancrase welterweight champion Takenori Sato (14-8-6) to make his debut in Brazil next month against Erick Silva. Known mostly as a grappler, the 28-year-old is undefeated in his last six fights. Silva, at 29-years-old, is no longer a prospect having dropped half of his six UFC fights since debuting in the company in 2011. We last saw him in October when he was knocked out by Stun Gun Kim. This February 15th Fight Night is headlined by Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi on Fox Sports 1.

- UFC 171 has two more fights officially booked for the March 15th show in Dallas. Featherweights Dennis Bermudez and Jimy Hettes will square off, pitting two prospects against one another. Bermudez, 27-years-old from New York, has reeled off five consecutive wins including his fight of the year candidate with Matt Grice last February. Hettes, 26-years-old from Pennsylvania, is 3-1 in the UFC and is most dangerous on the ground, scoring 10 of his 11 career wins by submission.

Also added to the show is a women's bantamweight fight between TUF 18 winner Julianna Pena and Jessica Andrade. Pena finished Jessica Rakoczy in the first round in November to win a long-term UFC contract. Andrade earned her first win in the company in October over Rosi Sexton (she lost her debut to Liz Carmouche last summer).

- Fabricio Werdum does not appear to be steadfast in his desire to wait around for Cain Velasquez so they can fight (Cain, the heavyweight champion, is out for several months following shoulder surgery). Werdum has all but officially accepted the fight with Travis Browne (coming off the UBER-impressive knockout of Josh Barnett two weeks ago) and they are eyeing March for the tilt. Interestingly, Werdum told MMAFighting.com that he's been told the fight will be a main event and scheduled for five rounds.

The winner, assumedly, would then wait for Cain and fight for the title after the summer.




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